In a couple of weeks, our churches will transform. They will feature blazing red colors. Various artworks depicting the descent of the Holy Spirit will be on display. Clergy will don their red vestments. Acts 2 will be read once more, and hymns featuring the Holy Spirit will be sung. Finally, the long Easter celebration is over. Let’s move onto something different – for an hour on a Sunday morning at least. All of the brouhaha that is Lent and Easter is over, and thus begins the long season excitingly dubbed The Season after Pentecost. Wow. Two millennia of Christian tradition, and after is the best we could come up with?
I always wondered why the Christian Church only celebrated Pentecost one day out of the entire year. Why did the Church not see fit to give Pentecost a season to call its own? It’s the birthday of the Church. It marks a day when the unleashed Spirit of God empowered 120 people to proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ and turn the known world upside down. In less than twenty years, the message of salvation had spread from a band of followers in Jerusalem to the Emperor of Rome hearing about it. It had reached the entire Mediterranean world. God was up to something amazing, and alas, we only get to celebrate it one day out of the entire year.
A couple of years ago, I sat in my office, preparing a sermon for Pentecost. The sunlight was streaming through the Tiffany stained glass windows, and I was reflecting on the meaning of Pentecost. And then it hit me:
Pentecost is a lifestyle.
Pentecost is much more than a day on the calendar. It is much more than a feast day in the liturgical year. Pentecost is a lifestyle. Every day is Pentecost, because every day, Christians are empowered by God’s Spirit to bear witness to God’s Kingdom in the world. We are empowered to proclaim the good news of salvation in Jesus Christ. We are empowered to reduce world hunger. We are empowered to provide opportunities for education and literacy. We are empowered to strive for justice and peace among all people.
Unfortunately, I have all too often seen many Christians treat the presence of the Holy Spirit in their lives much like the Church liturgical life – a tiny blip only to be consumed by other things we deem more important. Yet, it is the Holy Spirit who made Pentecost what it was. Had the Spirit not descended that morning in Jerusalem, everyone around would have considered the disciples nothing more than a bunch of drunk insurrectionists who sought to disturb the peace and push an agenda. The Holy Spirit brought empowerment to the Church, and the Spirit still brings empowerment to the Church. We would not be where we are today had God the Holy Spirit not been residing with God’s people over these two thousand years, turning the world upside down…with each new generation arising to say, “We are God’s people!” If the Church started treating Pentecost as a lifestyle rather than just a day on the Church calendar, then our future would be as unlimited as God’s Spirit.
So, I invite you not only to celebrate the Day of Pentecost but also to live Pentecost. Live in the power of the Holy Spirit. The same Spirit who breathed life into God’s people, birthing the Church, is the same Spirit who is breathed onto us and breathes flame into our hearts with the same message Jesus gave to his disciples so long ago: “You shall be my witnesses.”