Dear friends in Christ,
Pentecost is one of the major seasons of the Christian year. It is a festival. It is a high day. This year Pentecost comes on May 20. It also occurs in conjunction with two other great festivals: The Ascension, which is celebrated on May 10, and Trinity Sunday, which we celebrate on the Sunday following Pentecost, May 27. As far as festivals go, Pentecost is the biggest of these three. It is so important in the church’s life because 1) it is the anniversary of the day in which the Holy Spirit came upon the disciples, 2) it marks the completion of the promise that Jesus made to send the Holy Spirit (the comforter), 3) it is the birthday of the church, 4) it is the traditional day to receive new members, 5) it is a day on which Christians throughout the world celebrate the Lord’s Supper, and 6) it starts the second half of the church year (the first half of the church year – Advent through the Ascension celebrates the life of Christ while the second half of the year celebrates the life of the church.
Pentecost is also a Jewish Festival. The Jewish festival was known as the Festival of the Weeks (Exodus 34:22, Deuteronomy 16:10, and Leviticus 23:15-22). This festival was to start seven weeks from the Passover. This holiday marked the giving of the law and the founding of Israel. This was also a festival of the First Fruits (Exodus 23: 10). It was a time to give thanks for the harvest. We must remember that the agricultural cycle for Palestine is different from our own. It was common in the first century for Jews from all over the world to come to Jerusalem for this festival. This is also a traditional day for young boys to have their Bar Mitzvahs, which mark their passage into adulthood. This was a time for taking on new responsibilities.
The Jewish roots of this holiday are reflected in the Christian interpretation of this Festival. Christians celebrate Pentecost as the day of receiving the Holy Spirit and the founding of the New Israel (the church). On Pentecost Christians are grateful for the gift of the Holy Spirit and the gifts brought by the Holy Spirit. Pentecost is also a day when Christian youth have been confirmed and brought into full membership in the church in terms of accepting new responsibilities. Pentecost is therefore the oldest celebrated Festival in the Christian Church. The name Pentecost comes from the Greek word meaning 50 (Fifty days after Easter, including Easter). It has also been known as Whitsunday. This is of course a contraction of “White Sunday” alluding to the white confirmation robes and white baptismal gowns worn at this time to represent the joy of this great occasion.
The color of Pentecost is red. This symbolizes the fire that was seen on the day of Pentecost and spoken of in Acts. The Spirit came to them in tongues of fire. The fire represented God. Fire has also been presented in the Scripture as that which purifies. It is also that which warms the heart. The dove is also associated with Pentecost because it represented the Holy Spirit at Jesus’ baptism: Matthew 3:6, Mark 1:10, Luke 3:22, and John 1:32.
Pentecost can be summed up in three words: 1) Celebration, 2) Gratitude, and 3) Hope. It is my prayer for each of you that this Pentecost will bring a renewing of the Holy Spirit to your life and that you will find yourself motivated to be about the work of the kingdom of God; Doing works of love, justice, and mercy. May God be with you now and for ever more!
Yours in Christ,