Sunday, 19 May 2013

Pentecost Sunday

Carolyn has provided us with information and a meditation for Pentecost.

Pentecost is another of the main Christian festivals, although a lot less well known than Easter or Christmas.  There are connections in name with the Jewish festival Shauot, or the Feast of Weeks, (because of being seven weeks after Passover) which celebrates both the giving of the law to the Hebrews at Sinai and the grain harvest.  This was given the Greek name Pentecost as it was 50 days (Pente, relating to 5, as in Pentagram) after Passover but Pentecost in the Christian church is a completely different festival celebrating the events that took place at the first Pentecost (Jewish) after the resurrection of Jesus.

It was at this time that the New Testament book of acts talks about the first followers of Jesus being ‘Filled with the Holy Spirit’.  Since the resurrection and then ascension of Jesus into heaven they had been meeting quietly, praying and waiting, as Jesus had instructed them to do.  Their numbers had stayed the same and it probably looked to anyone watching them as if they would eventually drift or settle back into normal life.

Then the New Testament records they were praying together and there was suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them. (Ac2:2-4 NIV)  When people saw this and exclaimed at being able to understand them, no matter what their native language (lots of pilgrims in Jerusalem for the Jewish festival) then Peter stands up and preaches to a large crowd resulting in the fledgling church expanding by 3000 who were baptised into the new faith.  This is why Pentecost is often referred to as the birthday of the church. With the coming of the Holy Spirit they changed from fearful followers to bold baptisers.

In Modern times there are lots of ways this is celebrated, and it is common in a lot of churches to have baptisms or confirmations at Pentecost. It is also a traditional time for ordinations according to Wikipedia.  In England, or certainly in the North of England it used to be common for churches to ‘walk’, or to parade around the neighbourhood at Pentecost, or ‘Whit’, Whitsuntide, Whit Sunday.  My mum still recalls having new white dresses for Whit Walks.  These walks could be any time in the week after Whit Sunday and the Monday was always a bank holiday.  This has now been changed into a fixed day not connected to Whit, Spring Bank Holiday.  The word whit comes from white and could be white clothes of those being baptised, as the term predates Whit walks.

On Palm Sunday I spoke a little about how I meditate on scripture sometimes by setting it to photographs.  I find it helps me to see what it is about a piece of scripture that is speaking to me at the moment if I think about how I want to represent it, what colours, textures and images will put that across without me adding any more words.  I can write at length, but when it comes to distilling it down into 3-4 photographs then I really spend time letting the scripture sink in.

For Pentecost I haven’t chosen the Acts2 passage that details the events of the first Christian Pentecost.  Instead I have chosen to use a passage from Romans, a letter written by St Paul, where he talks about how the Holy Spirit leads us to God as children to a father. (Abba is an Aramaic word that has both familiar and respectful connotations and was among the first words children learned, maybe similar to the English papa)

For those who are led by the Spirit of God are the children of God.

The Spirit you received does not make you slaves, so that you live in fear again;

rather, the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship.

And by him we cry, “Abba, Father.”

Romans 8:14-15 NIV

I’d love to see your own meditations on Pentecost, the Holy Spirit or on another subject.

Please use the link below to share your thoughts.