Pentecost began as a Jewish festival commemorating God giving the law to the people. On one very special Pentecost, shortly after Jesus’ death, resurrection, and ascension, God’s own Spirit descended on the apostles like flames and wind and via that Spirit, they spoke to foreigners living in Jerusalem in their own languages, or something like that. You can read about it here: Acts 2:1-12. So the Christian church, when it does so, celebrates Pentecost as the coming of the Spirit and the birth of the church.
The following comes from an email conversation I had with my Indianapolis cousin, the lifelong Presbyterian. (I think I’ll call her “Indy”):
Bookgirl: I am annoyed that it is on Pentecost, luck of the draw, UCR has about 8 ceremonies to fit into one weekend–anyway, Pentecost is a really cool church service.
Indy: What kind of Presbyterians are u dealing with? Celebrating Pentecost?!
BG: You shoulda seen ’em. Tossing red/orange/yellow crepe paper rolls around the sanctuary–up to the choir loft and back down–during the service. I think this year we’re making cymbals (or drums or something musical) on Saturday and then playing them on Sunday (except, I’ll be wearing a gown at UCR). Just splendid.
Indy: W-O-W !!!!! I think I love that! I think I also love that my very practical & cerebral cousin-by-marriage is so on board with it all too. Very cool.
I think it was my favorite service last year. There are other sermons I remember better, other songs, other moments, but for a service as a whole, it’s tough to beat Pentecost. I can be kind of intellectual (a trait celebrated yesterday when my graduation was acknowledged by the church), but I have never been able to intellectually grasp anything about God’s Spirit. This service had something visceral about it, a way to glimpse the Spirit and the feeling of Something Happening in community, that I don’t often catch. The flash I caught of the Spirit in that service last year, I have been able to hold on to, to reach beyond. I have continued this year to catch glimpses of God’s Own Spirit, but I’m still learning, still seeking. And that’s kind of exciting.
I am truly disappointed to be missing this year’s service which promises to be “FULL of color and life and rhythm and joy” (June 2011 First Press–our church newsletter), but I look forward to encountering God’s Own Spirit in other moments through the year. We’ll see what she has in store…
***The photo is of textiles created by members of our church in a workshop this year while we were in Santa Barbara. They made them for the various church seasons. This is the one for Pentecost, I think. (It’s funny, you get involved in things, you start missing out on things…) Just for fun, the photo is linked to the workshop presenter’s blog entry about the day.