Pentecost and Peace Like a River

I lead an evening worship service for people with intellectual disabilities.For Pentecost Sunday, we enjoyed watching a fan make red and orange streamers billow in the wind. We couldn’t see the wind, but we could see the wind’s effect. Like the wind, the unseen Holy Spirit is active in our midst.

streamGod gives us several images running through both the Hebrew Scriptures and the New Testament, that help us know and understand the Holy Spirit. Jesus spoke of his Spirit as “streams of living water.” I recently heard a lovely song about God filling our empty wells. The song is by Andrew Ripp, and is called “You Will Find Me.” Here is the link to the version I heard, covered by Derek Wigboldy, here in Grand Rapids:

(I took this photo of one of my favorite streams, the Temperance River in Northern Minnesota.)

Another image for the Holy Spirit is fire. Forty days after the first Easter, Jesus ascended to heaven. Fifty days after Easter, the followers of Jesus were meeting together in Jerusalem. The Holy Spirit came upon the gathered believers, and a visible flame was seen above each of their heads. (That is why the streamers on the fan were red and orange.)


(This image of Pentecost is from my intergenerational book on Communion, Supper with the Savior:

We often think of the Holy Spirit as a dove, rending the heavens and coming down to rest on Jesus at his baptism.

In worship, we call down the Holy Spirit to be present in a special way, such as when we ask God’s blessing on the Communion elements.dove

(I created this little painting of a ground dove in oil paint.)

The Holy Spirit also lifts us up in worship. Because of Jesus’ ascension, we too can ascend; we are “raised with Christ in God (Col. 3:1-4).”

Orthodox theologian Alexander Schmemann writes with wisdom about the Eucharist. (“Eucharist” means “Thanksgiving,” and is another name for Communion). Schmemann writes:

The liturgy of the Eucharist is best described as a journey or procession, it is the journey of the Church into the dimension of the Kingdom...our entrance into the risen life of Christ… [1]

 In the early church, worship was seen as a moment when participants could glimpse the Kingdom here and now, and all of life was understood as transformed by God’s light. [2] Have you ever felt like you glimpsed another dimension of reality in worship, a part of God’s Kingdom that you don’t usually see?

At the close of the evening Pentecost service, we sang “Peace Like a River.” One of my friends came up to the front to help me sing, “I’ve got peace like a river…joy like a fountain…love like an ocean in my soul.” My friend usually only says a few words at a time, yet he sang this song in its entirety. His eyes lit up, and he had a broad smile in his face. I glimpsed God’s coming Kingdom.

In worship, the Holy Spirit lifts us up. We are carried by the dove and  the wings of the wind. We are raised and united by holy flames; we float on streams of living water.

Please comment on this blog and share your thoughts. How do you see and experience the Holy Spirit: as wind, water, fire, or dove? Does it seem that Holy Spirit comes down as you worship, and/or that the Spirit raises you up?

[1] Alexander Schmemann, For the Life of the World (New York: St. Vladmir’s Seminary Press, 1963), pp. 26-28.

[2] John P. Burgess, Encounters with Orthodoxy: How Protestant Churches can Reform Themselves Again (Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 2013), pp. 141-142.


2 thoughts on “Pentecost and Peace Like a River

  1. I loved reading about your Pentecost worship service, Barb. And I think the imagery in your concluding paragraph of your post is especially beautiful.


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