This week we celebrate Pentecost. On Pentecost we wear red because we recognize it as a celebration of the Holy Sprit. Often this day is looked at by the Christian community as the celebration of the Birth of the Christian Church, though it is not really the birth of the church. That honor goes to an unknown moment, when Jesus bestows upon Peter the mantle of authority,
“And now I’m going to tell you who you are, really are. You are Peter, a rock. This is the rock on which I will put together my church, a church so expansive with energy that not even the gates of hell will be able to keep it out. Mt 16:18b.”
However, it is not uncommon to find that many churches are commissioned on Pentecost. This is because Pentecost is a celebration of the Holy Spirit. It was a day foretold by Christ when he said:
“If you love me, you will keep my commandments. 16 And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, to be with you forever. 17 This is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, because he abides with you, and he will be in you.”
Here is one of those areas there our language fails us when reading the Bible. The “Advocate” that is seen in this passage in Greek is “Paraclete.” The Paraclete, which we understand to be the Holy Spirit, is far more then an advocate. She is seen as a wise counsel, a helper, even a comforter. As you see, it is much bigger than a mere advocate.
This is also where the day of Pentecost gets both confusing and enlightening. Pentecost was and is one of the traditional Hebrew celebrations. Now called Shavuot by some Jewish communities, this was the festival that was linked to the Law given to Moses on Sinai. It gets its name from being 50 days after Passover. However, while linked to the giving of the law, in practice Pentecost was a traditional celebration of the first harvest. For an agricultural community, this makes the Pentecost a very important holiday.
This is where the symbolism converges and we get a really awesome narrative for Pentecost. As I stated above, the Church was established on Peter, but Peter was subsequently tasked with going out into the world to spread the word; the problem was, Peter was unable by himself to do this. Jesus promises the disciples that he will be sending his Paraclete, the Holy Spirit, which is part of him, into this world to be our guide. You take that with the significance of the day and begin to see that this Pentecost event where all that are gathered can fully understand the witness and mission of God. As the celebration goes, the spirit supersedes the law, and the harvest is no longer about the fields, but about the people, and the Holy Spirit comes into the world as this ever-present entity, but one that is only seen when a faithful witness is followed.
This is why Pentecost is so linked to the church. Not that it is the birth of the church, but that the church might be a place that bears witness to the Holy Spirit, a place were we can witness to the world how the Holy Spirit is alive and active. So next Sunday, wear red to show that we know the Holy Spirit!
Rev. Dr. Bryan James Franzen