Monday, June 12, 2006

Neglecting Pentecost

While I did not intend to compose another piece similar to the former, I have been compelled by a renewed interest in the importance of the Church calendar. One Sunday ago from this past Sunday was an incredibly important day for the Church. In fact, what the day commemorates is what some have considered to be the “birthday” of the Church. Yet for many of us in the evangelical tradition not only was this day hardly celebrated, but in some of our churches in may not have even been mentioned.

The day I speak of is the day of Pentecost. Pentecost Sunday came and went unbeknownst to many in our churches. We can debate the importance of some of the Church holidays or some of the days which the Church has conspicuously marked as having importance. Yet I am compelled to ask, of all the days to minimize or exclude what reason can we give to justify neglecting Pentecost? Pentecost, for those of you who unfortunately have never been exposed to it, celebrates the outpouring of the Holy Spirit on the apostles in the book of Acts. Some consider this the visible beginning of the Christian Church. Regardless, it is an incredible significant day to celebrate as Christians because the Christian conception of God is by necessity Trinitarian. Not only is this distinctly Christian, but the necessity of the Holy Spirit in the life, existence, and sustenance of the Church and individual Christians is paramount. Pentecost is the seminal day for Christians to celebrate the Holy Spirit, and many of us missed it.

Why, of all the Church days to refrain from celebrating, do we neglect Pentecost? Perhaps the mitigation of the Holy Spirit in Western theology contributes to this, or perhaps the implicit anti-Catholic bias has once again reared its ugly and ignorant head. Whatever the case we ought to feel ashamed. We celebrate Christmas, we celebrate Easter, and although we don’t really celebrate many more Church days how dare we miss Pentecost. Yes, Christianity is Christo-centric and the birth, death, and resurrection of Christ ought to be commemorated and celebrated. But Christianity is also staunchly Trinitarian and without the concept of the Trinity Christianity is incomplete at best and horridly heretical at worst.

As Christians we rely on the Holy Spirit daily. The ancient fathers associated the communication of grace primarily with the work of the Spirit. Perhaps we forget the necessity of grace to both will and perform the good and to aid us in our daily efforts because we so easily forget the Holy Spirit. This ought to change, and perhaps it can begin with simply recognizing the incredible profundity of Pentecost.

What do you think?

Did your church celebrate or mention Pentecost?

How crucial is the recognition of the Holy Spirit to the existence and mission of the Church?


David Drury said...

Perhaps this is further evidence of the "stacking up" of much of the gospels on Easter Sunday. Good friday's empasis has been often merged into Easter. Palm Sunday the same. Ash Wednesday forgotten some places.

The trend you point out expands it to include even the beginning of Acts.

My thoughts:

1) The "Church Calendar" exists only in the mind and in tradition... so as people think less in general and care even less about tradition this isn't suprising.

2) What did you and Jen do for Pentecost Sunday? How might it be celebrated in the home to rebirth it's importance? Or is the church calendar only applicable to the corporate body and public celebrations? And if so--why?

Ben Robinson said...

So I suppose the question we could ask/pursue is how important it is for the Church to have certain days set aside for particular celebrations/commemorations/etc. Ought we to more clearly distinquish between these days rather than "stacking them up?" Or does it suffice to lump them together in a general, all-encompassing observance?

1) I agree with your evaluation. Should it therefore be the task of us church leaders to teach, not on the significance of the calendar as autonomous and self-sustaining, but on the significance of what the calendar represents? The calendar is meaningful because the events which it marks are meaningful. A calendar is not self-infused with meaning nor is it necessarily the only way to convey the meaning which it represents.

One of the things I like about the calendar is that it holds us accountable but it also sets aside certain events that we truly ought to recognize as holy. The very act of visibly setting aside days to do so does convey this sense of holiness surrounding such commemorations. But are there other ways we can do this that still provide a sense of universal unity (another aspect I like about the calendar)?

2) Actually, my post arose primarily out of self-dissapointment at not even knowing I had missed Pentecost. The post was in some ways a commentary on my dissapointment with myself. I realized I had missed it when I spoke with my mother and she mentioned the great Pentecost service they had attended.

Personally, I think local churches ought to take this task on themselves. While I would encourage and affirm individual families celebrating Church holidays in their home, the significance of these events is much more expansive than just the home. My concern with this approach, rekindling celebrations in the home with the hopes of its influence in the larger Church body, is that it may continue on the path of elevating the family to a place of superiority over the Church. We need to understand what it means to be families in the Church rathr than what it means to be a Christian family.

Families find meaning in these celebrations, but only because of their participation in the life and indentity of the Church. Therefore, I do believe it ought to be the duty of the local churches to teach, inspire, and communicate the significance of such events.

David Drury said...

Good response. I think I track with you all the way.

On the same vein, you might say that family sabbath celebrations would have the same nuances applied.

We should discuss this with Pete since they practice a family sabbath and our church does not.


The real question is did you feel something missing on the Western Pentecost Sunday (the 4th this year) or the Eastern? (the 11th)

Kurt A Beard said...

I wore red on Pentecost just like I used to when I was growing up. It was a simple way for me to celebrate.
To analyze there are several reasons churches don’t celebrate Pentecost (in my opinion).
1) They don’t know about the Holy Spirit, many modern day pastors don’t discuss what they don’t understand, so they remain silent on Pentecost and on Holy Trinity Sunday.
2) Churches feel a need to avoid anything that reminds attendees of the catholic churches they left years earlier.
3) Churches feel a need to hype and overdo (over plan) holidays. To through another holiday simple means more work.
4) Holidays aren’t seeker sensitive, how would a seeker feel walking into a church were the majority was wearing red?
5) Attendees want flexibility not a season where if they miss a Sunday they might miss significance.
6) Attendees don’t want sermons, topics, songs, words, sentences, and points, truths, repeated. They even tire of yearly Christmas sermons.
Yes, they are inflammatory extrapolations but there is truth in each one.

My solution… develop a new calendar, maybe on a three year cycle where we celebrate the Pentecost every three years, and have a three moth advent / Christmas every three years and regular Christmas on the off years.

Aaron said...

My church did celebrate pentecost ... and I think there are another 3 weeks that the church calender uses to deal with the Holy Spirit.

I think the holiness movement has suppressed the mention of the Holy Spirit ... and with this perhaps our understanding of true holiness doctorine?