You might know that the three major festivals of the Church year are Christmas, Easter, and . . . that’s right, Pentecost. Or you might not know this. That’s because our culture has fully embraced Christmas and Easter but has no idea what to do with Pentecost.
For Christmas we have Santa Claus and decorations and parties and a long, long season of shopping for gifts. And also Christmas songs that begin playing on November 1. In our culture Christmas is a season of good will and gift giving. And in church we have Advent with its sense of anticipation and expectation. And then we get to sing Christmas carols.
For Easter we have sort of a spring festival. Even if Easter parades aren’t all that common anymore, we still have new Easter (spring) outfits. In place of Santa Claus, we have the Easter bunny who, if not good for a mountain of Christmas presents, still delivers baseball cards in my Easter basket and lots and lots of chocolate. In our culture Easter is kind of a re-awakening, re-birth ritual. In church we have Lent, a season I find to be way more subdued than Advent. But we get it. The events of Holy Week are what make Easter both possible and mean something. We are Easter people.
But Pentecost? Our culture has no idea what to do with that. That’s not surprising. For one thing many Christians, especially Lutheran Christians, don’t put much emphasis on the Spirit. That’s partly because it is the Spirit’s job to witness to Jesus and to be the Father’s unseen presence within and among us. In comparison with the Father, who spoke to and through the prophets, and with Jesus, who walked this earth and left a legacy of ministry and teaching behind, the Spirit is just too ephemeral to get our heads wrapped around. And as for our culture, well, the idea of God within us is way too close for comfort.
What about you? As we approach Pentecost this Sunday, I invite you to reflect:
How have seen, how have you felt the Spirit at work?
When have you experienced cross-cultural understanding as the work of the Spirit? (Acts 2:1-21)
What spiritual gifts have you encountered in others – and in yourself? Does this list include them all? (1 Corinthians 12:3b-13)
When the risen Jesus breathes on the disciples, what other biblical passages come to mind? (Genesis anyone?)
Pastor Mark Walters