Pentecost is the orphan of the three great Christian feast days – Christmas, Easter, and Pentecost. Churches tend to be full on Christmas Eve and Easter Sunday, but not so much for Pentecost. Like Easter, Pentecost moves around for its date; this year the feast day is Sunday June 4 (fifty days after Easter Sunday).
You will not see Pentecost cards, gifts, or special family celebrations. Does your family get together for a Pentecost dinner? Probably not. Why is Pentecost difficult to celebrate? I think it is because we have a hard time dealing with the Holy Spirit. Who is the Holy Spirit and how does the Spirit act in our lives?
These are not easy questions to answer.
The feast of Pentecost is based on the account in the Book of Acts in the New Testament, part of the story of the Gospel according to Luke and Acts, both by the same author and really like parts one and two of a play. According to Luke/Acts, the risen Jesus appeared to his disciples for forty days after his resurrection, then ascended to be with the Father in heaven, and then ten days later sent the Holy Spirit upon his disciples on the Jewish feast day of Pentecost (a spring harvest festival fifty days after Passover).
The New Testament talks about the coming of the Spirit in a variety of ways, mostly in Luke/Acts, the Gospel according to John, and the letters of Paul. The Spirit is usually described as God’s presence within us or alongside us. I had an experience a while ago that helped me understand this better. In the fall of 2015, I attended a conference for Episcopal clergy in Richmond, Virginia. While I was there, I was able to meet with an important mentor, Father Bob Hetherington, the priest who encouraged me to go to seminary back in the late 1960s. Bob has been retired for a while and lives in Richmond, where he served as a parish rector. Bob has a very strong sense of the leading of the Holy Spirit in his life. He uses the expression often of being “prompted” by the Spirit.
I like this idea of being prompted by the Spirit, like a person in a play who prompts you with your lines. I want to be open to the guidance of the Spirit in my life. How is the Spirit guiding me? How can I be more aware of the presence and leading of the Spirit, instead of following my own “bright ideas”? I find that my life flows much better when I follow the prompting of the Spirit!
I encourage to you to attend worship on Pentecost Sunday June 4 and to celebrate the coming of the Spirit in the life of the early Christians. I also invite us all to be more deeply responsive to the presence and prompting of the Holy Spirit in our individual lives and in our parish.