Yesterday, the Church celebrated Pentecost, the day in which the Holy Spirit came and set the world ablaze. It is a custom, in some congregations, to sing Happy Birthday Dear Church, as it was the day of Pentecost that led to the church, all over the world, serving as the Body of Christ. Pentecost is a reminder that this church business is wholly different from a social club, or a humanitarian organization, or a community center. It is all of these things, in some ways, but it is much more.
On Pentecost, we celebrate the Holy Spirit, but we're not quite sure what to make of this Spirit, so we talk about flames and doves and such. Metaphors are much easier to swallow than the implications of the event itself. The Holy Spirit came with a violent wind and led the disciples to speak in such a way that they sounded drunk. I don't know about you, but it seems easier to me to preach a sermon about metaphor than it is to invoke the presence of a Spirit so powerful that it fills the room with sound and manifests itself in fire.
Or we focus on the miracle, the flames, the sudden rush of wind that turned even the densest of the disciples into a polyglot. That's a neat story, isn't it? And we leave it there.
To me, here's the miracle of Pentecost. God so trusted our species that God sent a divine wind to continually be at our backs. God sees our best offerings and gifts and buildings, and God chooses to be with us anyways. We are given a sacred promise, that though the church is frustrating and difficult and, at times, slow as molasses, the work of being the church is not in vain, for it is, in the final analysis, the most important work in the whole world.
I see it every time I show up for church: people who are so dedicated to their faith that they do extraordinary things. Children get fed, the sick are healed, the lonely are comforted. This is not the work of a social club. It is work created by God, blessed by Christ, and empowered by the Holy Spirit.
To me, this is the real promise of Pentecost. Miracles need not involve seven seals, or
burning bushes, or rainbows. Miracles are just as likely to put on skin
and show up for church.