IT’S PARTY TIME
by Hugh Farquhar
One of the Readings for next Sunday (Pentecost) is Acts 2:1-21.
I have looked all over the place. There is not a single indication that it is several days before Pentecost! Remember what the Stores are like two days before Christmas? It’s a madhouse! Nor would we find any Mall bereft of signs of Easter during the previous week. Easter also generates big business – cards, candy eggs and chocolate bunnies are in plentiful supply.
Churches sometimes raise concerns about the secularization of these religious Festivals, but they have no competition for Pentecost. Ever received a Pentecost card? Ever seen chocolate doves or red licorice tongues of fire?
I’m not complaining about this, nor am I trying to catch the ear of some entrepreneur who will take on the merchandising of Pentecost items. God forbid! I just find it interesting that of the three major Christian Festivals, Pentecost is the only one that has not yet been commercialized.
Yet of those three, it is the oldest, having been celebrated by Christians from the Church’s beginning, whereas Christmas and Easter are later additions to the Christian Year. One might argue that it is the most important. Well, they are all linked, and I suppose that any one of them cannot really take precedence over another. But think of it! Pentecost highlights that God, who came into the world in Jesus (which we celebrate at Christmas), who conquered death (which we celebrate at Easter), continues to be with us now by the Holy Spirit.
Without Pentecost, Christianity would be a museum piece – relating to something that happened long ago, but without the dynamic of God’s presence with us in the here and now.
Pentecost celebrates God’s gift of the Holy Spirit that Jesus had promised would come to teach, guide, and encourage.
This is good news: “We are not alone. We live in God’s world.” To quote from Brian Wren’s hymn, “God in Christ has come to stay.” What the world needs now is to see the people of God as channels of grace, hope and joy, not as purveyors of gloomy piety and harsh judgement.
In her book “Reaching for Rainbows,” Ann Weems writes playfully: “There once was a church that had only party rooms: the Session’s Party Room, the Music Party Room, the Feasting Party Room, the Do Justice Party Room, the Love Mercy Party Room, the Touch Lepers Party Room. In the center of the building was a large round room with an altar and a cross: God’s Party Room. There was in the church an air of festivity and brightness that could not be denied.”
We have not much associated church with a party. Pentecost is party time! Let it not pass without an air of festivity and brightness.
Hugh Farquhar is Minister Emeritus at St. Paul’s United Church, Riverview, NB, and teaches Biblical Studies at Atlantic School of Theology. Halifax, NS.