A reflection on Acts 2:1-21; Mobile, AL, May 2016.
Pentecost is at the top of the list when it comes to my favorite church holidays. (Yes, there’s a list.) We Presbyterians sometimes have a habit of shying away from the Holy Spirit. Creator God, okay cool. And yay Jesus! But whaaaat is this mysterious Holy Spirit. How can we stay decent and in order when this wind might tangle our hair or transfuse our words?! But there’s no avoiding this particular person of the Trinity when we tell the story of Pentecost. Jesus had a reputation for rule-breaking too, but there’s always been something about the indescribable unpredictability of the Holy Spirit that captivates me.
In the spirit of the Spirit, I didn’t really have a specific plan for this one. But lo and behold, here we are.
The people | Some black beads represent heads of the people gathered. The book pages beneath them are rearranged pieces of Acts 2:9-11a, which lists some of the people gathered on Pentecost day. Here’s what that part looked like before I started shuffling:
This little people project took a while. Two whole episodes of Criminal Minds, to be exact. It was relatively mindless, drawing repetitive patterns and copying names from verses. But at the same time, with each stroke of my brush, even in the tediousness of it all, I found myself considering the individual groups that are named. They’re specific — residents and visitors, Jews and Arabs — each a unique and valuable part of a blended whole through which the Spirit transcends language and background and expected order. Maybe we could take a hint from this crowd.
The Spirit | I’d like to say I was super resourceful and found some neat old glass thing to break into pieces for this project…but really a couple packages of multi-colored glass pieces were one of my latest impulse buys at the craft store. Along with a venus fly trap growing kit. Anyway. The Holy Spirit isn’t technically described as a dove in the Pentecost story, but a) it is elsewhere and b) despite my embracing of the appropriate liturgical color for this project, I wanted to use something that wasn’t red. I found myself, through this whole process, wanting to convey the movement of the wind. Enter the mesh bag from a package of onions and some oddly mesh-like paper packaging I picked out of the bin at the recycling center. I’m not entirely sure if these represent wind or flames or both. And flames make a(nother) appearance in the form of smaller glass pieces above the people.
Miscellany | The gray spots honestly began as another way to use something non-red. The more I thought about them though, the more I realized they make a nice smokey nod to the confusion that filled the room.
The blackout (red out?) poetry happened kind of by accident. I was working on the page with the peoples’ names, and these words stood out as particularly Pentecosty. After this wind sweeps through this gathering of the faithful, they don’t get to go back to business as usual and pretend the whole thing never happened. Peter borrows words from the prophet Joel and proclaims:
17 “In the last days it will be, God declares,
that I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh,
and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy,
and your young men shall see visions,
and your old men shall dream dreams.
18 Even upon my slaves, both men and women,
in those days I will pour out my Spirit;
and they shall prophesy.”
The Holy Spirit has stirred up the air and confused convention. What’s the church going to do about it?