During a recent 1,500-mile train trip, I ruminated on what visual might best convey the essence of the Spirit’s appearance at Pentecost.
I recalled some of the biblical stories about fire and how those might inform our appreciation of the Spirit’s appearance at Pentecost as fire and flame—Moses’ encounter with God in the fiery bush (Exodus 3); God’s guiding presence made known to the Hebrew people in the pillars of cloud and fire (Exodus 13); the voice of God coming out of the fire (Deuteronomy 5); Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego miraculously surviving the furnace of blazing fire (Daniel 1-3); and John the Baptizer’s warnings about the unquenchable fire (Matthew 3).
I also ruminated on human experiences of fire, both in ancient days and in our own. I thought about fire that provides light and generates warmth, but also fire that refines. I reflected on fire that, like the Spirit, provides light for God’s people, generates warmth among God’s people, refines the visions and ministries of God’s people and, yes, sometimes consumes or leaves a path of destruction among God’s people.
At some point, I was prompted to ask: When, in the Prayer of the Day for Pentecost, we implore God to “by your Holy Spirit, kindle in us the fire of your love, empowering our lives for service and our tongues for praise,” for what are we praying? I suspect that, in most cases, we are praying that God’s Spirit will move powerfully to advance whatever visions and ministries are already in place within our faith communities.
But what if we lifted our prayers with hearts open to receiving the fire of God’s Spirit in whatever expressions the Spirit chooses to be made known?
Fire that illuminates paths in bold new directions. Fire that so warms our insular faith communities that we are compelled to convey God’s love and care to those beyond our circles of affiliation. Fire that inflames our hearts, unleashes our imaginations and sends us out to love and serve in ways that challenge our comfort zones. Fire that opens our eyes to programs, practices, attitudes and perspectives that need to die in order for the Spirit to bring to life God’s “new thing” within and among us.
I thought about fire that provides light and generates warmth, but also fire that refines.
That’s how I ended up “playing with fire” as a visual for Pentecost (see page 11). These worship visuals, formatted for a variety of uses, are available as free editable files for faith communities to adapt to their particular contexts at lindahenke.com.
Here are some possibilities (adaptable to both virtual and in-person worship) for using that visual, in its various formats, as kindling to stoke the fire of the Spirit in your Pentecost observances:
- Facilitate a virtual or in-person gathering of staff members and key ministry leaders. Distribute 8-by-10 prints or images of the visual. Pray together the Prayer of the Day for Pentecost (Evangelical Lutheran Worship, page 36, Year C). Ask how the visual speaks to each person’s understanding of the Spirit’s work within your faith community. Ask each person to consider how they might “play with fire” in their respective areas of ministry. Dare to again pray the Prayer of the Day together—with fervor.
- Create a three-sided, free-standing, three-dimensional sculpture from fabric printed with the visual and custom-sized to your worship context. Explore safe ways to introduce a light source (such as a battery-powered light or rope lights) to illuminate the sculpture.
- Adapt one of the two bulletin-cover formats for your congregation’s use.
- Create long, “skinny” banners from fabric or paper printed with the visual and custom-sized to your space.
- Customize the projected graphic for worship. Explore using the visual as the background for all projection slides on this date.
- Adapt the social media visual to invite broad participation in Pentecost worship.
- Adapt the postcard design to engage participation in Pentecost worship. If the effort or cost of mailing postcards is prohibitive, ask members to use the printed postcards to personally invite neighbors, friends, classmates, co-workers or members of their extended family to worship with them on Pentecost. Invite members to share the social media visual on their pages or post it to appropriate community Facebook pages.
An old adage reminds us: “If you play with fire, you are likely to get burned.” Amen. May it be so!