Wind and Fire

Wind and Fire May 27, 2010

Sunday was Pentecost Sunday, my very favorite Sunday of the church year.  The images of wind and fire and new possibilities and fear-filled hope always draw me in and invite me to try again to follow Jesus.

This year at Calvary we celebrated in so many usual and unusual ways.  Everyone wore red—and I do mean almost every single person in worship on Sunday.  We also had some amazing music and arts to help us worship.

To add to all the regular excitement, a special part of the service this year was the licensing of one of our own, Susan Sevier, to the Gospel ministry.  After we blessed Susan the strains of Great Is Thy Faithfulness rose and filled the sanctuary, and I had one of those very rare pastor moments . . . meaningful worship filled with gratitude and the strong assurance of God’s presence:

I looked out over all that red . . . and thought of the enthusiastic way in which Calvary members embrace the journey of faith, even when they must look at us, their pastors, and question our sanity. 

I observed faces turned upward in worship and rapt attention . . . and the lives and stories of dear individuals who have, over and over, the courage to respond to the work of God’s Spirit in their lives flashed before my eyes. 

I glanced over at eight-year-old Jubliee Robinson, arms crossed on the edge of the pew, body leaning forward, eyes fixed on the liturgical dancer reaching toward the sky . . . and my heart swelled with the sense of all the possibility our future holds—may we tend these precious ones well.

All of these feelings were summed up in the beautiful prayer of blessing that Calvary member Allyson Robinson offered in blessing for Susan, shared here with Allyson’s permission:

Lord, as your followers on the day we commemorate, we wait together for…for we know not what.  We wait with our hearts primed for that which our minds cannot imagine, our courage, fixed upon your faithfulness, to go wherever you send, to do whatever we must do to fulfill the great mandate of the high calling you entrusted to us once, and will place in our care yet again. 

Our sister Susan comes before us and you, evidence that you still call, proof that the faithful still hear, symbol of the courage we feel, or aspire to, or wish we did.  And she seeks, as your followers did that Pentecost morning, some affirmation — some small sign that it wasn’t just a dream, that the leading she’s felt is real and divine, that the call draws her forward though she knows not precisely where.  She comes, unsure yet sure in the surety of faith, seeking assurance from you, from us.

We who gather around her, having listened carefully to her story and having tested her desire as we’re able empowered by your Spirit, hope to be for her that sign, that affirmation.  We, all of us who gather expectantly here, hope to offer that assurance that just as you will never abandon those whom you have called, we, too, will support her in her calling to ministry service, upholding her in the strength you give to us.

Yet we all know we cannot do these things without you.

And so, as we lay our hands upon Susan in the ancient and holy tradition of our faith, as we each commit our love and support to those you call to serve your church, as we wait patiently for you to come and surprise us with your coming, your presence, your affirmation, your clarity, your power, your reality — come, Holy Spirit.  Come undeniably within us, and among us, and around us, and through us.  Come so that Susan (and all of us) may step away from this moment and into the world that is our calling knowing that we go with you, for you, carrying you and, yes, still seeking you. So fill your servant this day, Lord —

In the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit —

Amen.

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  • Pentecost will forever be my favorite day in the church year. Thank you.

  • Amy:

    I saw your thoughts on what it means to be a Baptist at ABP.

    Forgive me for replying here on your blog, but wanted to make it a little more direct.

    I think you were very eloquent in what you had to say. Wanted to bring to your attention a piece in current Harper’s Magazine by Barry Hannah, with fascinating remembrances of what it was like to be raised Baptist in Mississippi.

    As you continue to ponder Baptistness in all its manifestations, as one who carries on the tradition with some justifiable celebrity; wanted you to know of this.

    From what I can gather, you were more than worthy to have had Cecil Sherman in your congregation not long ago.

    He had a great story about Bill Friday and the great significance of Baptists in NC and how that was altered in the 80’s.

    And there is the witness of Marshall Frady which I trust you know.

    Well that is my riff provoked by your virtuous essay.

    Hope you understand.