Here are my thoughts about Pentecost Sunday. I know, I know, it should have been posted two days ago but I was occupied with other matters and getting this piece up was not a priority.
My first thought about Pentecost this year, especially when I read the translation, was that maybe we shouldn’t be thinking about the birth of the church. The problem when we do that, think about the birth of the church, we don’t adequately think about the church then but rather the church today. That makes the church way out of date and hardly relevant to any discussion today.
The church that developed two thousand years ago was not the structured church of today, though I would hazard a guess that many people today don’t realize that.
The church that began was more of a community, a collection of individuals each with particular gifts, all working together for the good of the church. They received these gifts, these talents from the Holy Spirit, the same Holy Spirit that brought them together on that first Pentecost.
It was the Holy Spirit that allowed the various people who had gathered together that day and it was the Holy Spirit that allowed each person to speak to each other, even if they were of different nationalities or spoke different languages.
I recall one of the commentaries that I have used saying that this moment, when everyone is able to understand what others are saying, reverses the moment that we became different peoples, nationalities, and races during the building of the Tower of Babylon.
It would seem that today we have forgotten this commonality and have regressed to the separation of peoples and nations. I find too many churches where a particular task is one person and one person’s alone. They “inherited” the task and it will be theirs until such time as it has to be passed on. And quite honestly, this is one of the main reasons that people leave the church or don’t join. They see a hierarchy in place and you have to wait your turn, no matter if you have some good ideas or not.
As Paul wrote to the Corinthians, we are more interested in calling our own shots. We want our churches to be separate enclaves, where everyone is the same and everyone fits the same mold. We know no longer look for ways to work together or to build the church.
And that takes us away from what this day was and should be about. Yes, we should celebrate the birth (and if your church was like mine, celebrate those who have been a part of the church). But it should also be an occasion to think about where we are, as a church, right now and how are we going to make sure that we are around next year and perhaps 50 years from now.
Can we go back and look at what the early, the real early church was doing, and see what we can do to make that possible today?
Can we again look at the skills and abilities of each person and find a way to utilize those skills? Can we make sure that we utilize the skills of everyone and not just those who have, through time and perseverance, earned their “place?” This comes with a caveat though; don’t assume that just because someone is good at something that they will want to do that skill in church. Someone might come up to me and say, “You are a college professor so why don’t you start a Sunday School class for college students?” One of the things that many teachers don’t need these days is to have their day of rest become another work day. What other skills might a person have that often doesn’t get used?
If anything, Pentecost Sunday ought to be a day on which we consider what the early church did (and that would include our own particular church when it was first founded) and see if we are still doing whatever it was that cause the church to begin. And then we need to think about whether that is what we need to be doing now and for tomorrow.
Those who gathered together on that first Pentecost gathered together to receive the Holy Spirit and to be empowered to go out into the world to show the world what Christ had done for them and what Christ can do for each one of us. We probably out to gather together for the same reasons.