Pentecost Sunday is June 4. It is a literally “red letter day” for the church, and we encourage everyone to wear something red to worship that day in honor of the celebration. Pentecost is so named because it is fifty days after Easter and the day when we remember the outpouring of the Holy Spirit on the gathered disciples. We sometimes call it “the birthday of the church,” because according to Acts, this is what launched the Christian movement. Pentecost was already a Jewish pilgrimage festival (which is why Jerusalem was full of people). It was also called the “Feast of Weeks,” or Shavuot. It celebrated the spring wheat harvest but by the first century, it also commemorated the giving of the Law to Israel on Mt. Sinai.
The color red is associated with the tongues of fire that the disciples said rested on each of them (Acts 2:3). Fire also figured prominently in God’s appearance on Mt. Sinai (Exodus 24:17). The presence of God is also described as being like a rushing or mighty wind. This is not surprising, because the Hebrew word for Spirit also means “breath” and “wind.” Both of these images can be comforting: a fire warms a room on a chilly night and a cool breeze moderates the summer sun. But both fire and wind can be extremely destructive. Both can do great damage to life and property. Both, in fact, can kill.
Most of us think about God more in terms of comfort than destruction. We generally pray for consolation rather than devastation. But Pentecost is the day when it is surely right for us to consider God’s presence in our lives as disruptive. There is so much in our lives and in this world that needs to be shaken up and changed. Around the world, across town and not ever very far away, people do not have enough to eat or safe places to call home. Racism and prejudice keep people from treating one another with respect and compassion. We do not adequately protect the planet entrusted to our care.
Perhaps this is the year when we pray that God will come to us as Holy Spirit, we will be open to God’s disruptive presence, opening our eyes where we are blind to the needs of the vulnerable and changing our lives so that we might become part of God’s transforming justice and deep peace.
Wind of God, blow far from us
all dark despair and deep distress,
all false values and selfish wishes
all groundless fears and sinful desires.
Blow into us
your holy presence and living love,
your splendid courage and mighty strength,
you perfect peace and boundless joy.
Wind of God, blow strong, blow fresh, blow new. Amen.
(adapted from The Worship Sourcebook)
Cynthia M. Campbell