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A Pentecost Celebration

I find myself thinking about this question asked by a child, which Mary Stewart Van Leeuwen shared in her book Gender & Grace (p. 34):

My younger son asked me this past Pentecost why people don’t get as excited about this holiday as they do about Christmas and Easter. He thinks we should send up fireworks on Pentecost. (“After all, that’s when God sent fire down, isn’t it?”)

Acts 2:1-4 records:

When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place. Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. They 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.

With the arrival of the Holy Spirit, the followers of Jesus became empowered as his witnesses, and these words of Jesus (Acts 1:8) began to be fulfilled:

But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.

As these spirit-filled followers began to prophesy in various languages, a crowd gathered around them and marveled, “we hear them declaring the wonders of God in our own tongues!” (Acts 2:11).

Peter explained to them why this was possible (Acts 2:16-17):

“This is what was spoken by the prophet Joel:  ‘In the last days, God says, I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy…’ ”

Pentecost. God dwelling in us through the gift of the Holy Spirit. Men and women gifted by God to prophesy. Women and men boldly declaring the wonders of God. When God created the church, God’s living temple, gender equality marked its beginnings.

Perhaps an annual celebration focusing on this momentous event would help to tear down the gender divide and draw us into greater unity with one another. Any ideas for a Pentecost celebration? Do you know of any churches already celebrating this?

(All Scripture verses are from the TNIV Bible.)



  1. Bronwen
    Comment #96296 posted May 9, 2012 at 7:41 am

    A celebration isn’t a celebration without food, right? As Pentecost recalls when those “tongues of fire” came down, I think the celebration would have to involve some dish that is flambed in brandy (or, as a last resort, sausages burned on the BBQ) followed by bombe Alaska. :-)

    (Hopefully, someone else has some more sensible feedback!)

    Love the chilld’s idea about fireworks.

  2. Don Johnson
    Comment #96297 posted May 9, 2012 at 8:42 am

    Messianics already celebrate this as the Biblical festival of Shavuot, with the enhanced meaning of Pentecost.

  3. Michelle
    Comment #96299 posted May 9, 2012 at 3:22 pm

    I think it is amazing! I always presumed the reason Pentecost was not celebrated at my previous church was because the verses indicate that women are to be heard with no restrictions that are not placed on male believers!

    I, too, believe it is cause for celebration.

  4. Comment #96318 posted May 17, 2012 at 8:07 pm

    I found a bunch of fun ideas at this site:
    I particularly like the idea of a birthday cake with candles that don’t blow out.

    Michelle, I’ve also wondered if a lot of churches opt to downplay this event because it points to gender equality within the Church. I used to attend a church that celebrated Palm Sunday annually with palm branches and references to Christ’s triumphal entry into Jerusalem through music and scripture reading. Yet at this same church, I don’t remember any special celebration for Pentecost. Ever.

    I’m glad to hear that the Messianics and Methodists are already celebrating this event.

  5. Michelle
    Comment #96387 posted June 8, 2012 at 12:45 pm

    Update: My husband says that in the denomination to which our previous church belonged (Presbyterian Church in America, or “PCA”), the understanding of Pentecost (and why they don’t celebrate it, apparently) is that the gifts given at Pentecost were for a specific time/that specific time (in the past). Those gifts supposedly are no longer given out.

    In the context of the recognition of the event as a fulfillment of prophecy with the recognition of it being part of “the last days”, I don’t see how they reach that conclusion. Among other arguments I have with that understanding. It just seems really weird to me…

    Thoughts? He may be mistaken (though since he grew up in the PCA…), I may have an incorrect understanding of “the last days”…..


  6. Don Johnson
    Comment #96388 posted June 8, 2012 at 3:07 pm

    The PCA is the name for the Southern portion of the Presbyterians that divided from the Northerm portion over the issue of slavery. They tend to be what is called “conservative” and from what you posted are “cessationist” that is, they believe that some of the gifts from the Holy Spirit ceased after being used to help start the church.

  7. Michelle
    Comment #96389 posted June 9, 2012 at 12:36 pm

    Thank you Don,
    I believe I had heard that somewhere before, about the spit over slavery.

    And yes…heh…”conservative” is indeed something I noted on my own.

    I still have difficulty, though, following how they think the gifts given at Pentecost would not apply, today.

    From the latest issue of “Arise”:

    Moses’ vision was the vision of Joel, the reality of Pentecost:

    “Peter stood with the other eleven apostles. He raised his voice and declared, ‘Judeans and everyone living in Jerusalem! Know this! Listen carefully to my words! These people aren’t drunk, as you suspect; after all, it’s only nine o’clock in the morning! Rather, this is what was spoken through the prophet Joel:

    In the last days, God says,
    I will pour out my Spirit on all people.
    Your sons and daughters will prophesy.
    Your young will see visions.
    Your elders will dream dreams.
    Even upon my servants, men and women,
    I will pour out my Spirit in those days,
    and they will prophesy’” (Acts 2:14-18, CEB).

    On Pentecost, Peter declares, the day has come in which the wish of Moses is realized. There is no stinginess in the outpouring of the Spirit.

    So then, I am left asking, the last days of what? Since apparently their understanding is that the phrase applies to some period of time that has been over for a number of years. Yet we are still receiving the Holy Spirit! I’m not a gymnast, and feel that I should be in order to understand from the scripture that we are given the Holy Spirit now, yet the giftings listed were given only in the past. I don’t see where that’s coming from, unless I count the fact that the denomination is not Pentecostal. But even so, I believe there can be some middle ground….

  8. Michelle
    Comment #96390 posted June 9, 2012 at 12:37 pm

    Oy! The split over slavery. Sorry about the typo.

  9. Don Johnson
    Comment #96391 posted June 9, 2012 at 7:08 pm

    I am not a cessationist, I believe all the Spiritual gifts are active today. The funny thing is I was given some but I did not even know what was going on as I was just recently reborn when it happened and was not familiar with those areas of Scripture that discuss gifts.

  10. Michelle
    Comment #96396 posted June 11, 2012 at 9:34 am

    Thank you. I don’t see how we (anyone) can claim to know for certain that all gifts are *not* granted today. We don’t know everything that goes on everywhere, and so though we may not see, for example, a gift of healing, it does not mean that divine healing does not occur somewhere outside of our circles and outside of our awareness.

    So I guess that I am not a cessationist, either.

    We have the Spirit today: We have gifts today. It seems pretty straightforward…

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