As you may or may not know, this Sunday will be a Church holiday unlike any other for the whole year: Pentecost. On this feast day, we tell the story of how the Christian Church began its mission in the world (see Acts 2). When I attended Christ UMC in years past, I remember Pentecost being explained to the children as "the birthday of the Church." Well, it's true that this day is the day we celebrate how the Church began, but it is not the whole point of celebrating Pentecost.
Pentecost is the day we celebrate the coming of the Holy Spirit into our lives with the transforming power of God's salvation. The Spirit dwells within us all the time and empowers us to spread the Good News of Jesus Christ to the whole world. This coming of the Spirit is the big news of the day of Pentecost!
This is my absolute favorite holiday of the year because I used to be a Charismatic Christian. Yes, that means I was one of those weird people who would speak in tongues in worship: I was the definition of a Jesus Freak. Even though I no longer speak in tongues, the times that I did it as a child made a strong impact on my spirituality. I experienced God in a physical way that most other Christians have never had. I believe in the Holy Spirit and her power because of the time I spent in prayer using a personal prayer language given by the Spirit. I learned in a very tangible way that the indwelling of the Spirit in our hearts is definitely something to celebrate.
Recently, I have seen "Happy Birthday Church" cakes and heard Pentecost sermons focusing on the gifts of the Holy Spirit... all except for speaking in tongues, of course. These things make me feel disappointed because the Spirit of Pentecost cannot be contained in the late-90's spiritual gifts fad or a brief historical lesson. The coming of the Spirit in our lives is the result of God's saving grace and the means by which God's sanctifying grace transforms our lives and beckons us toward greater personal holiness.
As Methodists, for whom sanctification after salvation is very important, we cannot afford to miss the most important part of Pentecost. After the departure of Jesus from this earth, the Holy Spirit is now God-With-Us. The Holy Spirit is the One who transforms us from Christian to Even-More-Christian. And the Holy Spirit sends us to do God's mission in the world, empowering us to do the hard work of ministering with those whom society casts aside.
By the way, I will be baking a cake for this Sunday's coffee hour. It will be a Pentecost cake, but it will not say, "Happy Birthday Church." It will say, "Come, Holy Spirit!"
UPDATE 6/11: I seriously did bake a cake! Here it is
What can I say? I love cake. :o)