Wind and fire attend the presence of the Spirit—whether it be the trek through the wilderness or the upper room. The cloud by day and fiery pillar by night demonstrated the accompanying presence of God; Pentecost begins with the rushing of wind and the flaming tongues, demonstrating the filling of the Holy Spirit. The risen Christ does not simply commission followers to service, but grants the power and signs that make such mission possible.
One of the most important aspects of the narrative of the coming of the Spirit in power is that “they were all together in one place” (Acts 2:1). This is not the first appearance of the Spirit, for the Spirit was active in creation, in gathering a people of covenant, in the prophetic ministry of Israel, and in the ministry of Jesus. Yet, the messianic promise of the abiding, shared Spirit is new—and the birthing of the church demonstrates the corporate mission Jesus envisioned. God dwells in community eternally as Trinity; it is not surprising that the community that is called to be an icon of the Trinity is the primary context for the work of the Spirit.
In the “spiritual but not religious” language of our day, being “all together” is diminished. The quest for God is too often ventured as an individual project, relying solely on one’s own experience of the holy. While there are mystical journeys that happen unaccompanied—at least by other humans—it is much more likely that the experience of God’s presence will be mediated by the gathered community. The challenge of different perceptions of the ways of God serves to refine presumptions of having the full grasp of holy activity.
On Pentecost Sunday, I attended the ordination of one of our recent graduates. It was in every way what such a service should be. Family, former youth ministers, camping friends, Sunday School and Vacation Bible School teachers, seminary professors, denominational representatives, and children and youth now being shaped by the ordinand were in attendance. The ministers showed up, too, in their flaming red liturgical attire. (It looked almost combustible!) As words of affirmation, tokens of office, and certification of readiness for ministry were offered, it was clear that the community had shaped this young woman into a “good minister of Christ Jesus.” Others had helped her discern her calling; others had called forth and received her gifts so that they might stirred into flame.
As we enter the Season after Pentecost, let’s think about our receptiveness to being shaped by our communities of faith. Insight into the working of the Spirit is often mediated by unexpected sources—children, elders, strangers, visual images, and creative music. Sometimes the kindling of the Spirit occurs in baptism, the breaking of bread, prayers, and the sermon as we open ourselves to holy stirrings. Thankfully the Spirit is inexhaustible, filling the community at Pentecost and continuing to supply what is needed to be faithful.
Molly T. Marshall
Central knows how essential it is to rely on the Spirit for its mission. Continue visiting our website to learn ways to participate in God’s work at Central.