We present a choice this week. The lectionary gives us two different stories of receiving the Spirit, two different Pentecosts. Maybe there is space to do both within worship this week. Or maybe you pass on the choice and make space for those who want to feel the fire and stand in the wind as well as those who want to feel the peace breathed on them by the breath of God.
Pentecost calls for celebration, for signs and symbols of a God who pushes through, who rushes in when it seems all is lost. The traditional wind symbols – like balloons and kites and streamers – can be powerful reminders of movement and of an irresistible force and presence. The traditional color red reminds us of the flame and the passion of the one who calls and transforms us. Fire is also a great reminder of the power of the presence and speaks as well of the danger inherent in an encounter with the Spirit. Pentecost is traditionally full of sound and movement and song and joy. Many look forward to this exuberance and outpouring of laughter and celebration as the community gives thanks for the gifts of individuals and of the body as a whole.
Yet, exuberant celebration is not the only way to observe this day. The gospel text reminds us that there can be a gentler receiving of that Spirit. The Christ who comes and breathes on us in our brokenness still offers this same grace and peace today. Maybe in your setting, this would be a more appropriate and comforting acknowledgment of the coming of the Spirit into the lives of those who are hurting or afraid, into a community where there has been or continues to be conflict or concern.
Either way; or even observing both the loud and the quiet Pentecost, there is a uniting presence celebrated on this day. Barriers and divisions are overcome. Differences become signs of the artistry of God and not reasons to be afraid. Strangers are not enemies to be opposed but sisters and brothers to be embraced and included. This is a day where we remember that Spirit, wind, and breath are all part of the same experience and that life itself is a gift from God and a sign of God’s goodness and presence in our lives. We share in common the need to breathe; we are impacted by the same wind; we share in the same Spirit. Let us find ways this Pentecost Sunday to breathe in our unity and celebrate our oneness with God and one another. This is the day he breathed on us.
Rev. Dr. Derek Weber, Director of Preaching Ministries, served churches in Indiana and Arkansas and the British Methodist Church. His PhD is from University of Edinburgh in preaching and media. He has taught preaching in seminary and conference settings for more than 20 years.