Sunday, May 27, 2012

The Sunday Word

It's amazing that there are in the Judeo-Christian tradition holy days that aren’t considered to be Hallmark holidays. While Hanukkah and Yom Kippur are great Jewish holidays, Shavuot, or the Feast of Weeks, doesn’t really make the card cut. And while Christmas is certainly a card-sending event and Easter a feast of chocolate bunnies, Christians and card writers just tend to look past Pentecost. Poor Pentecost.

Now, you’d think a greeting card giant like Hallmark would be all over this holiday. After all, what’s not to like? You got your fire, your wind, your speaking in other languages, your birth of one of the great religious movements in history, your built-in holiday Spirit — all the stuff that makes for a memorable event. It even lends itself to great slogans like “Hope you get fired up this Pentecost” or “More power to ya!”

But the shelves of your local greeting card stores are empty of any Pentecost cards.

Maybe the whole idea of Pentecost is less about celebrating the past event and, instead, embracing the present reality.

The text for Pentecost gives us a clue that the work of the Holy Spirit was not a one-shot deal. Jesus was preparing to return to the Father and was preparing the disciples for his departure. Still confused about all that Jesus was saying, Philip spoke for the rest: “Lord, show us the Father, and we will be satisfied. " Give us a sign, make it plain.

Jesus’ response, however, was to remind Philip and the others that he had been doing that all along — all they needed to do was “believe.” Their belief was to translate into action, and their love for Jesus would find its foundation in obedience to his “commandments” or instruction.

The coming of the Holy Spirit should remind us that claiming to be followers of the historical Jesus is one thing, but allowing the Spirit of the risen Christ to fully dwell in us is another. The former can be confined to simply knowing a lot about Jesus — marking the Christian holidays — while the latter actually involves representing Jesus and acting every day on his behalf according to his model of life and faith.

Given the work laid before those first disciples and their mission, which we continue as their spiritual descendants, we might look at Pentecost as being a true “holy day” but not necessarily a holiday where we can kick back and reminisce about what once was. The coming of the Spirit is present, active — one that motivates us to work, to act, to represent Jesus to the world. You just can’t confine that to one day a year. Sure, we need to gather on Pentecost Sunday and be reminded. But, then again, every day should be a new Pentecost: a fresh wind of the Spirit and a firing up of our desire to serve God with our whole hearts.

We don’t need a card for that!