Sunday, June 8, 2014

The Power of Pentecost

The third great church holiday is upon us, although many of us don't think about Pentecost that way.  We don't give Pentecost gifts.  We don't go out to buy our special, new Pentecost outfits--although we may pull out our red clothes.  We don't have food that we only eat on Pentecost.

Perhaps, though, we'll have a birthday cake for the church at coffee hour.  Perhaps there will be confirmands.  Maybe we've decorated the church in special ways.  Will there be streamer sticks or fans or something else to remind us of the great rush of wind?

Lately, I've wondered if we're taking some of the power out of Pentecost.  Are we cheapening the festival by these efforts?

I worry that we get lost in our decorating and art projects, as fun as they are.  I worry that we forget about the message of Pentecost.  It's not about transforming the surfaces of our worship spaces, much as they might need that.  It's about getting us out of our worship spaces to go out to transform the world.  No wonder we throw ourselves into our decorating projects.  The true mission of Pentecost makes us too uncomfortable to bear.

Pentecost is the holiday designed for discomfort, a celebration that should stir us to get up off the couch to go out and do great things. We learn about Pentecost in the book of Acts, after all, not the book of Sleeping Late. Perhaps that’s why so many of us approach Pentecost with a bit of apprehension. Throughout church history, we’ve seen what the presence of the Holy Spirit can do, even in the most improbable settings.

If we let the Holy Spirit loose in our home churches, what might happen? If we trusted in the transforming power of God, what changes might we see, both in our individual lives and in the lives of our church bodies? How might our local society and the larger world be different? The answers to those questions might scare us.
Maybe the answers don't scare us, so much as the thought of the effort involved makes us tired before we've even started.  But Pentecost assures us that it's OK.  God comes to us where we are.  We don't already need to be perfect believers.  In fact, the Bible is full of the wonders that God creates with the most imperfect people.  You likely wouldn't choose the 12 disciples if you were choosing a team to transform your church or business.  But Jesus showed us what was possible from a ragtag group of unlikely leaders.

Pentecost reassures us with the mystical promise of the Spirit. We do not have to know what we are doing; we just need to be open to the movement of the Spirit. Pentecost promises daring visions; we don’t have to know how we’re going to accomplish them. God will take care of that.

God became incarnate to prepare humans to carry on the work of Kingdom creation. And Pentecost reminds us of our job description, to let the Holy Spirit blow into our hollowed out spaces and to fill us with the fire to dream and the resources to bring our visions to life.

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