The Feast of Pentecost–Today

May 31, 2020

Pentecost, one of my favorite celebrations in the Church year, is vibrant, sensory, exciting, colorful, unpredictable, wild…. Yesterday was an unanticipated Pentecost Preparation Day. I woke up with a little bird, as it were, pecking at my mind for me to get up and read the Pentecost story in Acts 2:1-21. The verses describe the cataclysm of “a mighty rushing wind, the tongues of fire, and the Holy Spirit descending upon the multitudes.” I read the sensational Acts passage and decided I wanted to draw a circular stained-glass window with the Holy Spirit and the tongues of fire inside. A 5-inch bowl made a great template for the window. But when I started to draw, the Holy Spirit refused to stay in the circle. The tongues of fire refused to stay in the circle. And I thought, “Isn’t that just like the Holy Spirit? Try to cage It and you are always in for a big surprise!”

 

When I read the Acts lesson, I also underlined some words in the text and doodled a visual response in the margins of my Bible. I am not a regular Bible journaler, but I like the process of entering Scripture with a pen and some colored markers or pencils. I read the passage or page and then try to be still and listen as I draw. I’m not as brave as some of the people who pray this way and dare to illuminate the text itself with drawings and lettering. (Check out some of the Facebook pages or websites about Bible journaling. Visual Faith Ministry is one example.)

Visual engagement with Scripture helps me to remember the passage for later encounters with it. I see the colorful bookmark-like drawing on the side of the page and I’m back in the Word. This artistic response feels different than Bible study. In Bible study, I feel the need to master the material and get information. I try to dissect and analyze the words, have control over them, and understand them once and for all. “Okay, I know what that’s about, let’s move on.” The hardened quest for information tamps the possibility for transformation. I am like the poetry students who Billy Collins laments in his poem Introduction to Poetry*:

But all they want to do
is tie the poem to a chair with rope
and torture a confession out of it.
They begin beating it with a hose

to find out what it really means.”

 

If I substitute the word “scripture” for “poem,” the lines describe my sometimes uninspiring and laborious relationship with the Word. When I enter the Scripture, instead, with my backpack of art tools and start to draw, I release the need to pin down the Word and hear its final confession. To give up control of the Scripture feels scary and dangerous, like I’m inviting the Holy Spirit to take me blindfolded on a trust walk or an expedition of uncertain destination. “The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.” (John 3:8 NIV) Who knows where such an expedition might lead?

 

I remembered the picture below from a few years ago. The big swath of silk fabric behind me was a costume my mother wore, probably in the 1930’s, for her role in The Firebird, a ballet with music by Igor Stravinsky. For several years my husband Andy wore it as the celebrant’s garb in Pentecost services. Right before we moved to Florida in April, I found it in a cedar chest. It practically disintegrated in my hands. I’m glad I had it for as long as I did. Firebird feels like a terrific image for the Holy Spirit.
*Billy Collins, “Introduction to Poetry” from The Apple that Astonished Paris. Copyright � 1988, 1996 by Billy Collins. To read the whole poem on the Poetry Foundation website, click here.