Our Common Life

I’m probably not the only pastor in the Iowa Conference who has been reading about “Holy Spirit holes” in preparation for this Sunday’s celebration of Pentecost.  This bit of church architecture has found its way into a fair number of Pentecost messages in recent years. 

The heavenly art on the domed ceilings of churches built in the middle ages concealed small openings through the roof.  These “Holy Spirit holes”, symbolizing the Church’s openness to the Holy Spirit, were covered throughout the year, but opened for Pentecost.  (Google “Holy Spirit holes” to see some photos!)  Doves were released through these holes to fly through the sanctuary, symbolizing the Holy Spirit.  Rose petals were dropped through these holes to symbolize the Spirit’s tongues of fire.  And once the Pentecost celebrations were complete, the “Holy Spirit holes” were covered again.

 Maybe I’ve had too much time to think about this during a wait for AAA and for a tire repair.  There was a hole in the roof so that the Holy Spirit could get into the church.  Annually.   

I’ve gotten distracted by the architecture.  A little hole in the roof?  Why not the great big doors on the front of the building?  To regulate the flow?  (Oh yes, I have certainly sinned by wishing to control and limit the flow of God’s Holy Spirit.)

I’ve gotten distracted by the notion that the holes were closed each day of the year but one.  Of course we can’t keep holes open in our church roofs all year long.  I’m wondering and praying about the “Holy Spirit holes” not in our buildings, but in our congregations and in each of us as disciples and in the wider church.  Maybe I’m worrying and praying about my own openness to the outpouring of the Holy Spirit.  It’s more than annual.  But less than daily.

There’s thunderous risk in the mighty rush of the Holy Spirit.  Unexpected, even unwelcome gifts fall upon us with calls to use those gifts in Christ’s service.  Unbidden power redirects our lives.  The wind of the Spirit is strong enough to change our minds.  And change our hearts. 

 As we prepare to celebrate the Festival of Pentecost, may we pray and pray again, “Come, Holy Spirit!”  May we worship and follow Jesus with the “Holy Spirit holes” of our hearts and minds wide open for the wind and the fire, the power and the gifts, the changes and the redirections that God will send for the building and blessing of the Body of Christ.

Jonna Jensen, Associate Conference Minister for Eastern Iowa








4 Responses to Our Common Life

  1. Dianne says:

    So, those holes in our old church roof, now covered with a new church roof, could have served a purpose? The amazing thing is, since we started praying for help with our roof, the Holy Spirit has been coming in through the doors in the semblance of real live people. At least our holes weren’t big enough for the pigeons who roost securely in our bell tower. And this explains the joke about the pastor putting the confirmation kid in the attic to let loose a dove through a trap door. Now it all makes sense.

  2. Becky W. says:

    I have never heard of “Holy Spirit holes” before this! I too, have struggled with trying to control how much and when the Spirit moves in my life. I am trying to give up that control to the Higher Power, but it is not always an easy thing to let go of. Control is like my security blanket and something I struggle with daily, but I continue to pray about it.
    Thank you for the enlightening article Jonna!

  3. Margaret Debner says:

    I don’t know where I would be without the Holy Spirit finding the holes in my life. A near death experience, severe depression and doubt opened the door and the Holy Spirit swept in with full force. Alleluia!
    I often joke that the sermon I write is not the one I deliver because there is always something that comes up between preparation and delivery that changes or redirects the sermon a bit–sometimes a lot. I guess that is why I like first-person sermons so much because I only have an outline of what I want to say and let the Holy Spirit fill in the blanks–often in surprising ways.
    Yes, I have spiritless days and they are long and often miserable but they leave me open to better days and bigger things.

  4. Anne Sunday says:

    I had never heard of Holy Spirit holes before, but I was really struck by your reflections on it. Thank you for sharing something I will continue to contemplate.

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