Summary: Penetcost is perhpas the most significant day on our calendars. The celebration of the birth of the Church is just as important as Christmas and Easter. So why do so many churches overlook it, in spite of celebrating other civil holidays?
I love to study history. I enjoy memorizing dates. How many of you here this morning like history? Regardless, there are certain dates in history that we remember aren’t there?
For example, if I say 1492 – we all know what happened in 1492. Columbus sailed the ocean blue.
What about October 31, 1517? On this day in history, Martin Luther nailed his ninety-five Theses, to the door of Castle Church in Wittenberg. Most scholars call this the very moment the beginning of the Protestant Reformation – an event that changed the face of the church forever.
OK, let try another one… how about 1861? This is the year of the beginning of the civil war in America. Or what about Good Friday, April 14, 1865? That is the date of the death of President Abraham Lincoln.
How about Christmas Eve 1784? Do we know what happened Christmas Eve 1784? This is the year the Methodist Episcopal Church was formed in America, under the leadership of Bishops Francis Asbury and Thomas Coke. Christmas Eve 1784.
Ok lets try two dates now … these are easy ones… some of you may even remember where you were on these days… December 7, 1941 and November 22, 1963. Of course, I am sure some of you have great stories about what you were doing when you first heard that Pearl Harbor had been attacked and when President John Fitzgerald Kennedy was assassinated.
But do you remember where you were on April 23, 1968? Lots of things happened in 1968… Martin Luther King Jr. was murdered, the race riots in Chicago, the protests of the Vietnam War… but on April 23, 1968 the Methodist Church and the Evangelical United Brethren Church merged to form the United Methodist Church.
OK, now lets try two more July 4, 1776. The Declaration of Independence passed by Congress. We celebrate this date every year. It is the birth of our nation.
Now what about the 50th day after Easter every year? Do we know what happens on this date? Some of you may know but I have to tell you that I believe most of us don’t. Every year the 50th day after the resurrection of our Lord, we celebrate Pentecost. This is the birth of our church. Some 2000 years ago the church was founded and it changed the world forever.
I have to tell you I am upset with my church. As a boy growing up in the Southern Baptist Church we never celebrated Pentecost, but we sure never missed celebrating July 4th. We spent more time and energy and money having a picnic and singing songs about the birth of nation than we did about the birth of our church. We know and are taught more about American History than we know about Christian History. Do we care more about being an American than we do about being a Christian?
I have wonder… we do celebrate Easter and Christmas every year in the church. Surely we would never miss celebrating those holidays. But would we put so much emphasis on these two days if it weren’t for the civil calendars celebration of these days? I mean, everyone celebrates Christmas and Easter. It is a national holiday. The stores, both sacred and secular, are filled with decorations, cards, and all kinds of stuff for these two Christian holidays. Of course, the culture has accepted these holidays and actually tried to take them over with secular themes like Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny.
But if the culture did not emphasize these holidays would we as Christians care as much? Think about it. If the culture made a big deal about Pentecost would we pay more attention? If we could go to Wal-Mart and buy big chocolate figures of the Holy Spirit or have Pentecost specials on TV about the birth of the church or maybe have some secular mascot for Pentecost, maybe some marketing firm could come up with something clever, like Peter the Pentecost Parrot. Maybe then we would celebrate this day with more enthusiasm.
I am upset with my church for not teaching me about the significance of this great day. This important day for us Christians.
An what does it say about our beliefs… what does it say about who we are if we spend more time celebrating the birth of our nation than the birth of our church? What does that tell God about our priorities… about our convictions and our trust in His church. I would be afraid to seriously ask God that question.
So this morning lets look at Pentecost. Pentecost come from the Greek word for 50. You have to know that Pentecost was originally a Jewish holiday. It is the Feast of Weeks or Shavout (Sha-vo-iss) marking the end of the barley harvest. It was a pilgrimage holiday and Jews from all over the known world would come to Jerusalem to bring their offerings. Jewish farmers came to give thanks to God for the harvest by bringing their first fruits and giving them to God. The first fruit – the first date or the first fig—when it became ripe because that as the one fruit that could be offered to God they would pick it and bring it. So Pentecost was about celebrating the bountiful harvest.