Pentecost: Wind and Flame

Pentecost by Jacqui (aka Purple-whirlpool)

Acts 2:1-4 (NRSV)
When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place. And suddenly from heaven there came a sound like the rush of a violent wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. Divided tongues, as of fire, appeared among them, and a tongue rested on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages, as the Spirit gave them ability.

The gospel is absurd and the life of Jesus is meaningless unless we believe that He lived, died, and rose again with but one purpose in mind: to make brand-new creation. Not to make people with better morals but to create a community of prophets and professional lovers, men and women who would surrender to the mystery of the fire of the Spirit that burns within, who would live in ever greater fidelity to the omnipresent Word of God, who would enter into the center of it all, the very heart and mystery of Christ, into the center of the flame that consumes, purifies, and sets everything aglow with peace, joy, boldness, and extravagant, furious love. This, my friend, is what it really means to be a Christian. ― Brennan Manning 

The Jewish day of Pentecost celebrated the giving of the law on Mt. Sinai. The story in the book of Exodus of the giving of the law is marked by characteristic Baal imagery: God appears on top of a mountain, with thunder, lightning, cloud, and earthquake. Exodus 19:19 says that when Moses talked to God, “God would answer him in thunder.” So in Acts 2 God arrives in “a sound like the rush of a violent wind,” and fire appears, not on the top of a holy mountain, but on the top of each believer’s head.
Gail Ramshaw, Treasures Old and New: Images in the Lectionary

Psalm 104:4 (NCV)
You make the winds your messengers, and flames of fire are your servants.

Make us like the wind– ever-moving and ever moving others. And with joy we will dance with the leaves. In submission we will linger in the shade, cooling the skin of those scorched by the sun’s heat. In awe we will pause and be still enough to hover over creation, admiring your world and waiting for your command. And when you move us, we will fly with more strength, reminding people that you are present even in times when you may seem invisible. Breathe into our souls, Lord, and make us like the wind, like your Holy Spirit – in the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.
–Ciona D. Rouse, Africana Worship Book, Year A

I am looking for the fellowship of the burning heart. I claim the Methodist and the Baptist as mine and I claim everybody that loves Jesus Christ as mine; but I am looking for the fellowship of the burning heart. Men and women of all generations and everywhere that love the savior until ‘adoration’ has become the new word and they do not have to be entertained or amused. This Christ was everything. He was their all in all  . . . I am looking for men and women who are lost in worship, those who love God until he is the sweetheart of the soul. ~ A. W. Tozer, Reclaiming Christianity

When we are spiritually malnourished, we are more likely to fuel our faith with gasoline than with God. The growth of spiritual renewal movements like Walk to Emmaus and Cursillo testifies to our desire to catch fire, but whether or not we have adequate fuel to keep the fire going under our faith remains an open question. We mean to tend our souls, to stay alert to God’s presence, and to be open to God’s direction for our lives. But in practice, instead of seeking the brush that provides soul tinder, we find ourselves trying to light sequoias with a match.– Kenda Creasy Dean and Ron Foster, The Godbearing Life: The Art of Soul Tending for Youth Ministry

As the author tells the story, the Spirit came upon the community with the sound of a “rushing wind” and with “tongues of fire” resting on each of them. In the Hebrew Bible, “wind” and “fire” are both associated with the presence of God. In Hebrew, the same word means both “wind” and “spirit,” as in the creation story where the divine wind (or spirit) moves over the primordial waters (Genesis 1:2). So also fire is an image for the divine presence, famously in the story of Moses and the bush that burned without being consumed (Exodus 3:1-6). As it was at the beginning of creation and in the history of Israel, the Spirit of God was again at work creating the new community of the church.
– Marcus Borg, Pentecost and Babble/Babel

I, the Lord of wind and flame, I will tend the poor and lame,
I will set a feast for them, My hand will save.
Finest bread I will provide, till their hearts be satisfied.
I will give my life to them. Whom shall I send?
Here I am, Lord. Is it I, Lord?
I have heard You calling in the night.
I will go, Lord. If You lead me.
I will hold, your people in my heart.
verse 3 and chorus of Here I am, Lord by Dan Schutte

In mystical progression, Pentecost is the analogue for the union of the soul with God. I think it is impossible to approach Pentecost without a sense of dread. The conferring of the Holy Spirit is the same motion as the commissioning as Apostles. We are “sent” with the Good News to the “ends of the earth” as bearers of Good News. But Good News is real change, and change is dangerous, and often not received well, as tradition illustrates.- Suzanne Guthrie, The Edge of the Enclosure Blog

The dove descending breaks the air
With flame of incandescent terror
Of which the tongues declare
The one discharge from sin and error.
The only hope, or else despair
Lies in the choice of pyre or pyre-
To be redeemed from fire by fire.
– from Four Quartets by T.S. Eliot

Set my soul afire, Lord, set my soul afire,
Make my life a witness of Thy saving pow’r.
Millions grope in darkness, waiting for Thy Word,
Set my soul afire, Lord, set my soul afire.
– Gene Barlett

Jesus is no longer with his disciples. He is risen. But his absence is not an emptiness. On the contrary, his departure has created the space in which his followers can receive the fullness of the Spirit. – Henri Nouwen, Behold the Beauty of the Lord

Living God, Holy Inferno
Living God
Holy Inferno
Who revealed yourself as
Burning Bush
Pillar of Flame
Dancing Tongues of Fire
Illumine your children, that we may discern your will
Refine your children, till our lives burn with love for doing your will
Purify your children, so we may endure to the day of your coming.
We ask this in the name of the one who is perfect light, Jesus Christ our Savior. Amen

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Click here for more excellent work by today’s featured graphic artist, Jacqui of the United Kingdom. (aka purple-whirlpool)

Living God, Holy Inferno © 2012 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
You are welcome to use this work in a worship setting with proper attribution. Please contact Lisa for information and permission to publish this work in any form.

For more information on the scripture translation, art and the use of this devotional in other settings, please refer to the copyright information page.

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