Pentecost Sunday: Anatomy of a Flame

A blessed Pentecost, friends! May you know the power of the risen and reigning Christ resting on you and working through you today, tomorrow, and always! 

Chemical Atlas - Flame  ( source)

Chemical Atlas - Flame (source)


I wrote this poem about six years ago during the season of Pentecost. Brian and I were waiting to hear God's direction on a life-changing move for our family to a new job, new state, and new church community. We were new to Anglicanism, and I was trying to make sense of the Pentecostal threads of my church upbringing with this new, old tradition.

My imagination had been seeded, weeded and watered with the Gospel accounts of the friends of Jesus waiting for the promise of Pentecost power and direction. I wrote this poem after waiting in our hallway by the closed door of our bedroom. Behind the closed door, Brian answered questions during a phone interview with a group of dedicated and kind Vestry members from a growing Anglican church in Austin, Texas.  

I wonder what marked the moment as the acceptable time for tongues of fire to fall down?
A certain magic word?

What ancient riddle opened the door? Moved the mountain into the sea?
What familiar Spirit fluttered the dead eyelid? Called deep up from deep?
I do not have the word, have not discovered the incantation.

But I’ve met the Spirit
and I think I know the answer.

I do not know the answer in the way one memorizes a flashcard formula, babbles
incessant technical jargon, wishful thinking, vain repetitions of one-hit wonders.

Not in short-term memory exercises. Not in altar-call professions
sudden inspiration, prickly goose-bumpy revelation.
I do not know the trick to conjure down the flames.

But I studied the dusty photographs
read unfeeling the prayers, practiced the old language on inert tongue.

I slept under the canopy of intercession, squatted in the hallway with the Son,
rocked sweaty in the lap of the Father,
eavesdropped under the door crack the Spirit-guide

and we knew it when we saw it.
— Circling the Presence by Tamara Hill Murphy

Today's readings: Numbers 11:24-30, Psalm 104:24-34, 35b, Acts 2:1-21, John 20:19-23

Listen to my Pentecost playlist on Spotify: Pentecost

The Collect for Pentecost Sunday:

Almighty God, on this day you opened the way of eternal life to every race and nation by the promised gift of your Holy Spirit: Shed abroad this gift throughout the world by the preaching of the Gospel, that it may reach to the ends of the earth; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns
with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
— Book of Common Prayer