The Feast of Pentecost is coming up – this year on Sunday, May 31st. It’s one of the three major festivals of the Church year, along with Christmas and Easter. It’s considered the ‘birthday’ of the Church. You can read all about that first one in Acts 2:1-21.
Celebrating these important major festivals is Important because they mark the major turning points in the Christian story. They orient us toward what is central, even crucial, about the Christian faith.
But they also present a certain ‘danger’ because we are tempted to look back rather than look ahead. After all, we ‘look back’ to Bethlehem and memorialize it in our elaborate manger scenes and children’s Christmas plays. We ‘look back’ on the empty tomb of Easter morning and celebrate the resurrection with festive worship and pancake breakfasts. However, ‘looking back’ on those foundational events in Christian life and faith means very little if Christ does not continue to be born among us and if the promise and hope of new, resurrected living does not enact itself in real and tangible ways of human transformation and just, compassionate service to others.
As we celebrate these festivals, we remember God's faithful action in the past. This is a good thing...so long as it prompts us to seek God's action among us in the present and help us prepare for God's action through us in the future.
But what about now – now that just about everything is ‘on hold?’ Well, honestly, the promise of God’s activity among us and through us in the present and in the future isn’t ‘on hold.’ We are still called to be church and to plan for Pentecost in the present tense so we can move into the future to communicate the good news of the gospel in word and deed.
So, this year, let’s celebrate Pentecost in the present tense and continue to anticipate, and perhaps even plan for, God’s work moving forward through the coming time. The long Pentecost season is also called ‘ordinary time’ in the Church year – it points to the day in-day out activity of the Holy Spirit as we live out of our faith.
In this current time when there are so many things that we can’t (or aren’t doing), we can begin by beginning to look at some of the ways the Holy Spirit is inspiring us and tutoring us. For me, while my various ‘in person’ relationships have always been important, now I understand in more profound ways how precious and life-sustaining they really are.
Happy Birthday, Church! And many more!