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May 22, 2021

You are cordially invited to a birthday celebration on Sunday, May 23, 2021.  We are celebrating what some calculate to be the 1,991 birthday of the Christian Church.

The day will be Pentecost Sunday. In many Christian traditions, clergy don red vestments and stoles, and Church members wear red attire. Other congregations ignore the significance of the day, oblivious to the liturgical calendar, the ecclesiastical equivalent to forgetting a wedding anniversary.

Pentecost is a day to acknowledge one of the greatest gifts ever bestowed on the Christian Church. This is a day of power. Today we remember a frightened, disoriented group of disciples bereaved by the departure of their Master, left alone, abandoned, and powerless.  Then suddenly, they were no longer alone. They had not been abandoned after all. And, by God, they were empowered.

The wind blew at gale force. Fire fell from heaven, not to consume them, but to ignite them as if they were the burning bushes of Moses, the ones through whom God could now speak. The Spirit descended like a flock of doves perching on each one of the disciples. Now they were anointed, emboldened, equipped, and encouraged to make a difference in the world.

Pentecost, the birthday of the Christian Church, is a day for balloons, party hats, noisemakers, and ice cream and cake. This is a day for laughter, music, and dancing. This is a joyful day of celebration.

Pentecost is a time for gifts. God grants to each of us spiritual gifts as varied as befits our diversity. On Pentecost, our gracious God gives us presents, and God gives us presence, God’s invisible presence as the Holy Spirit. The Spirit of God visits us, sparking in us, rekindling within us the freedom and the power of creativity, inviting us to join God Almighty in recreating this world. It is a time to paint or draw, to play an instrument or sing a song, to write a poem or a letter of encouragement. It is a day to allow the Spirit of God to guide our creative Spirit to express joy and gladness.

On this Pentecost, hear the good news attributed to the Apostle Paul. 

            Now the Lord is the Spirit;

and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty.

                                      2 Corinthians 3:17

Originally, Pentecost was a Jewish feast that concluded the fifty days of Passover.  It celebrated the end of the barley harvest and the beginning of the wheat harvest.  At Pentecost, Jewish people marked God’s gift of the Torah.  It commemorated the time when Moses ascended Mount Sinai to receive the Ten Commandments.

According to the New Testament, on the day of Pentecost, fifty days after Jesus observed the Passover with His disciples in the Upper Room, God sent His Holy Spirit.  On that day, the Spirit of God descended upon a group of disciples hiding in fear behind locked doors.  The power of the Holy Spirit enabled them to speak clearly to the multitude of people gathered in Jerusalem for the Feast of Pentecost.  Remarkably, though Peter preached in the accent of a Galilean fisherman, people of many languages understood him.  Three thousand people were converted, and the early Church was born. 

Ever since, the Christian Church has celebrated Pentecost fifty days after Easter.  The symbols of Pentecost are wind, and fire, and a dove.  The wind and fire come from the account in Acts.  The dove is a symbol of God’s Spirit from the baptism of Jesus.

Last week, I spoke with a man who is a recent widower. His wife of forty-six years died of the COVID-19 virus just before Christmas. His children had completely forgotten his February birthday.  He was seventy-five years old. 

“My wife always remembered my birthday and reminded the children.  They forgot because she was not here to remind them.”

One of the most important days on the Christian calendar, Pentecost, often is overlooked. It celebrates the incredible gift of God’s Spirit to the Church.  Even if you are worshipping by live stream at home, I suggest that you wear something red.  In liturgical churches, priests and clergy wear vestments of red on Pentecost Sunday.  The Free Church tradition teaches that we are all priests to each other.  Let’s wear something red. 

Plan a family meal together, maybe a picnic.  Use a red tablecloth, red plates, and cups, and celebrate the birthday in your home with a red velvet cake and strawberry ice cream.  Read together the story of Pentecost in Acts 2.  Above all, remember that the gift God gave nearly 2000 years ago is a gift that is still available. His Holy Spirit is our constant companion, our comfort and strength, and the source of our hope and joy.

For God has not given us a spirit of fear,

but of power and of love and of a sound mind.

                                 2 Timothy 1:7

Celebrate the birthday of the Church.  A gift would be appropriate, made payable to your own Church.  By the way, the cake and ice cream can be any kind and any flavor you choose. 

Kirk H. Neely is a freelance writer, a teacher, a pastoral counselor, and a retired pastor. He can be reached at

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