The Celebration of Pentecost
The other night, on Memorial Day, in our neighborhood, people were setting off fireworks. I suspect that most firework shows will be canceled this year for the Fourth of July. As teenagers, Leigh and I would pile our younger brothers and sister, all six of them, in her parents’ huge Vista Cruiser station wagon and drive to the Pennsylvania School for the Deaf in Philadelphia. They had the best show in the city. We watched from where you could see the professionals moving around with flares to light the fuses. Of course, in our day they are shot off by a computer. Leigh and I still like to go to firework shows.
I think Pentecost is the Holy Spirit lighting a fire under the disciples, firing them up. They were disciples; they were following the discipline of Jesus’ pattern of life. Yet there is more to the way of eternal life, more to the way of Jesus, more to living the way of Jesus. Discipleship is good, yet we are invited to be more. As was announced at the Ascension, you will be my people, in Jerusalem, and beyond, in Samaria (the land of the despised and the degraded), to the ends of the earth – into the Roman Empire, into the unknown and unimagined places. Jesus ascended, and ten days later, the fire, the Holy Spirit, descended from heaven to energize the disciples, to light them up, to move them beyond discipleship where perhaps they were getting comfortable, to move them into apostleship, into the unknown and the unchartered.
Apostles would publicly proclaim and to publicly live their faith for others, for Samaritans, for Romans, for Parthians, Medes, Elamites, residents of Mesopotamia, Judea, Cappadocia, Pontus, and Pamphylia, Egypt, Libya, for Jews, Proselytes, Cretans, and Arabs. Discipleship focuses on me, my life, and those close to me. Apostleship focuses on others, about the life of extended community near and far. Discipleship is feasting at God’s Table. Apostleship is inviting others to the table, expanding the Table, and, going into the world with strength, with grace, and with love. Apostleship is extending God’s loving arms to all, the deserving and the undeserving, to the good and to the not so good, to the beautiful and the ugly.
In my experience, Episcopalians are more comfortable with discipleship, at following the way of Jesus in our individual lives, and sometimes expanding the Table when people wander into our open arms in the community of faith. There is always another seat at the Table, at Holy Eucharist, and Holy Coffee Hour. We are less likely to proclaim and to live God’s love in the highways and byways, in the extended community. Martha’s Table is a solid start; Meals on Wheels is a solid start; Souper Bowl is a solid start; United Thank Offering is a solid start; Meals for Seals is a solid start. Are there other avenues we might explore?
We are all a blend of discipleship and apostleship. In these troubling times, a disciple keeps the traditions of the People of God; a disciple keeps the Light of Love burning. In these troubling times, an apostle spreads the Light of Love a bit more into the surrounding darkness. In our maintaining the Light of Love, and in sharing and extending the Light of Love, we are blessing the space in which we live, and move, and have our being, on this planet, our island home.
The Pentecost season begins today, the green season of the Church year. This is the season when we explore again our understanding of God’s Love for us, and for all of God’s creation. My hope is that we will grow and expand God’s Love in Selinsgrove, in Snyder County, In the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, in these United States of America, and beyond. As the events in Minneapolis, Minnesota illustrate for all to see, there is plenty of work to be done. We have a way to go until God’s will is done on earth as it is done in heaven.