- Hope on Union
The Power of the Spirit
This Sunday is Pentecost, the fiftieth day after Easter. As Christians, we celebrate Pentecost as the completion of the Trinity with the presence of the Holy Spirit coming down to the disciples. Although Christians use the term to refer to the start of the Christian Church, Pentecost is a festival day in the Jewish religion.
The Day of Pentecost is a Jewish holiday that occurs 50 days after the first day of Passover, or Shavuot. It is also known as the Harvest Feast to remember God's goodness to the people in the Promised Land. It is most often referred to as the Festival of Weeks because it is celebrated seven weeks and one day after the First Fruits, or the first day of harvest.
The significance of the first harvest for Israelites was that they were nomadic migrants fleeing oppression and the brutality of slavery and were seeking asylum in a neighboring country. Harvest signified that they settled in the new land, and they have made life for themselves a home.
We use the word Pentecost to indicate the 50 days starting with Easter Sunday, the resurrection of Jesus, to signify the presence of the Holy Spirit among the people of God. The story is told as though the fire had come down from the heavens, but rather than destroy the people, the flames actually empowered the people.
The Pentecost story of fire coming down from the heavens is the reference to the Day of the Lord or the coming of the Messiah. At Jesus's death on the cross and again at the resurrection, there is an earthquake, signifying that it was a supernatural event. In traditional Jewish history, there was a belief that when God comes among the people, the natural world and the supernatural world collide; thus, it will shake our world. The Day of the Lord signified in Judaism is the end of the world and completion of God's intent in creation. The Pentecost then became the symbolism of completion for Jewish believers, but it became the symbol of a new beginning for Christian leaders.
In the post-modernity of today, rituals have lost their significance, and Pentecost celebrations have gone away with many other traditional church celebrations. It is not that these rituals are significant in themselves, but losing these celebrations caused the Church to lose its connections with the community. In our society, we see the evidence of communities searching for ways to connect with one another by creating holidays such as Mother's Day, Father's Day, Grandfather's Day, and Halloween. In many communities, cultural celebrations such as Día de Muertos (the Day of the Dead), Lunar New Year, and St. Patrick's Day are hold more importance than Christian holidays.
One way to redeem the Pentecost celebration would be to open the celebration to the community, so it is not just something we do in our worship service, as though it is a secret we are trying to hide from those who are not in our faith community. With great joy, we can open our celebration to the community and invite them to celebrate the Holy Spirit's work among us. This year we did not plan such a celebration because of the pandemic. Still, we will need to look at ways of opening our celebrations of the presence of the Holy Spirit with us so others may rejoice with us the might work the Holy Spirit is doing through God's people.