Tag Archives: Pentecost

Musing: Pentecost

“When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place.  And suddenly from heaven there came a sound like the rush of a violent wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting.  Divided tongues, as of fire, appeared among them, and a tongue rested on each of them.  All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages, as the Spirit gave them ability.” – Acts 2:1-4 NRSV


Pentecost Sunday, Trinity UCC, Quincy, IL.  Photo: TLClark, 6/9/19.

Noise.  Like Wind.
Light.  As of Fire.
Thunder and Lightning?

I don’t remember ever thinking of the Christian Pentecost event as being accompanied by thunder and lightening.  But something the preacher said Sunday caused me to wonder … why hadn’t I thought of it before?  could there have been a wild storm?

Whatever happened, it transformed about 120 of Jesus’ first followers.
Fear flew out.  Courage blew in.
Timidity dissipated.  Boldness gathered.

Easter is the central event of the Christian faith.  But without the Spirit’s work at Pentecost, I’m not so sure the good news of resurrection would have spread very far.


Glass Wall.  Photo:  TLClark, 6/9/19.

If you haven’t guessed from the pictures, RED is the color of Pentecost.  Actually, red is the color most often associated with the Holy Spirit.  Since Pentecost is a celebration of the giving of the Spirit, red is assigned.  The sanctuary at Trinity UCC had dozens and dozens of potted geraniums with red blooms throughout the chancel (front of the church); they will be planted on the church grounds as a reminder of the Spirit’s work.


Centerpiece for Confirmation Breakfast.  Photo: TLClark, 6/9/19.

My youngest niece was confirmed on Sunday.  Since I’m not currently serving a local congregation we took the opportunity to be there.  Bonus: we were included as part of the family for the Confirmation Breakfast – a long standing tradition in that congregation where confirmands, their families, and their mentors are served a sit down breakfast before worship.  Added bonus:  just getting to spend time with family!

Note (because I know not every knows what “being confirmed” means): Confirmation is always associated with Baptism – a fact we sometimes forget when children are baptized as infants and confirmed as teenagers.  A confirmand/confirmation student usually goes through a season of education that lasts from a few months to a year to two years depending on local tradition.  Typically lead by a pastor, the class looks at key Bible stories and learns a little church history.  Sometimes they do mission or outreach projects.  Often there is a mentor who spends time with the student exploring questions of faith.  The process culminates in the Rite of Confirmation when the young people 1) affirm the baptismal vows that were made for them at their baptisms and 2) are welcomed as full members in the life of the church. 


“All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to …” Acts 2:4a (NRSV)

Of the Christian high holy days, Pentecost is my favorite.

I like lighting candles and singing “Silent Night” on Christmas Eve just as much as the next person.  Easter isn’t Easter without singing “Christ the Lord Is Risen Today” in a sanctuary adorned with flowers (lilies, but also tulips and hyacinths and more).  But Pentecost with its fiery red and without an expected favorite hymn makes my heart sing.

Christmas celebrates what was:  Jesus was born.  An universal human experience.  Christmas is not just past tense.  It also celebrates God with us, then and now.  But we tend to dwell on the baby in a manger.

Easter celebrates what is:  Jesus is alive!  The tomb is empty.  Death is defeated.  God says ‘yes’ to Jesus’ word and deeds.  But the good news of Easter is not enough for Jesus’ disciples.  The first followers of Jesus gathered behind locked doors afraid of what might happen next.  And Christians still struggle to venture beyond what is safe and familiar.

Pentecost celebrates what was, what is and what will be.  We don’t have a catchy phrase;  things of the Spirit are not easily summed up.  Pentecost – as celebrated by Christians – marked the beginning of the church.  Fear melted away.  Without quite realizing what happened, the first disciples became bold in speaking up, speaking out.  When they were accused of being drunk, Peter began to preach from the prophet Joel:

“In the last days it will be, God declares, that I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh, and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy and your young men shall see vision, and and your old men shall dream dreams.  Even upon my slaves both men and women, in those days I will pour out my Spirit; and they shall prophesy.”   – Acts 2:17-18 (cf Joel 2:28-29) (NRSV)

New words!  New visions!  New dreams!  God raised Jesus up and has poured out the Holy Spirit, who know what might happen next!

The church’s annual Pentecost celebration reminds us that the Holy Spirit – God’s Spirit, the same Spirit that was in Jesus – is among women and men from youngest to the eldest.  She (the Spirit) continues to reside with Jesus’ disciples.  And She is eager to do a new thing:  burning away the old and worn out, blowing away the dried up and no longer needed, offering renewed hope and fresh courage to the weary and the fearful, pushing the faithful to speak up and to speak out wherever they are in the world.

May we heed the Spirit’s lead.