This Sunday is Pentecost. Unlike Christmas and Easter, however, you’ll find no displays in Target. No chocolate filled flames, no marshmallow tongues of fire or Pentecost-Red bead necklaces. And while I do not lament that Hallmark hasn’t sunk its demdaco angel claws into another Christian holiday, I do regret that Pentecost gets short shrift. Maybe it is a solidarity borne out of my own place as the youngest of three kids.
Whatever my reasons, I think you should cook up a Pentecost ham and invite the family over. You should pop the cork on the fine champagne and celebrate a holiday that has to be number 3 on the list of the most important Christian holidays. And if you are a C&E-er (someone who goes to Church on Christmas and Easter only) you should consider becoming a C&E&P-er.
Pentecost is THAT big of a deal.
It’s summer’s version of Christmas. The Christmas of the Spirit.
Christmas, of course, is God becoming a person. Christmas means God hasn’t washed his hands of us. Love came down at Christmas as the song goes.
But without Pentecost, we wouldn’t be celebrating it. At Pentecost, the living Christ (shout out to our #2 holiday, Easter) continues His ministry by sending the Spirit (the same Spirit that was in Christ) to a group of people that, without the Spirit, are as helpless as a water buffalo on a pogo stick. Pre-Pentecost, the followers of Jesus are uninspiring to say the least. Even after they see the resurrected Jesus, they seem apathetic (Matthew 28:17 records the brilliant faith of the disciples right before Jesus gives the Great Commission, “some worshipped him. But others doubted.” Inspiring.) John reports that about half of them take up fishing again. They are a huddled mass of insecurity without Jesus leading them.
“I will not leave you orphaned,” Jesus had said. “I will come to you," He said. At Pentecost He does just that. Hallelujah. Pentecost is the Christmas of the Spirit. We washed our hands of God in order to crucify Him, but at Pentecost He confirms that He still hasn’t washed his hands of us. In a moment of fire and wind, the sorry crew of believers worried about whether they had peaked already, are suddenly transformed into a group that, in this moment at least, couldn't care less about themselves.
They are no longer paralyzed by the fear of following in the footsteps of their crucified Christ, and in fact they fling open the doors and push back the windows to allow the light of the sun to penetrate the darkened room and to allow the light of the world to illumine the world that Christ is yet pursuing. Love came down at Christmas. Hope becomes possible at Pentecost. Like Forrest Gump running out of his leg-gear, the church is set free in the Spirit to pursue the future that was made possible through Christ.
So, fire up the grill. Put on your Sunday best. Take hope. Christ has not left us as orphans. He has come to us.
It's a BIG deal.
TOP TEN CHRISTIAN HOLY DAYS*
- Good Friday
- Transfiguration Sunday
- Ash Wednesday
- Ascension Sunday
- Trinity Sunday
- All Saint’s Day
- Palm Sunday
*I just made this list up. It's arbitrary.