It wouldn’t be a trip back to my husband’s hometown without a Sunday morning service at the Methodist church. This year, Memorial Day weekend coincided with Pentecost, which just so happens to be one of my favorite holidays on the Christian calendar.
Pentecost is often described as the “Birthday of the Church” and celebrates the descent of the Holy Spirit on the twelve disciples. The book of Acts describes the Holy Spirit appearing in the form of small flames of fire above each of the disciples heads–you’ve probably seem religious imagery and artwork depicting this. The disciples were in turn, filled with the Holy Spirit and began speaking in tongues. It is for this reason that fire has become a common symbol of Pentecost.
The church in Scott’s hometown decided to celebrate Pentecost with a special ritual involving fire. During Lent, members of the church had written prayers on post-it notes and attached them to a wooden cross. During the service, the pastor started a small fire in a steel bucket on the altar where all of the prayers would be burned. While I’m not totally sure what this symbolized, I realized the significance of fire on Pentecost, so I went with it.
My husband Scott was not quite as willing to accept the ritual without thorough questioning.
“Psst! Katrina! What’s he doing?”
“He’s burning the prayers.” I whispered quietly.
“Today is Pentecost, and fire is symbolic. Pentecost also marks the fiftieth day after Easter. All of these prayers were written during Lent, and I think there’s something symbolic in regards to the ashes rising to the heavens.”
“Oh. That’s stupid.” he scoffed.
“No. It’s not. Now be quiet…people can hear you.”
I couldn’t help but to notice my surroundings. My three-year-old niece was gingerly sitting in her grandmothers lap playing with her bracelet and blowing kisses to her mother. My seven-year-old niece was carefully filling out a Sunday School activity worksheet, her brow furrowed in concentration. My nine-year-old nephew was patiently watching each of the prayers quickly burning in the steel pail, his eyes twinkling with curiosity and fascination.
And my twenty-nine-year old husband was rocking back and forth violently, utterly consumed with a case of the church giggles.
“Scott! Stop it! People are staring at you.” I hissed.
“Seriously…what is so funny?”
“It’s just so ridiculous! Why aren’t they doing this outside?!”
“Shh! I don’t know. I suppose it would take too long to get everyone outdoors.”
“Yeah…but at least that way they could use a big steel drum or something, that would make it go a lot quicker. This. is. taking. forever.”
He had a point. We were already ten minutes into the ritual and the pastor wasn’t even halfway through all of the prayers on the cross. I noticed him shoot the organist a look of desperation. She took the hint and quickly began pumping out a familiar hymn in order to kill the awkward silence. At ten-thirty in the morning, it was already ninety degrees outside, and the church was starting to feel a bit stuffy. The fumes from the burning prayers thickly rose through the dense air as I started to fan myself with a stray bulletin.
In between giggles, I felt my husband elbow me.
“What is it?” I whispered through my frustration.
“These prayers are giving me cancer!”
“The fumes from the post-it notes he’s burning up there…they are giving all of us cancer! I told you we should be doing this outside.”
While the smell was certainly overpowering, I’m pretty sure you can’t get cancer from a few burning post-it notes.
“Seriously, Scott. Cut it out. Now.”
At this point, he was causing a scene. His mother leaned over my lap, pinching her son in the arm and whispering “Shape up, Scottie!” through her clenched teeth.
“But, mom! The prayers are giving us cancer!” he squealed through his high-pitched laughter.
“Most of those prayers are probably for you, a**hole!” she screeched.
“Hopefully they’re prayers that I won’t get CANCER!” he snorted.
I let out an exasperated sigh. This is exactly why I like to stick to the vanilla traditions of the Lutheran church.
Finally, the prayer burning was complete, and we were free to continue with our worship service. I’m only thankful that we had chosen to sit in the balcony so that the damage caused by my snickering, blasphemous husband was kept to a minimum.
At the end of the service, we exited the church, stepping out into the humid Nebraska air. Like a kid on kool-aid, Scott immediately began running laps around the parking lot, and wrestling with our nephew Keaton. When he eventually stopped to catch his breath, I pulled him aside for a good old-fashioned Sunday scolding.
“I’d just like to point out that in spite of the fact that we were sitting with a nine, seven and three-year old, you were by far the worst behaved boy in church.”
A slow, mischievous smile spread across his smug little face.
“I know.” he giggled, before launching into a cart-wheel and chasing my poor little niece around the church lawn like a crazed zombie.
Here’s hoping the maturity switch flips on in time for his 30s.
Want more? Subscribe via email.