June 1, 2009
And suddenly a sound came from heaven like the rush of a mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting. And there appeared to them tongues as of fire, distributed and resting on each one of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance. acts 2: 2-4
This weekend we celebrated Pentecost, one of the oldest feast days on the Christian calendar. It traditionally falls on the 50th day of Easter, marking the close of the season - and talk about ending things with a bang.
The spectacular scene described here has understandably captured the fascination of countless artists through the ages. While traveling in Spain, I was blessed to encounter one such painting by El Greco which quickly became a favorite of mine. The vibrant piece, stretching from floor to ceiling, portrays the Apostles and Jesus’ mother Mary with rapturous facial expressions illuminated by the brilliant flames of God’s Spirit hovering above their heads. The fiery tongues seem to be the only source of light in the room – anything outside the reach of the Holy Spirit’s glow quickly fades from dazzling color into shadowy darkness.
And yet for all the glory of that moment, the moments leading up to the descent of the Holy Spirit were, according to Scripture, filled with fear and uncertainty. Even after all the stunning events they’d witnessed in the days following Jesus’ resurrection, the apostles were hunkered down and hiding in the days following Christ's second goodbye, His ascension. But after a pregnant pause, God came through for this fearful bunch, and the Church was officially born.
Pentecost reminds me that even those who witnessed the miracles of Christ firsthand succumbed to uncertainty and fear. Fickleness, fear, and frailty – they’re all part of the human condition, even among the most faithful.
Pentecost also reminds me that while God often works in seemingly ordinary ways, sometimes He bursts through the veil that separates heaven and earth and wows us beyond our wildest hopes and dreams. He doesn’t wait for us to be perfect or holy to bless us with His presence, but instead fills our frail selves with His glory and empowers us to do great things.
Intersecting Faith & Life: Do you remember times in your faith when you were truly “on fire” for God? When His presence was tangible and your heart was willing to go wherever He led you? Reflect on those times, and ask God to renew your fire for Him.