This Saturday, Savior will celebrate the feast of Pentecost. This feast marks the end of Eastertide, the season of celebrating the resurrection, and the beginning of Ordinary Time.
Pentecost, so named because it is the fiftieth day after Jesus' resurrection, is the day when the Holy Spirit descended upon the disciples. As Luke describes in the book of Acts, "Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. They [Jesus' followers] saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them" (Acts 2:2-4, NIV).
Ten days after the ascension of Jesus to the Father, the Holy Spirit descends upon Jesus' followers just as Christ had promised. And the spirit immediately begins to work among the disciples, as they speak in multiple languages and as Peter preaches a sermon that causes 3,000 people to follow Christ.
When we celebrate Pentecost, we remember this moment when the Holy Spirit appeared as tongues of fire and poured gifts into the disciples. We decorate with the color red on the altar, red drapes on the cross, and red vestments for clergy and for prayer and communion ministers; the red vividly reminds us of the fire of the Spirit.
Even though the feast of Pentecost is a single day in the church year, Ordinary Time is named for the ordinal numbers counting off from Pentecost: the first Sunday after Pentecost, the second Sunday after Pentecost … the twenty-first Sunday after Pentecost, and so on. Ordinary Time is the longest season of the church year, a time of ordinary work and growth between the great feast of Eastertide and the holy waiting of Advent.
But as we count the weeks through Ordinary Time, we are constantly brought back to this day of Pentecost. Why does this matter?
Pentecost marks the moment when the Holy Spirit came into the church and into the followers of Jesus — and although none of us were present with the disciples when those tongues of flame appeared, we are still the church and still followers of Jesus, and the Holy Spirit still moves among us.
Ordinary Time may not have the exciting feasts of Christmas or Easter, those high notes in the church year. But in Ordinary Time, we are reminded of the constant work of the Holy Spirit in our churches and in our lives.
Like those first disciples, we live in a world where Jesus has gone to be with the Father and is no longer living incarnate among us. But like the first disciples, we are not left bereft at the Ascension. We, too, have the gift of the Spirit.
And so, as we enter this season of Ordinary Time, of ordinary work and growth and play, let us watch for the work of the Holy Spirit among us. This work is sometimes dramatic but often slow and quiet and, yes, ordinary as the Spirit cultivates its fruits within us.
Pentecost concludes Eastertide by reminding us that the resurrected Christ has given us his Spirit, the Spirit whose work guides and sustains the church in all of its works throughout the ages. And Pentecost launches us into Ordinary Time with the knowledge that God is indeed with us in our times of lament and repentance, in our times of joyous celebration, and in all the ordinary days of our lives.