Pentecost is sometimes referred to as “the birthday of the Church,” but the birthday refers not to the institutional church, but rather to our birth into the new life of the Risen Christ, the new creation that comes from the Holy Spirit. Pentecost (this year on May 31) brings the Easter season to an official end, but it also marks the beginning of our new life together. Through the gifts of the Holy Spirit, we are guided and supported in our attempts to live out our baptismal promises.
There are significant meanings in the Acts of the Apostles description of Pentecost. The Jewish feast commemorated the giving of the law on Mount Sinai. The gift of the Spirit to the Church on this feast fulfills the words of Jeremiah, “I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts” (Jeremiah 31:33). Pentecost also symbolizes the reversal of Babel in Genesis 11. At Babel, confusion, in the form of diverse languages, confound the understanding of the builders. On Pentecost (in Jerusalem), the apostles understood every language being spoken by the crowds (Acts 2:1-4 and John 20:22). At Babel, the human city is scattered. On Pentecost, the City of God is drawn together as 3,000 believers are added to the Church.
After Easter, Pentecost is the most important day of the Church year. Churches typically celebrate it with everyone wearing red (representing the flames of the Holy Spirit), perhaps a dove kite soaring above the congregation in procession, lessons read in various languages, children wearing construction paper flame hats, red balloons tied to pews, and birthday cake at coffee hour. Not this year! But it can still be celebrated at home. Some ideas and links to others:
This is the day to fill our home altars with flowers! If there is anything blooming outside, create a bouquet (be sure to ask the owner of the property before you cut a branch or flower) or make some paper flowers. Put on some uplifting music and watch a livestream of a worship service. If your church is not offering one, you can watch the National Cathedral in Washington, DC.
Here are some ideas to do at home:
Make Resurrection Rolls
Ingredients (and what they symbolize): 1 (8 ounce or 12 ounce) package refrigerated crescent rolls (the bigger size makes it a little easier to wrap around the marshmallow) = the wrapping of Jesus’ body or the tomb); 1/4 cup sugar and 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon = spices used to anoint Jesus’ body; 8 large marshmallows = body of Jesus; 1/4 cup butter, melted = oils of embalming; oven = tomb
Directions: Separate rolls into eight triangles. Combine sugar and cinnamon. Dip each marshmallow into butter, roll in cinnamon-sugar and place on a triangle. Pinch dough around marshmallow, sealing all edges. Make sure to seal well or all the marshmallow will escape. Dip tops of dough into remaining butter and cinnamon-sugar. Place with sugar side up in greased muffin cups. It helps to use jumbo muffin tins so that the juice doesn’t overflow. Bake at 375 degrees for 10 to 15 minutes or until rolls are golden brown. Allow to cool slightly then eat warm. There will be a surprise inside – the tomb is empty!
It’s only been a couple of weeks since (reportedly) 1,300 Episcopalians and friends met in Atlanta, Georgia for what was subversively called Episcopalooza or “General Convention with workshops, but no legislation.” The brainchild of Bill Campbell, former Executive Director of Forma: The Network for Christian Formation this conference brought together various cohorts within the Episcopal Church (and beyond) to explore formation, evangelism, preaching, leadership, mission, stewardship, and communications. A massive undertaking with a lot of behind the scenes work from many individuals, it was the Church at its best. Worship was extraordinary, workshops were inspiring and informative, creativity was abundant, and Jesus was proclaimed. Even the hotel staff got in on the action and “rooted for Jesus.”
It was too much to digest and while I got to see LOTS of friends and colleagues, I missed many opportunities to network or attend presentations because I couldn’t be at two (or three) places at once. Thankfully, many presentations were live-streamed via Forma’s Facebook page and many were recorded so that even those unable to be present could be fed by the experience. My take-aways and learnings:
“Honor your father and your mother . . . that your days may be long” (Deuteronomy 5:16).
The United States’ observance of Mother’s Day is held each year on
the second Sunday in May. The holiday can be traced back to the Mother’s Day
Proclamation written by Julia Ward Howe in the aftermath of the American Civil
War. It was a reflection of her pacifist reaction to the horrors of the war and
her conviction that mothers had a rightful voice in the conduct of public
affairs. There were other attempts to create a Mother’s Day holiday in the
ensuing years, but none succeeded beyond local observances.
The current holiday was created
through the efforts of Anna Jarvis, continuing the work of her mother Ann
Jarvis, who dreamed of creating a holiday to honor all mothers. With the help
of Philadelphia department store magnate John Wanamaker, Jarvis persuaded
President Woodrow Wilson to make it a national holiday in 1914.
Intentionally or not, the support of
retail genius Wanamaker proved predictive, and Mother’s Day soon became so
commercially successful that many opposed it, including its founder Jarvis, who
spent her inheritance and the rest of her life opposing it. Such opposition has
done little to slow down the commercial juggernaut that Mother’s Day has
become. It is the most popular day of the year for dining out in a restaurant.
According to the National Retail Federation’s annual Mother’s Day survey, 86%
of Americans celebrated this day in 2018 with the average individual spending
$180 on a gift; approximately $4.6 billion on jewelry, $2.6 billion on flowers,
and another $813 million on greeting cards.
Today (Thursday, May 2), we celebrate the National Day of Prayer. Of course, every day should be a day of prayer, but how does this become a “national” day in a country that claims a separation of church and state?
The National Day of Prayer was created in 1952 by a joint resolution of Congress, and signed into law by President Harry S. Truman. In 1988, the law was unanimously amended by both the House and the Senate and signed into law by President Ronald Reagan on Thursday, May 5, 1988, designating the first Thursday of May as a day of national prayer. Every president since 1952 has signed a National Day of Prayer proclamation.
There are a number of organizations and individuals who feel the day has been politicized by many to promote an agenda as well as a particular religious viewpoint. This is easy to see, with its founders having ties to Billy Graham, Pat Robertson, Campus Crusade for Christ, and Focus on the Family. One such organization, the Freedom from Religion Foundation offers their opinion and history of this day here. However, it would behoove all Christians (and perhaps all faith communities) to follow the Episcopal Peace Fellowship‘s call for Christians everywhere to be known by our love (the 2019 National Day of Prayer theme) and to be instruments of peace in a violent society. They write in their latest e-news: