When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place. 2 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. (Acts 2.1-3, NRSV).
At the writing of this blog, Pentecost Sunday was just observed. Christian churches the world-over commemorated the inauguration of the church and the coming of the Spirit. This day is observed variably from one tradition to another. In liturgical traditions, such as Anglican-Episcopalian, the observance of Pentecost is done with a detailed liturgy outlining prayers, readings, and hymns.
I have had a growing appreciation for traditional liturgies and the opportunities it provides for meaningful worship experiences. While still dating, Trish and I would visit St. Mark’s Cathedral for their Compline Worship service on Friday evenings. This was a time of restful meditation in community with a rich diversity of individuals from and around the Seattle area. I loved the special sense of God’s presence on these visits.
I remain indebted to my Pentecostal roots and how it introduced me to the power of the things of the Spirit. I have been witness to some extraordinary movements of the Holy Spirit in several contexts including tent-revival crusades where the atmosphere was super charged with enthusiasm and expectation.
I’ve come to name the confluence of my two experiences, Presence and Power. The longing I sense for liturgy is really a desire to experience God’s presence, which we Pentecostals have mostly deemed as an experience in which signs and wonders follow. I don’t discount that, but what I mean by presence is something akin to what the Psalmist wrote in chapter 23. The writer made an interesting assertion about not fearing the journey “through the valley of the shadow of death” because “Thou art with me” (v. 4, KJV).
I have many recollections of this kind of presence for myself and in the company of others, especially in my Chaplaincy work at the hospital. I think about a time when I made a late night, while overnight on-call, visit to a dad who was keeping bedside vigil over his adult child who had a dire prognosis. The room was dark, illuminated mostly by life sustaining equipment. I introduced myself and asked if I may spend a moment with him and his child; he was welcoming. I don’t know where he was in terms of a relationship with God, but he clearly needed company and support. We visited and then we had prayer. I paused and silently asked the Holy Spirit to lead me in this moment of such gravity. At the end of the prayer this father, welling up with tears, thanked me and said, “The Spirit was strong just now.” I never did learn how things turned out for the patient but for that one moment, late into the night in a dimly lit ICU room, he and I felt God’s presence, the kind of presence that one can experience in moments when we are poised for sober, quiet reflection.
I treasure those moments but I also have a deep yearning for that which my Pentecostal tradition has introduced to me and that is something akin to what we read in Acts, chapter 2 (read it!). I suppose if I could put it plainly, I’d like to see a kind of re-birth of the church. Can you imagine how different our community would look if something similar to what occurred on the “day of Pentecost” happened in the here and now? I long for the extraordinary movements of the Spirit to visit us and for the subsequent transformation in God’s people. Those who responded to the Spirit began to behave in astonishing ways, gathering for worship and teaching and loving each other. Their neighbors were looking in on this and were compelled to follow Christ themselves (3,000 in all). Can you imagine?
Pentecost Sunday means, to me, the coming of the Spirit of God and the inauguration of His church the extension of His works and carriers of the gospel. Presence and Power, what do you long for?
Pax et Lux