Saturday, May 23, 2015

The Sunday Word - Pentecost

If you were a Buddhist, your big day would be Buddha’s birthday which falls on April 8th this year — but there are no Buddha birthday cards at the store and, even if there were, they’d probably be ignored in favor of more enlightenment. 

Mormons celebrate “Pioneer Day” on July 24 — the date in 1847 when Brigham Young and his followers pushed their handcarts over the mountains to the Salt Lake Valley in Utah. There,Young proclaimed, “This is the place.” The whole state shuts down that day with parades and celebrations. For the Latter Day Saints, it’s a bigger occasion for parades, fireworks, and jell-o based casseroles than Christmas and the Fourth of July combined. And yet, no card.

Up the hill in Park City, Utah, celebrities engage in the annual January festival of camera lights called Sundance, while in Native-American culture, the Sun Dance is the time of thanksgiving for the harvest. Lots of dancing in both places — but no cards.

Hindus do Diwali, Sikhs get down on Guru Nanak’s Day, and pagans celebrate Samhain on October 31 by leaving out food for the dead. Interesting stuff, but still not card-worthy.

The Judeo-Christian tradition has similar holy days that aren’t considered to be Hallmark holidays. While Hanukkah and Yom Kippur are great Jewish holidays, the Feast of Weeks, doesn’t make the card cut. And while Christmas is the ultimate card-sending event and Easter a feast of chocolate bunnies, Christians and card writers tend to look past 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 (Holy Spirit) power to ya!”

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

Pentecost was the catalyst for the explosive growth of the church as the Spirit moved among them. That same Spirit would move many of those same people into dangerous and deadly situations where they were forced to rely fully on the Spirit indwelling Christ — the only “Advocate” they would have in front of mobs and murderous monarchs. While we may not be called to give up our lives in the same way as they did, if we take the Spirit seriously as the guide for our lives we may find ourselves living quite uncomfortably. Jesus promised the Spirit, but he didn’t promise that life would be easy.

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.”  The coming of the Spirit is present, active reality — 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.

Don’t need a card for that!