Pentecost: This Grace That Scorches Us

Pentecost Fire
Image: Pentecost Fire © Jan Richardson

Reading from the Book of Acts, Day of Pentecost: Acts 2.1-21

Divided tongues, as of fire, appeared among them,
and a tongue rested on each of them.
All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit
and began to speak in other languages,
as the Spirit gave them ability.
– Acts 2.3-4

If we didn’t know it before, we surely know it now, as the second chapter of Acts unfolds: this is no tame God who comes to us, no safe and predictable deity. This is the God whose loving sometimes takes the form of scorching.

Before he left, Jesus told his friends he would send them the Advocate, the Comforter. Now we see this Comforter coming as wind, as flame, reminding us that comfort is not always comfortable, for it makes itself known in community, where we find the most searing challenges—and the deepest blessings—we will ever know.

This Grace That Scorches Us
A Blessing for Pentecost Day

Here’s one thing
you must understand
about this blessing:
it is not
for you alone.

It is stubborn
about this;
do not even try
to lay hold of it
if you are by yourself,
thinking you can carry it
on your own.

To bear this blessing,
you must first take yourself
to a place where everyone
does not look like you
or think like you,
a place where they do not
believe precisely as you believe,
where their thoughts
and ideas and gestures
are not exact echoes
of your own.

Bring your sorrow. Bring your grief.
Bring your fear. Bring your weariness,
your pain, your disgust at how broken
the world is, how fractured,
how fragmented
by its fighting, its wars,
its hungers, its penchant for power,
its ceaseless repetition
of the history it refuses
to rise above.

I will not tell you
this blessing will fix all that.

But in the place
where you have gathered,
wait.
Watch.
Listen.
Lay aside your inability
to be surprised,
your resistance to what you
do not understand.

See then whether this blessing
turns to flame on your tongue,
sets you to speaking
what you cannot fathom

or opens your ear
to a language
beyond your imagining
that comes as a knowing
in your bones
a clarity
in your heart
that tells you

this is the reason
we were made,
for this ache
that finally opens us,

for this struggle, this grace
that scorches us
toward one another
and into
the blazing day.


For previous reflections, blessings, and art for Pentecost, click the images or titles below:

Tongues as of Fire
Pentecost: When We Breathe Together


The Origin of Fire
Pentecost: The Origin of Fire


Pentecost
Pentecost: One Searing Word


Fire and Breath

Pentecost: Fire and Breath

Using Jan’s artwork…
To use the image “Pentecost Fire,” please visit this page at janrichardsonimages.com. (This is also available as an art print. After clicking over to the image’s page on the Jan Richardson Images site, just scroll down to the “Purchase as an Art Print” section.) Your use of janrichardsonimages.com helps make the ministry of The Painted Prayerbook possible. Thank you!

Using Jan’s words…
For worship services and related settings, you are welcome to use Jan’s blessings or other words from this blog without requesting permission. All that’s needed is to acknowledge the source. Please include this info in a credit line: “© Jan Richardson. janrichardson.com.” For other uses, visit Copyright Permissions.

9 Responses to “Pentecost: This Grace That Scorches Us”

  1. Maureen Says:

    So beautifully written, Jan. May peace be with you.

  2. Carolyn Says:

    Stunning!!

    I love, too, scrolling the images from several Pentecosts, and think what a staggering collection they create.

  3. Anne Linington Says:

    Thankyou so much Jan. It comes at a time when I needed t hear this, and if I may, I would kike to use it at a Pentecost service I am taking this Sunday. Bless you.

  4. Sharon Grace Says:

    I love your paintings and your poetry. You have a gift! be blessed

  5. Linda Springer Says:

    I appreciate so much how this blessing unfolds in the midst of community…not a community that I would gravitate to or gather around me, but one that is formed unexpectedly in the moment of understanding one another. Thank you, Jan, for this Pentecost eve blessing.

  6. Lois Says:

    Jan-
    What a pleasant surprise as I await my flight – this Pentecost Blessing – most suitable for an airport! Thank you so much Jan for these extra tidbits to entice us into a contemplative space. I have enjoyed the on-line retreats. They are so good at keeping me focused,
    Happy Pentecost and deep peace to you as well!
    Lois

  7. Susan Fontaine Godwin Says:

    It is such a joy to hear from you again Jan and to have you share with our little community about Pentecost Sunday. What a beautiful reflection and blessing for Pentecost Sunday. I particularly love this section, especially important in light of today’s spiritual environment, in which differences are touch points for acrimonious divisiveness and toxic disrespect:

    To bear this blessing,
    you must first take yourself
    to a place where everyone
    does not look like you
    or think like you,
    a place where they do not
    believe precisely as you believe,
    where their thoughts
    and ideas and gestures
    are not exact echoes
    of your own.

    I am challenged and grieved each day by what I read on social media and in the news that reflects are human nature to attack and judge those who are different. Yet, I know that apart from the grace of God, I fall into the temptation to judge and criticize those who are different. Pentecost shows us that it is a vital part of the Holy Spirit’s ministry to purify our hearts and minds and burn off the dross of human fear of what we don’t understand and the “different.” And with those tongues of fire resting on the apostles, there was a flood of different languages, all representing a myriad of different cultures, traditions and points of view.

    Thank you Jan for your insight and blessing that calls us deeper to this grace that scorches us toward one another and into the blazing day!

  8. Sally Says:

    On this Pentecost Day, thank you Jan, for the beauty of your image and the stunning challenging Pentecost Blessing. Blessings to you.

  9. Linda Adams Says:

    Jan,

    Thank you for sharing with us your beautiful “Pentecost Fire” painting and the inspirational blessing…speaks so profoundly of this holy day and reminds me of how I am to “be” in this world! My blessings and prayers are with you as you continue to grieve the loss of Gary…I so enjoyed his music that you shared during the Beloved Lenten retreat!

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