My personal Pentecost

There is an episode of My Name is Earl where the gang goes to see a young faith healer. During the service, Joy, Earl’s ex-wife, in a frenzy to get the healer’s attention cries out, “…in the name of the Father, and the Son, and the friendly ghost, pick me.” Yup, Joy seems to think that Casper is the third person of the Trinity. Irreverent, I know, but it also points to just how little many of us comprehend the Holy Spirit.

A Pentecost mosaic
The Holy Spirit is depicted as coming to the first followers of Jesus in a wind and tongues of fire.

Yesterday was Pentecost Sunday, the day we celebrate the gift of the Holy Spirit to the church. We decorated our sanctuary in red, added a dove to our cross, and put a firepot on the communion table—all symbols of the Holy Spirit. Yet it seems we just can’t grasp this third person of the Trinity.

One reason is that the Spirit is an amorphous concept. We can picture Jesus: tall, thin, long dark hair and beard, white robe, blue eyes, great abs, etc. The same is true of God the Father: old man, long white beard, robe. We recognize that these images are inaccurate, but they help.

The Spirit on the other hand is described as a dove and tongues of fire, not quite the same thing. Our preachers tell us that in Greek the word for spirit, pneuma, could also be translated wind. So we could talk about the Trinity as the Father, Son, and Holy Wind. What are we to do with that? And that talk about a Holy Ghost, let’s admit, is a little weird. No wonder Joy is confused.

Like the wind, I cannot show the Spirit to you, but I can tell you how the Spirit moved and worked in me, in what I call my personal Pentecost.

Many years ago I went into my church’s sanctuary to pray about some struggles I was going through. I knelt at the communion rail, and poured out to God all of the doubts and fears I was experiencing. Then something happened.

The room filled with a wind. I heard the windows creak like they do in a storm, but somehow this was from the inside. I felt as though the walls were bowing from the stress of trying to contain this. Then the wind swirled around me. Enveloped in the Holy Spirit I knew that whatever was to come I would not be alone. God the Spirit would be with me through it all.

May you know today that no matter what you are going through the Holy Spirit goes with you giving you peace, strength, and power.