The second I walked into church on Sunday, I knew that once again I had blown it. I looked at the bright red banner that draped the ceiling above the altar, the red ribbons that festooned the front pews, and then looked down at my white sweater and black pants. Just like every Pentecost Sunday of my life, I forgot to wear red.
I don’t know why it’s suggested we wear red on Pentecost. Corpus Christi I could understand. You know, the Blood of Christ. Pentecost, I don’t know; it seems a stretch. It apparently is to represent the fire of the Holy Spirit, but to me, fire is yellow. But no, we wear red. As it happens, even if yellow had been the color of Pentecost, I would still not having been appropriately attired. Sigh.
I tell this story every Pentecost, but it’s my blog, so I can tell it again! Eight years ago we were in Barcelona on the Monday following Pentecost. We didn’t know, however, that it was Pentecost. We had, in fact, attended church the day before, but it being in Spanish and all….. Well, what can I say?
So we wandered around town for almost three-quarters of that Monday wondering why nothing was opened. We finally approached a tourist information place and, in very rudimentary Spanish, asked that very question. And in very rudimentary English, she told us it was second Easter, and so, a national holiday. We nodded as if we understood, but really didn’t. And then I began leafing through my Rick Steves guidebook and learned that in fact, Pentecost is (or at least was) a national holiday in Spain, so important, in fact, that the holiday continues on the Monday after Pentecost. Who knew?
And it wasn’t until this past Sunday that I finally understood why the young women called it second Easter. Easter Sunday is the beginning of the Easter season, and 50 days later is the official end of the Easter season, according to the Catholic Church, and many other churches. So what I believe the young woman was saying was not that Pentecost was in any way Easter, be it first or second, but that it was the END of the Easter season.
As I contemplated Pentecost on Sunday, and my not-red-clothes, it occurred to me that up until the Holy Spirit descended upon the apostles, the friends of Jesus had sort of sputtered around, unsure of what to do next. Jesus knew they needed a little boost to get into the, well, spirit of their task. And the bible tells us that the Holy Spirit came down to the apostles looking like tongues of fire. Whoa! That must have given them a start. And then there was the whole idea that they were speaking in such a way that everyone could understand them no matter from whence they came.
I’ve never quite understood the Holy Spirit. God is complex and mysterious, but understandable. Jesus is easy to figure out as long as you have faith. But what about the Holy Spirit? What’s up with that?
And yet, it’s the Holy Spirit to whom I pray whenever I’m asking for help in something that seems insurmountable, which is, frankly, every day. Holy Spirit, give me courage to face the next obstacle. Holy Spirit, bring my boy back to his faith. Holy Spirit, give me strength each day to accept Bill’s Parkinson and bear my own health issues. Holy Spirit, help us to love one another and give me the patience to forgive.
I think I pray to the Holy Spirt because somewhere in my faith, I believe – just like Jesus’ apostles – that I need a little boost, and the Spirit is the one to give it.
Holy Spirit, help me remember to wear red next Pentecost.