Sunday, May 11, 2008

Pentecost 2008

Fifty days after Easter comes the feast called Pentecost (which means 50 days). The people of Israel celebrated the harvest of grain, and the giving of the Torah, the Law, on the mountain.

Every year at the feast-time of Pentecost the followers of the king would gather together under one roof to await the arrival of a new adventure. They would take again the vows they had made on how they would treat other people, then gather at the table, but wait to sit down to eat until an adventure came to them.

[They met in a great castle in an enchanted kingdom. They were a mighty fellowship, a great group of friends, who met every year together, 50 days after Easter, on the feast day of Pentecost. There, gathered all together under one roof, they awaited and adventure. One year, a green knight rode into the midst of their banquet and challenged anyone brave enough to chop off his head with one blow. Another year, a damsel entered in tears; and the kitchen knave followed her on a quest. And there was another group of friends, followers of a king, who gathered every year at Passover and Shavuot, the harvest-festival 7 weeks later...]

One year, the king himself was not there; and they gathered in great fear, huddled together for safety. They were all together under one roof, all right, but they were worried because their king was gone – would he ever come back?

And yet -- That year the adventure was greater than ever. That was the day that the greatest adventure of all began.

Before he left them, their king had promised to send them a comforter, a counselor – a spirit like a strong wind or a powerful storm, the breath of God. That is what ‘spirit’ means – breath, or wind. (It is from the Hebrew word ‘ruach’ which means breath or spirit or wind.)

What entered the room that spring was the sound of a strong wind – like the wind that blew when Elijah was on the mountain – and a fire – like the burning bush that Moses saw on the mountain – like tongues of flame that rested on their heads.

The promise of the King had begun to come true. For soon they were no longer afraid.

Each of them found they could speak in a language they didn’t even know; but other people could understand them. They spoke boldly, of great things their Lord had done.

What they told, and what they heard, were stories of the mighty deeds of the king – their teacher, their master, and their leader, who was the Son of God.

There were people there from all around, near and far, listening – and even though the first followers of the king were all from the same country, these new people heard the stories of the great deeds of God each in their very own language. Wherever they were from, far away across the earth, suddenly they were at home, there in Jerusalem – hearing the words they’d heard back home at their own firesides. And the words were like flames, warming their hearts and brightening their eyes, until they, too, sang of the great things God had done – and was doing.

What is Pentecost? It is Shavu’ot, the Festival of Weeks, held seven weeks after Passover. It is a harvest festival for spring grain: the feast of the first fruits of the field. And it is the day the Jewish people remember the giving of the Law to Moses on the mountain. It is the feast-day 50 days after Easter Sunday – and it is the day that the followers of Jesus received, together, God’s presence in this strange, new, mighty way.

Who are the followers of Jesus? Back then they were Peter and Paul and Mary. And Persis and Salome and James. And John and Mark and Joanna … who are they today? Look around you! They have all gathered together, under one roof. They are the people in this room, and that includes you.

What do Jesus’ followers do? Back then they talked about the great things God does. They talked about the world God has made. They talked about the people he has loved. And they talked about what he has done for them. And they talked about the great things God was doing, right then and there.

And now … we talk about the same things! What a wonderful world this is, the love that Jesus and God and the Holy Spirit have for us, and how that helps us treat each other better.

And what adventures did they have back then? They spread the word of God’s love for his people through out the world.

What else do they do? Back then, the power of the Spirit came upon them – and they went out into the world, spreading the good news of the kingdom of God, and showing what it meant by how they lived. They followed what their Lord had taught them: Love God whole-heartedly, with your mind whole and your spirit strong. Love your neighbor just as you would love yourself. Love one another.

What adventures do we have now? What adventures have you had already? What adventures are waiting for us, right around the corner – or even right now, while we are all together under one roof?

What the Knights of the Round Table were charged to do, the first day they gathered at the Round Table, on Pentecost, the day they swore their oath, is very much the same as what we are called to do:

“For the glory of the realm of righteousness do not ever depart from the high virtues of the realm.

“Do no outrage nor murder nor any cruel or wicked thing; fly from treason and all untruthfulness and dishonest dealing; give mercy unto those that seek it – and always give all the help in your power” to those who require it: the weak, the poor, the powerless.

Go out to help them, right the wrongs they have suffered, and never do any ill to them or allow it to be done. Be the voice for the voiceless; speak out for righteousness, and work for justice, that peace may reign upon the earth.

O God, you have made of one blood all the peoples of the earth, and sent your blessed Son to preach peace to those who are far off and to those who are near: Grant that people everywhere may seek after you and find you; bring the nations into your fold; pour out your Spirit upon all flesh; and hasten the coming of your kingdom; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.



Roger Lancelyn Green, King Arthur and His Knights of the Round Table (Penguin, 1953) 63. Given me by my great aunt, Carol Mattingly: my first ‘real book’: I was about six.

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