The Feast of Pentecost, celebrated on May 31 this year, commemorates the descent of the Holy Spirit upon the Apostles, the preaching of Peter and the other apostles to those in Jerusalem, and the baptism and addition of some 3,000 persons into the Christian community. The word “Pentecost” is from the Greek and means the “fiftieth day,” 50 days after the start of the Passover. Pentecost is also sometimes called “Whitsunday,” a term that refers to the white garments worn by those baptized on that day.
On Pentecost, we are reminded of the many ways that God’s Holy Spirit works in and through us, to bring God’s love and redemptive promise of forgiveness to life in our world. On the day of Pentecost we celebrate being “on fire” with God’s Spirit, giving thanks to God for all our blessings, for the way we are empowered in a variety of ways to do greater things in Jesus’ name than we could ever do in our own, and for the love which gives us strength to face the events of our day-to-day human existence, and for the way God values each one of us in our unique differences.
So why, some might ask, in our actual living does living a Christian life sometimes seem to us more like a burden than something to celebrate and be thankful for? What was happening for the early apostles that we may be missing in our own Christian experiences? These are troubling questions for which there aren’t any easy answers. We do, however, find a few clues in the words of Jesus, which are shared just before he himself is betrayed, mocked and put to death by crucifixion. Jesus knew that life would not seem so joyful or promising for his followers at that point. Jesus knew that they would need some reassurances that such stressful times would not last forever, and that they would again see wonders and miracles happening all around them.
Repeatedly, Jesus reminds his followers to stay close to his model of living and responding to others and even more importantly, to stay close to him. “I am the way, the truth, and the life,” he reminds us. Unless you keep connected, he warns, the energy and strength you once had will slip away. Life will simply become that which happens to you, rather than an experience in which you rise above the ordinary to come “alive” and to take control of human existence as it unfolds before you.
“Stay connected ... do as I have done!” That may sound very simple, but it is also quite important. How well we follow this instruction determines much else that comes our way in the Christian life. We cannot always know what will await us in the days to come, but know that we will certainly face times and events which will put the test to our faith. Unless we return time after time to our Lord’s teachings, to the witness of Christians before us, to the gathered Christian family for prayers and the feeding of the Eucharist, and to active service to our neighbor, we will certainly be “burned out” and left to face life on feeble ground indeed. We need to return to places and people that re-energize our faith and remind us that God is not only the initial source of life, but also the ongoing source. The things we do as Christians are not meant to be guilt-trips or burdens, but are the doors through which we seek the means to truly live as we were created to live, rather than merely exist.
If you’re feeling burned out with life, or barely keeping your head above all the myriad pressures of life around you, maybe you need to check your lifelines. Are you really connected to God or merely resting on the ties of the past? If a crisis comes, do you really know where to look to find God’s presence in your life? Perhaps this summer would be a good time to become reacquainted with the roots of your faith.
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