We Christians live by two calendars:
the calendar of the world and the calendar of the church,
which has three festive days:
one is Christmas, the second is Easter,
and the third is today: Pentecost…
the one day of three that we have all to ourselves.
Not like Christmas which the world has extended from the “Twelve Days of Christmas” that begin on Dec. 25th, to months before that abruptly end on Christmas Day; while in the world there are carols blaring through malls, and street decorations and public displays excluding manger, Holy Family, shepherds, and wise men,
plus a repertoire of substitute carols like: “I’ll be home for Christmas,” “White Christmas,” “Rudolf, the Red-nosed Reindeer,” all suitable for public airing and singing.
Then there’s Easter which, for the church begins on Easter morning and extends for 50 days, while the world starts months ahead with fashions just for the season and sweets for baskets and Egg hunts and chocolate bunnies, and then ends on Easter Day, or temporary extensions through after Easter sales before the expiration date on the candy.
For merchants and restaurateurs, Christmas and Easter rank as two annual events to increase the
bottom line; so that, as the joke goes, manufactures and marketers sing, “What a friend we have in
And then there’s Pentecost, which we Christians can say is “a day all to ourselves,” because the world doesn’t do anything with it. To be honest, we may need to confess, “And neither do we.”
In the life of the church Pentecost is simply a day to dress the altar table and pulpit in red, and maybe ourselves,
promoted by Luke’s account of “blood and fire, and flaming tongues,” all colored red.
Pentecost, one Sunday between Easter and Christmas, followed by months called “ordinary time;” then the Church Year brings us to the four-week Advent countdown to Christmas.
Pentecost – the day that is the introduction to that long haul, and therefore, not one day, but a count that exceeds
the “Twelve Days of Christmas” and the “Fifty Days” of Easter; Pentecost, a Season waiting for us to do something with it, the “something” that comes in two versions:
The Gospel version according to John tells of Jesus’ pre-Easter promise fulfilled on that day when Jews were gathered for the early grain harvest called Pentecost – fifty days after Passover,
And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate,
When the risen Christ appears to those disciples gripped with fear and hiding behind locked and bolted doors, and they hear Him say, “Receive the Holy Spirit,” the gift comes as a gentle breath from the risen Jesus.
No tongues of fire. No sign to mark with the color red.
Pentecost in the Gospel version according to John.
In Luke’s account in Acts, the Spirit arrives during the Feast of Weeks, amidst festival crowds in the streets,
And suddenly from heaven there came a sound like the rush of a violent wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting.
God’s Spirit, God’s enlivening, creative breath, sent those 120 people, followers of Jesus, down the steps from that upper room where they were the first to receive Christ’s meal we now call the Sacrament of Holy Communion, and out into the streets singing, shouting, hugging, jumping, chattering excitedly, as though affected by hysteria or lunacy. Jews from 17 different nations and ethnic origins witnessed them, and some said they were drunk or loony.
But Peter, remembered the words of the prophet Joel –about a day when God’s Spirit would be poured out on all flesh; as Rev. Dr. Emmanuel L. McCall, Sr. said,
“Well, this is it! It is what God promised. A new age has come upon us. God is doing a new thing. We can't control it. It is controlling us. This is it.” (Rev. Dr. Emmanuel L. McCall, Sr. retired pastor of Christian Fellowship Baptist Church and professor at Emory University. Day1 for 2007)
A little girl walked with her grandmother into a flower garden where she worked to open a rose bud with both hands, but as hard as she tried a petal would wilt or break off. In frustration she said, "Gramma, I just don't understand it. When God opens a flower, it looks so beautiful but when I try, it just comes apart."
"Well, honey," Grandmother answered, "There's a good reason for that. God is able to do it because God works from the inside out!" (Sermons.com May 15, 2016)
Pentecost, the inside-out day God’s Spirit began to ignite Jesus’ followers to burn with a fire-red passion and be carried as though swept up by a mighty wind, from behind closed doors and bolted windows, and these pews and church walls, out into the world, to be living witnesses to Jesus’ work and word, as confirmands vow next Sunday, and the rest of us will re-affirm with them.
In a subtle way the film story of Pocahontas portrays a daughter of a Native American chief meeting John Smith who reveals his prejudice toward her people, which she challenges in the song “Colors of the Wind,” (Adapted from proclaim@proclaimsermons. for May 15, 2016)
You think the only people who are people are like you.
But if you walk the footsteps of a stranger
You’ll learn things you never knew…
She comes alongside him to show there’s more to the world. He is moved by the “Spirit” to see beyond himself, to others, to begib to see the world God had made as the place to make our home with one another.
Pentecost, it’s as Jesus promised, the new thing God is doing through ordinary people like you and me through the breathed in life of Christ that changes us to be His servants in and to the world.
Pentecost in Luke’s account in Acts.
A congregation with a worn-out building had the funds to build a new one but kept the beautiful stained glass window showing Christ with arms raised in a blessing of peace – with one change. (Adapted. Dr. McCall)
It was moved from above the altar table to the back wall, sending all out into the world to be a Pentecost people: empowered by wind and fire: the wind of God’s empowering breath of life and the fired up passion of new life in Christ.
Pentecost, the day that we have all to ourselves to take to the world!