The Day of Pentecost
This is the great Sunday of Pentecost. I love this day so much. I have special memories of Pentecost Sunday and I have heard about joyful and creative ways congregations have celebrated this day. However, it took me years to understand what it meant.
You must wonder why this day does not have the same commercial success enjoyed by Christmas and Easter, given that the meaning of this day is just as significant.
It ponders the question, “How do you think Target stores and Walmart might merchandise products for Pentecost. Red candy perhaps? How about an especially light and airy cake shaped like a tongue of fire? Streamers for children to wave in the air representing the Spirit of God? In fact, Pentecost is so unnoticed by the community at large that I could not find red balloons to decorate the church.
I can think of one reason. Pentecost does not translate as a secular celebration. Christmas gives us a baby to adore. Everyone loves a birthday party for a special baby. Easter gives us the resurrection. Most people can relate to the rebirth of Spring and hope that life has meaning, and death is not forever. But Pentecost is not a passive Holiday. The gift is mysterious and comes with a calling, marching orders. Pentecost is our Christian call to action. It is a call to embrace and engage in the mystery of God by means of the Holy Spirit.
This is a Spirit that has always existed and will always exist. A Spirit that is here with us now. She was with us yesterday. She was with us the day we were born, the day our children were born, the day we will die. She is with us into eternity.
She was with the 19 children and 2 teachers murdered in Texas. She is and has always been with every battered, sex trafficked and missing child in the world. She is with every person, young and old, in every crisis, trauma and tragedy throughout human history. She inspires greatness and wisdom among leaders of all kinds, motivates young people into action and encourages us all to do the right thing in the present moment.
Those who can hear her can knowingly receive Her guidance. She is present within us in the moment of our conversion and during those spiritual awakenings when we feel our hearts and minds open up to the willingness to embrace the mystery of God and human purpose.
She is everywhere and in everything. She defies time and place.
Pentecost is her holiday, her Feast Day. She is the gift that calls Christians to action.
How could we possibly market that?
And as Christians how do we take in the awe of Her?
What can we say about Her day?
Pentecost falls on the 50th day after Easter.
Pentecost is the only church Holiday that is Biblical.
Pentecost is a Jewish holiday marked by the Passover, celebrating God’s covenant with His people by means of a gift, the Law. And it marks the Spring harvest.
Pentecost celebrates the day God’s people stake their claim, declaring themselves God’s chosen people.
Christian Pentecost reveals to us who we are now in the eyes of God. We come from the chosen, we come from the Law.
This new gift seals us with God in a new covenant with the Son and now the Holy Spirt.
Pentecost marks for us the dawn of the Church.
It is hard to explain the Holy Spirt to those do not understand. It is like trying to explain a parent’s love for their newborn, or my dog’s loving gaze when I come home after work. Even Luke seems to struggle with words as he attempts to describe an appearance of the Holy Spirt: “suddenly there came a sound like the rush of a violent wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting.”
How do you describe wisdom?
That morning of Pentecost, when the Holy Spirit came with such power the disciples tried to share their experience with the others gathered around, but words could not fully convey the experience. The people gathered assumed the disciples had been drinking cheap wine because they sounded like crazy people. We do not sound any less drunk or crazy when we try to explain this phenomenon. Is that why we rarely attempt to explain how the spirit directs and moves in our lives?
How do we speak of the Holy Spirit when even the disciples found this difficult at first? John’s Gospel reading teaches that Jesus is not with the Holy Spirit, but rather the Spirit blows through the world as Jesus.
The Spirit is free and radical; tough and gentle. She is limitless, and she calls us into the mystery, to live in grace with God.
The Spirit is signs and wonders, dreams and visions.
The Spirit asks the hard questions: Who do you love? What is love? Whom will you invite to the table? How do we extend the invitation to break bread with us? What can we control? What can we heal?
How do we transform our own lives and move in the Holy Spirit?
So, despite our awkwardness in discussing the feminine wisdom, the Sophia of God, the Holy Spirit, She is always ready to show up in a mighty way. Like when a friend calls you to talk because her son relapsed again. Or when you go with your spouse to an early morning appointment in Olympia to get the biopsy results. Or when the phone rings at 2:00 AM because a family member has been ill. Or when you are comforting a fellow flight passenger suffering from panic during heavy turbulence.
In all the times and places when you need God to be present, recall that Jesus promised us an Advocate, to be with us forever. And just as the Holy Spirit showed up one Pentecost when it was time for the disciples to clock in for work, so God will not leave you comfortless on your mission.
The Holy Spirit will come to you in all these times and places because God lives by connecting people.
There are so many who are in pain and experiencing suffering and anguish in our community, country and the world. And there is one true source of healing and peace actively connecting those people to one another. Therefore, we who know Jesus Christ can bring comfort and healing to those for whom we are called to help. We don’t even have to look too hard; these people are right in front of us.
Before the week is out, or likely before this day is over, we will run across someone who is hurting. The Spirt calls us to truth so we do not need to hold back. We do not have to get it right. Just trust the Holy Spirit to honor your good intentions. Share Jesus’ love in ways big and small.
God will handle the rest.
Each of us knows the right thing to do for others most of the time. The challenge here is to follow the Spirit’s lead. As we can attest, it gets easier with practice. Sometimes we do not think much about it, and yet God continues to use us in deeply significant ways that benefit the people around us, including ourselves.
This is the part that has taken me a lifetime to understand: This ability for personal transformation and good works is not something we do for God, but it is God’s gift to us.
First God gifted his people with the Law and then he gifted us with a Spirit that makes us a channel for peace, love and healing in a broken world.
The Rt. Rev. Frank Logue, Bishop of the Diocese of Georgia, writes: When and how might the Spirit of Truth work in and direct your life? I have no idea. But I do know this, God came in a mighty way at 9:00 in the morning on that Pentecost, when the Christian Church was born – and it is always 9:00 somewhere. Whenever the Spirit nudges you, just lean in and trust God to be in the midst of the situation, for that creative force that changed the world at Pentecost is still blowing through our lives.