Pentecost slipped peacefully by…again

I’d be curious to hear what anyone did to celebrate Pentecost today. As with many churches in the baptistic traditions, my church made no mention of Pentecost at all, though I think the word “spirit” did get used in one or two of the songs. So, we had that going for us. What about you? Did your church do any better?

About Marc Cortez

Theology Prof and Dean at Western Seminary, husband, father, & blogger, who loves theology, church history, ministry, pop culture, books, and life in general.

Posted on May 23, 2010, in Holy Spirit and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink. 12 Comments.

  1. At Imago Dei there was mention of Pentecost, the word Pentecost was on the slides, there was a brief discussion on the change in the liturgical season, and then Rick preached from Matthew 3, which mentions Jesus being the one who baptizes with Spirit.

    All that being said, it was not what I am used to coming from a Pentecostal tradition where this day is usually as big as Christmas! While this may be one side of the pendulum swing it is disappointing that so many churches ho-hum right past Pentecost Sunday.

  2. Do Baptist churches typically observe Epiphany, Lent, or Trinity Sunday?

    What would a “better” service of Christian worship on Pentecost look like? A sermon on Acts 2?


  3. I’m not entirely certain where you’re going with the first question. If we don’t celebrate the entire Christian calendar, we can’t celebrate any of it?

    Anything would have to be better than not mentioning it at all! What does that say about our understanding of the Spirit and his role in the life of God’s people? Would we let Christmas or Easter slip by unnoticed? Of course not. But, Pentecost just doesn’t register.

  4. I agree with Marc here. While Imago Dei does celebrate Epiphany, Lent, and (hopefully) Trinity Sunday, it was a bit disturbed by the lack of attention given to Pentecost Sunday. In fact, yes, I think an Acts 2 sermon would have been most appropriate. Nevertheless, even if Epiphany, Lent, and Trinity Sunday are not celebrated by a local church it is my contention that Pentecost Sunday should be up next in importance after Christmas and Easter.

    (Marc, can you remove the above duplicate comment?)

  5. Marc: I’m not saying all or nothing. But I am wondering why you are surprised Baptist churches are “low-church”? Its not like you showed up at your Lutheran or Episcopal church and they were suddenly doing lectio continua or something. Was there a practice of doing a Pentecost celebration at your church that got side-lined?

    So, by not mentioning Pentecost on Pentecost Sunday, that displays an ignorance (or at list diminution) of the proper role of the Spirit in the life of the church? That is a stretch. Unless of course there was no Spirit empowered and Spirit generated preaching, singing, praying, confessing and sacraments done at your congregation. But that should be every week, right?:-)

    • I definitely wouldn’t say that I was surprised. I’ve attended baptistic churches most of my life, so I knew full well what to expect. Every church tradition has those areas that it continually struggles with. But that doesn’t mean that we ever stop pressing on them.

      I wouldn’t say that failing to celebrate Pentecost on its own means that a church undervalues the work of the spirit in God’s people. It’s entirely possible that it reflects instead an undervaluing of the history of God’s people as something worth celebrating. It could be yet another manifestation of the fact that we are sometimes so focused on the present and the future that we fail to celebrate the past. But, at the very least I think we have to ask the question and probe the possibility that it manifests a weakness in our pneumatology.

  6. Ok, I’ll be the first to show my ignorance but I wasn’t even aware that there was such a thing as Pentecost Sunday. Call me ignorant or call me Southern Baptist, which is what I was raised my entire life, but I’ve never celebrated a Pentecost Sunday or even heard of a church that did. It was never mentioned, to my recollection, at either my Southern Baptist college or seminary that I attended. I’m now attending and serving in a non-denominational Christian church and there was no mention made of Pentecost in our service yesterday. We talked about food sacrificed to idols (and may I say the sermon was GREAT!!!). Are we out of the loop? I find it really interesting that Brian would put it right up there with Christmas.

    I would agree with Pat, however, that although I’ve never celebrated Pentecost Sunday I find myself profoundly grateful for the Holy Spirit’s presence in my life on a regular basis. I’ve never considered not taking a day to celebrate Pentecost as a sign of a non-nonchalant attitude towards his coming.

    • But, what about the average church goer? You’ve been to Bible college and seminary, so I would hope that you’ve had plenty of opportunity to reflect on and appreciate the tremendous significance of Pentecost. Would that be true of the other people in church with you? If we rarely (never?) take the time to celebrate corporately the significance of Pentecost, how can we expect people to really understand it?

      I’ll let Brian explain/defend his own comment about the proper ranking of Pentecost among Christian “holidays”, but it certainly doesn’t seem like a stretch to me. If we really appreciate the OT hope that one day God will pour out his spirit on his people, renewing and regenerating them for kingdom living, and that this will be the harbinger of the new creation, and if we understand all the Gospel statements that Jesus is the one fully empowered/indwelt by the Spirit who would bring the Spirit to God’s people, then Pentecost stands as one of the seminal events in redemptive history. It’s not a mere add-on empowering the Church for service (though it does do that), but it is the fulfillment of God’s creative/redemptive plans from the very beginning. Why wouldn’t we list that as one of the preeminent events of the Christian calendar?

    • Hi bcash … hmmm, that’s my name too .. Bob Cash. Pentecost has been celebrated by Christians much before Baptists came on the scene .. do yourself a favor and study early Christian history .. once you have that accomplished (start with the early church fathers) … then study what Pentecost meant to the Jews (end of an agriculural season .. and time for harvest .. Christians are now empowered for a “people harvest). Jesus recapitulates all the wrong things of the O.T. (re-does things, but this time correctly .. that’s his recapitulation). Allegorically interpreted, Pentecost is the REVERSAL of the Tower of Babel event .. God dispersed his disobedient people (with multi-tongues), and at Pentecost He is calling them back (all hear their own tongue). Try some different Bible commentaries than you been reading (Scott Hahn is a great teacher) of the meanings behind the Bible stories. It is NOT an accident that Christians adopted Jewish feastdays .. after all our favorite Jew, Jesus, was one. Good Luck .. Bob Cash

  7. I don’t disagree at all. I would say that the average church goer doesn’t really reflect upon the significance of Pentecost or of the impact of the Holy Spirit. This probably also has something to do with the American idea of “pulling yourself up by the boot straps” mentality. The Spirit is there, but many can’t really explain the significance of the Spirit’s work in their lives. I’m certainly not opposed to taking a day and celebrating the coming of the Holy Spirit. Anything the church can do to help its people develop a more informed doctrine and faith, I’m all for.

  8. While I would not say that ignoring Pentecost Sunday means that a local church is ignorant of the work of the Spirit it does seem that this shows a lack of appreciation for the importance of Pentecost. We could avoid celebrating Christmas while still experiencing all that comes with the Incarnation and while maintaing some understanding of the Incarnation. We could avoid celebrating Easter while retaining a knowledge of the importance of the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus. But we do not skip past these days because we realize how important these days are to reinforcing the value of these doctrines and the actions of God in history.

    Pentecost is essential to the Christian story. It is the Spirit that is one of the most central aspects of the New Covenant. So much so that Paul defines the New Covenant as a Spirit Covenant. The prophets saw the New Covenant as being primarily defined by God’s Spirit being poured out upon us. To act like Pentecost is not one of the central Christian days of rememberance and reflection is, in my opinion, to state that the pouring out of the Spirit is not sometme worth setting one Sunday aside each year to remember with the global church this amazing gift of God–God’s own presence in His people.

  1. Pingback: Ignoring Pentecost Sunday « Near Emmaus: Christ and Text

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