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Thursday, May 28, 2015

Keeping the Flame of Pentecost Burning

by Kristin Berkey-Abbott

We continue our Pentecost journey by spending our second week with the second chapter of Acts:


Have you taken down your Pentecost decorations or do you keep them up for the full 12 days of Pentecost?  Oh, wait, wrong holiday.  But it is interesting to me how quickly Pentecost comes and goes.

As a child, I saw summer as the long, boring green season:  no special decorations, no music, no food, no children involved in worship service.

In many ways, although much has changed, much remains the same.  It's a long stretch until we make our way back to Advent.  In some ways, I'm glad.  The fifty days between Easter and Pentecost, and the season of Lent before it, make strenuous demands on the faithful.  It's good to have some fallow time.

Or maybe I should look at this time differently.  Pentecost offers us much in terms of changing our worship spaces--lots of decorating possibilities.  But 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. 

Yes, transform the world that seems so resistant to change.  No wonder we throw ourselves into our decorating projects.  The true mission of Pentecost makes us too uncomfortable to bear.

Throughout church history, we’ve seen what the presence of the Holy Spirit can do, even in the most improbable settings.  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.

 If we trusted in the transforming power of God, what changes might we see? How might our local society and the larger world be different? The answers to those questions might scare us.  Of course, not asking those questions should scare us more.

We live in a time of rapid change, from revolutions abroad to church schism at home. Various scholarly disciplines continue to give us new discoveries that completely reorder the way we see the world. We may not know what our next steps should be. We are people who want a plan: a daily plan, a five year plan, a ten year plan—yet the circumstances of our lives, both on the individual and the global scale, may make planning impossible.

But 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.

In this time after Pentecost, instead of sinking into the lull of a long, green season, let us continue to think about the Holy Spirit and the call of God.  Fifty days from now, when the holiday is long gone, what might we begin to incubate?

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