Today’s post is by Linda Witte Henke, an artist specializing in liturgically purposed art for congregation, synod, and churchwide settings (See three new collections of print-on-demand banner fabrics at www.lindahenke.com). This is Linda’s third post offering designs and templates for using visuals to enrich worship.
In anticipation of this post, I spent time during a recent 1,500-mile train trip ruminating on what visual might best convey the essence of the Holy Spirit’s appearance at Pentecost.
I recalled some of the biblical stories about fire and how those might inform our appreciation of the Holy Spirit’s appearance at Pentecost in fire and flame—Moses’ encounter with God in the fiery bush (Exodus 3), God’s guiding presence made known to the Hebrew people in the pillars of cloud and fire (Exodus 13), the voice of God coming out of the fire (Deuteronomy 5), Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego miraculously surviving the furnace of blazing fire (Daniel 1-3), and John the Baptizer’s warnings about the unquenchable fire (Matthew 3).
I also pondered human experiences of fire, both in ancient days and in our own. I reflected on how the Holy Spirit provides light for God’s people, generates warmth among God’s people, refines the visions and ministries of God’s people, and, yes, sometimes consumes or leaves a path of destruction among God’s people.
At some point, I was prompted to ask: In the Prayer of the Day for Pentecost, when we implore God to “by your Holy Spirit, kindle in us the fire of your love, empowering our lives for service and our tongues for praise,” for what are we praying? I suspect that, in many cases, we are praying that God’s Spirit would support and sustain whatever visions and ministries have already been conceived and put into place within our faith communities.
But what if we lifted our prayers with hearts wide open to receiving the fire of God’s Holy Spirit in whatever powerfully expressive ways the Spirit chooses to be made known?
- Fire that illuminates paths in bold new directions
- Fire that so warms our insular faith communities that we are compelled to convey God’s love and care to those beyond our doors and our neighborhoods
- Fire that inflames our hearts, unleashes our imaginations, and sends us out to love and serve in ways that stretch our boundaries and challenge our comfort zones
- Fire that opens our eyes to the possibility that some cherished programs, long-held practices, entrenched attitudes, and/or life-limiting perspectives may need to die in order for the Spirit to bring to life the “new thing” that God longs to cultivate within and among us
Here are some possibilities for using the fire visual as kindling for the Holy Spirit’s presence in your Day of Pentecost observances: (See the DropBox link below to access the underlined images)
- Facilitate a gathering of staff members and key ministry leaders. Distribute 8-inch by 10-inch prints of the visual. Pray together the Prayer of the Day for Pentecost (ELW 36, Year C). Invite reflection around how the visual speaks to each person’s understanding of the Holy Spirit’s work within and beyond your faith community. Where might the Holy Spirit be encouraging us to embrace new perspectives or explore new directions? Where might the Holy Spirit be counseling us to let go of programs or initiatives that have outlived their effectiveness?
- Create a three-sided, free-standing, three-dimensional sculpture out of fabric printed with the visual and custom-sized to your worship context. Install the sculpture in a place central to the assembly. Explore safe ways to introduce a light source (battery-powered light, rope lights, etc.) to illuminate the sculpture. Or, if your space is conducive and you have local engineering expertise, create your sculpture to hang over the assembly as a mobile that responds to the air currents.
- Create multiple long, “skinny” banners from fabrics or paper printed with the visual and custom-sized to your space. Display the banners so that they surround the assembly.
- Customize for your use the projected graphic for worship. Explore the feasibility of using the visual as the background for all projection slides on this date.
- Adapt one of the two bulletin-cover formats for your congregation’s use.
- Adapt the social media visual for use in inviting broad participation in Pentecost worship.
- Adapt the post card design for use in inviting broad participation in Pentecost worship. If the effort and/or cost of mailing postcards is prohibitive, invite members to use the printed postcards to personally invite neighbors, friends, classmates, co-workers, or extended family members to worship with them on Pentecost. Encourage members to share the social media visual on their Facebook pages or post it to appropriate community Facebook pages. Or consider doing all of the above.
We are mindful that we celebrate the Day of Pentecost 2019 in the aftermath of fire’s devastation – at Notre Dame Cathedral, in historic Louisiana churches, and through wildfires that have consumed millions of acres and thousands of residences. We are freshly aware that fire is fraught with danger.
So it is with the fire of the Holy Spirit. Acts 2 is a dangerous text to read and to hear. “Come, Oh Holy Spirit, Come,” is a dangerous hymn to sing. “By your Holy Spirit, kindle in us the fire of your love,” is a dangerous prayer to pray. God wills that we submit ourselves to be shaped, formed, reformed, transformed, and empowered by the Holy Spirit in order that the fire of God’s love may be made known.
May the Day of Pentecost 2019 open our hearts to God’s Holy Spirit unleashed in our worship and in our lives!
DropBox direct link: