An Interfaith Pentecost


Dear all,

Happy Pentecost! This past Sunday, the Christian church celebrated the feast day of Pentecost which occurs fifty days after Easter. On this day, the Holy Spirit descended and filled a diverse group of people "from every nation" who were gathered in Jerusalem (Acts 2). The people, who all spoke different languages, were amazed and bewildered when the power of the Holy Spirit allowed them to speak to and understand one another.

I was blessed to spend part of Pentecost at my home church in Chapel Hill where the priest gave a rousing sermon about the ways that the Holy Spirit fills us up and urges us forward to do God’s work in the world and to love our neighbors as ourselves. The liturgical color of Pentecost is red, so the church was filled with red flowers and the cross was draped in a vibrant red cloth. 

After the early service at church, I went to my husband’s Buddhist meditation center. The day before, the center had hosted an Amitayus Empowerment; Amitayus, I learned, is the Buddha of long life, wisdom and merit, and during the ceremony, the group asked these blessings to be bestowed on themselves and others. The color of Amitayus Buddha is also red, so the center was filled with red flowers, teas, statues, and ribbons.

After the meditation session, we went home and met the family of my godson, Joshua, to celebrate his fifth “baptism-versay” with lunch on our back porch. Joshua always has a special request when he comes to our house: each time he visits, he asks us to take our large disco ball out of the closet where it is kept in storage until the next public or private dance party we feel inspired to host. On Sunday, we set up the disco ball on our dining room table, and the room was filled with white and red splashes, as the mirrored ball spun slowly on its pedestal. Joshua grinned as his belly and face were covered with the moving, sparkling light.

On Pentecost, we wear red because it represents fire and joy. We wear red because it reminds us of how the Holy Spirit first appeared to us on Pentecost. Scripture described that, “suddenly from heaven there came a sound like the rush of violent wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. 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 the ability” (Acts 2: 1-5).

We are each given amazing, Spirit-filled abilities to speak to one another despite our differences, and to enact our vocational callings in ways we never could have imagined possible. For me, this blog is becoming one of those Spirit-filled gifts. As I have discussed on social media and with many of you off-line, I have been wondering over the past few months what the next step would be in my writing journey. In my memoir, Following the Red Bird which was released in mid-2017, I write about how a friend of a friend unexpectedly showed up at my door seven years ago on Pentecost wearing a bright red dress. She had a peace and presence that was striking. In the months prior to that moment, I had been feeling God was calling me in a new direction. So, a few weeks later, I visited the woman’s church, just to check it out. That small step proved to be life-changing. A year later, I was baptized in that church, and a few months after that, I felt compelled to start writing about the whole crazy journey in what would later turn into the book. Now, after discussions with many of you, I have decided to launch this blog which I hope can be a forum to continue talking about the ways that God unexpectedly moves among us and between us, and how the Holy Spirit’s tongues of fire become like a bridge, connecting many of us who speak very different languages and come from diverse backgrounds.

Like the people who were gathered in Jerusalem on the first Pentecost, I remain amazed and bewildered that the Spirit has filled me up and spoken to me in a language I wasn’t able to listen for or understand in the past. I thank each of you who have walked with me on this wonderful, unexpected journey. You have provided support in a myriad of ways – by providing encouragement, asking tough questions, cheering me on. I hope that On the Edge of Faith will prove to be a place where we can keep the conversation going. I will be welcoming guest bloggers on a regular basis; a huge thanks to Julia Powers for being the first with her beautiful piece on encouragement! Please contact me if you’re interested in contributing.

With gratitude and with Pentecost blessings,