Happy Birthday to the Church
Pentecost - in Jewish tradition, a festival of Jubilee celebrated fifty days after Passover, called the Festival of Weeks (seven weeks, forty-nine days, this festival was on the fiftieth day). In rabbinic tradition, this fiftieth day was the anniversary of the giving of the law at Sinai. The story says when Moses received the Ten Commandments on Mount Sinai, they were given in a single sound. Yet "when the voice went forth, it was divided into seven voices and seventy tongues, so that every people received the law in their own language." The law was meant to express God's will and guide the people of Israel.
The Day of Pentecost in Christianity is often called The Birthday of the Church, because it was the day the Holy Spirit came among the disciples. It was the day God sent the spirit into the hearts of the people, the disciples, now apostles, and all the other believers gathered together. The Holy Spirit was meant to guide and help the people of God as they, we, seek to live out God's will. In Christianity, we profess Jesus to be the fulfillment of the Law of God. Therefore, on this day of Pentecost it is not the Law that comes to us in such a way that we can each hear it in our own language, but rather the Spirit of Truth and Wisdom that inspires us to go and live the gospel of Love for all people to see, hear, and experience.
On Pentecost Sunday, believers the world over don the color red to represent the Holy Spirit in our lives and in our selves. It is a sign, a symbol that we accept the Holy Spirit's guidance in our lives, we trust God's will and want to walk the way Jesus trod. The vestments and banners that hang in the sanctuary are changed over to red. Sometimes images of doves, harkening back to the Spirit that came down from the heavens like a dove at Jesus' baptism, are also found scattered around. Some worshiping communities even have a birthday celebration with Happy Birthday hats and crowns, cake, and red balloons. Some intrepid worship leaders plan familiar worship elements in different languages to highlight the Tower of Babel experience, and the subsequent understanding that comes out of the Holy Spirit (but that combination of readings is in next year's lectionary.) Every year, on the Day of Pentecost, we are reminded of who we are as a church, what we proclaim, and the source of that proclamation. The gospel is intended for everyone, but also we, as the members of this body, this church, must find ways to speak with people in their own language. If we listen, the Holy Spirit will guide us to use the right vocabulary, even if we do not use words at all.