Happy Pentecost! The day of Pentecost occurs on the fiftieth day of Easter. On this day the church observes and celebrates Pentecost, which is a day of celebration of the Holy Spirit. Through and in the Holy Spirit, “the people of God are created and re-created. Pentecost is sometimes called the church’s birthday, but might more appropriately be called its baptism day, since the gift of the Spirit is the fullness of baptism.” (Sundays and Seasons, 199).
The lectionary appointed readings for this day, this year, include Acts 2:1-21 and John 20:19-23. In the Acts reading, a reading for the day of Pentecost every year ,we are reminded of how the Holy Spirit came upon the disciples. We are reminded of the speaking in different languages in verse 4, as it says, “All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages, as the Spirit gave them ability.” Peter answers the logical questions that come as a result of this experience, but I still greatly gravitate with the question posed by some in verse 12, “What does this mean?” Isn’t this the same question we still ponder today? What does this mean? What might God be up to here?
In the gospel reading from John we are reminded of Jesus’ first appearance to the disciples following his resurrection. According to the gospel of John, Jesus breathed on the disciples and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.” This follows where Jesus shares a sign of peace with them, and sends the disciples into the world just as Christ was sent by the Father.
We celebrate Pentecost both as a day of the baptism or birth of the church, because not only do we remember God’s gift of the Holy Spirit, we also remember that that gift is with us as we are sent out and sent into the world to share the good news of the promises of God of love and grace. It’s perfectly appropriate to wear red today, the color which symbolizes the Spirit. It’s also perfectly appropriate to be as joyful, loud and hopeful as ever.
This is a day of celebration, but also a day we remember our vocations as Children of God, sent to be part of the world. We may not always know what we are called to, or even what this might mean. But we recognize that God through the Holy Spirit is leading us and at work. Today is a day to remember this and to embrace it.
In light of the tragedies and sadness most recently in Santa Barbara and Seattle, we are reminded that there is hope. God is with us, and for us. We have the gift of peace of Christ, but also the presence of the Holy Spirit enabling us and calling us to be present and active in this world sharing, showing and leading in and out of God’s love and grace. How we respond to these gifts can vary, but in light of these tragedies and all of their caused grief and mourning, I hope it strengthens our resolve to show even more love and hope to our neighbors and strangers. I hope it also leads us to thinking seriously about what it means to love our neighbor and to serve them, and how, if in anyway, we might be called to think more critically about the way things are related to guns, gun culture, and mental health. If we each have vocations and gifts, then certainly, we might have the gifts possible to tackle such challenging problems.
The church as a movement didn’t really exist before Pentecost and that could and should have seemed ridiculously daunting to the disciples. But with the Spirit’s leading, the church not only exists today, some 2000 years later, it is still growing and thriving throughout much of the world. It might be declining numerically in some areas (like the United States) but that doesn’t mean its dying either. God is up to something. We just have to be open to ponder and wrestle with “what does this mean?”
So what are you pondering and wrestling with this Pentecost? Where do you see and sense the Holy Spirit’s leading in your own life? What might God be up to?
Source: Sundays and Seasons, (Minneapolis, MN: Augsburg Fortress, 2011), 199.