Friday, May 21, 2010
The Sad Exile of Pentecost
Sunday is Pentecost but you would hardly know it where I live. First of all most of the churches are non-liturgical so they do not follow a calendar which might tell them what to name the day. Second, so many things have displaced the feasts, festivals, and commemorations of the liturgical calendar, that some find it hard to remember the Biblical day in the face of graduations honored and other things from the secular calendar. Finally, as we approach Memorial Day we are ready to proclaim it finally summer and with summer, a vacation from things churchly. So if it where not enough to fight the things happening on the calendars at the end of the school year and the wedding season, we also have the onset of the very time of year when vacation, vacation home, and time off becomes a higher priority than the things of the Lord's House. This is a sad day because Pentecost is so strongly tied to Easter (just as Ascension) and it is like leaving in the midst of the meal to duck out before the promise of the Father in Jesus' name is fulfilled among God's people -- the climactic end of the festival side of the Church Year.
When we gather on Sunday, we will hear part of the Acts 2 lesson in languages from Arabic to Danish to German and several more. After the languages each have their turn at verses 14-20, then all voices will speak together in English: "And it shall come to pass that everyone who calls upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.' This small little change in the way we read the lessons gives the hearer the image of how God has spoken the one Word that breaks through every division and barrier.
In addition we will receive new members and have an adult confirmation in the Pentecost liturgy so that we see with our eyes the effect of the Holy Spirit to lead us into all Truth and embolden God's people for witness, proclaiming Jesus Christ and the forgiveness of sins in His name to all the ends of the earth.
Two ten foot banners on either side wall of the chancel, the powerful red of the color of the day, and even a red cope, all help to give Pentecost the attention it deserves... This is how the day informs the practice, how the lectionary provides a clue to what we might do in the liturgy to reflect what the pericopes say. I would urge Lutheran parishes to focus on Pentecost and to restore this special day to its rightful place in the calendar and in the life of God's people.
The hymns vary from the wonderful "Holy Spirit, the Dove Sent from Heaven" which has a sound rather new to most Lutherans to the "Come Down, O Love Divine" with its prayerful bidding of the Spirit to visit and complete His work in the life of the Christian...
A blessed Pentecost!