Susannah’s Story by Fran Salone-Pelletier

My name is Susannah and I was there. It is as if it happened yesterday, the memory is so vivid in my mind and heart. The streets were teeming with people—as always happened during important holiday periods in Jerusalem. But the air was charged with perceptible electricity this time. There was an atmosphere of excitement, exhilaration, and fascination. This year the Passover lamb bled twice—once for a meal and again on a cross. You may wonder at my words, but I believe what I believe because I have seen—and wept over all I had witnessed.

Let me start at the beginning.

I had heard stories about the Nazorean—stories of patience and kindness but also of courage and conviction. I listened to tales of miracles performed in ways unknown to the familiar wonder-workers whose healings often bordered on magic. They managed to baffle and bewilder people more than heal and help them. The Nazorean was different. And his difference set him apart in ways that sparked deadly interest in the powerful leaders of our land and the equally powerful priests. I gasped with fear for him when I learned that he had confronted the Pharisees and Sadducees. There was never a happy ending when anyone continued on that path!

But, until recently, these were only rumors and tales that had rumbled in the marketplace and were carried into the countryside through the conversations of shepherds and fishermen. Most of us had never met the man or seen his works. I decided that I would go to the city to see for myself who this Jesus was.

Passover would be a good reason for me to travel to Jerusalem and find a way to meet him, even if I only stayed on the edge of the crowd. In fact, I preferred that spot. It would let me remain an anonymous observer. Then I could decide if I wanted to draw closer or get away completely.

So, I left my hillside village. I joined the pilgrims on the long, dusty trip. Our anticipation mounted with each step we took. For most of us this was the trip of a lifetime. We could scarcely know how true those words would ring—nor how much we would be transformed by all we would see and experience.

Upon arrival, I managed to slip away from the group and asked some city dwellers where I could find this Jesus. Imagine my surprise when I learned he had already been tried in a court of law, made to walk a torturous route to Gethsemene, and crucified as a criminal among criminals.


I had been told that some considered him to be the Messiah. Crucifixion was an abomination of the Law. How could the Anointed One be crucified? It didn’t make sense. I had to find someone with more information, someone who knew him. I had to uncover the truth or be destined to live with a lie.

There was a cluster of women who were furtively gathered near a house just inside the city. I sensed more than knew that they were followers of Jesus, so I went to them and asked if I might join them since I was a pilgrim with no place to stay. They hesitated for a moment. I saw them exchange glances. These were dangerous times with hidden enemies ready to slay and slaughter any and all dissenters. Silently, they nodded their heads, agreed to take a chance, and let me enter the house with them.

That was how I managed to be in the same room where Jesus’s followers were praying. “What harm would come if I added my voice to theirs?” I thought. I dared to begin praising God in their midst. It seemed as if we had been praying for only a few minutes when I heard the sound. At first I thought it came from outside the house, but then I realized it was erupting from each of us. Each person had been carried on the wings of prayer so that we were no longer mumbling but were involuntarily shouting! We were no longer simply saying words. We had become the prayer and it was escaping us, filling the room with the roar of thunder.

Amazed, I opened my eyes ever wider as I gazed at each person individually. Surely I was mistaken. First I closed then reopened my eyes, to be certain of what I saw. They were glowing—faces bright with light, eyes sparkling with enthusiasm. It was as if they were on fire.

As I gazed around me, I was terrified. This was more than I could manage, more than I could imagine, explain, or understand. Then I became quiet, watching and listening. I let the love that filled the room envelop me. I felt comforted and accepted as one of the family. Relaxed, I returned to my praying. It was then that I heard the message of God.

Yes, you are hearing me rightly. It was God speaking to me in the words of these brothers and sisters. “Peace be with you. Receive the Holy Spirit.” Clearly, I heard the command. But I knew it was given as a gift of love—not a demand of law.    

I cried.

My tears were a mixture of joy and relief, compassion and release, wonder and love. I cried with the knowledge that I was loved by God. No more fears and terrors. No more confusion and criticism, only love. I was totally changed. And not just I. Every one of us became a new creation.

The room suddenly seemed too small. We could not be contained in it. What had happened to us could not remain our private gift. It had to be shared with all the earth. Fearing no one and nothing, we burst into the street—all of us speaking at the same time. All of us began giving the same message with wild abandon and wonderful awe: Jesus is Lord! Jesus is Lord! Jesus is Lord! We could not stop ourselves from speaking out.

A church was being born!

To this very day, I remain amazed at the sights and sounds and miracles I experienced so long ago. All I can say to you now—all I can give to you now—is my own constant prayer:

Bless the Lord, O my soul! O Lord, my God, you are great indeed! How manifold are your works, O Lord! The earth is full of your creatures. When you send forth your spirit, they are created, and you renew the face of the earth. May the glory of God endure forever; may the Lord be glad in his works.

Oh, and I almost forgot what I came here to say to you: Happy birth-ing day, dear church! ♦

Fran Salone-Pelletier holds a master’s degree in theology. She is the author of a trilogy of scriptural meditations, Awakening to God: The Sunday Readings in Our Lives, from which this selection is taken. She is also a religious educator, retreat leader, lecturer, and grandmother of four. Reach her at

Image: Duccio di Buoninsegna, Pentecost, 1308–13

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