My ordination was on Pentecost, 1996. That year it fell on May 26.
The date of Pentecost changes from year to year. It’s always 50 days after Easter. So it’s always a Sunday.
The story of Pentecost comes from the New Testament book of Acts. Second chapter.
In a nutshell, the disciples are gathered. The Holy Spirit comes as a mighty wind and tongues of fire. People from all over the Biblical world were also gathered in Jerusalem, and everyone hears the disciples proclaiming the gospel in their own language.
Almost everyone. A few detractors in the crowd accused the disciples of being drunk. St. Peter dismisses the naysayers, “These are not drunk as you suppose. After all, it’s only 9 in the morning.”
That settles it. Nobody ever gets drunk at 9 in the morning.
Make of it what you will.
The church claims Pentecost as it’s birthday. It’s the day the disciples, drunk or sober, pulled it together enough to start doing church stuff. Back then church stuff was less about maintaing stained glass museums and more about healing and reconciling people from all over the world. (That’s the more likely point about all the languages.) There are a few churches still doing church stuff. Today Pope Francis is praying with the Presidents of Israel and Palestine in the Vatican gardens.
I was ordained on Pentecost. Everyone at the service spoke English. It was rural Maine. Members of the congregation went in together to get me a formal silver tea service as an ordination gift. I’m sure they meant well. I’m not sure why they thought I might need a formal silver tea service in rural Maine. They were (and still are) a blue jeans and flannel shirt kind of congregation. The parsonage was a double-wide trailer across the parking lot from the little red brick meeting house.
This morning, as if on queue from God, this poster of words from Ephesians 4.23 was the lead picture on my new Pinterest feed. Of course, it’s not on queue from God. I’ve still not pinned anything or started any boards or followed anyone. The pictures are entirely random. The next poster down was an X-ray of someone who had managed to get a Buzz Lightyear action figure stuck up his butt. The caption read, “Looks like you’ve got a friend in you.” If that’s a message from God, I don’t have any idea what to make of it.
Pentecost is a little like Pinterest. You can hear in it a clarion call from God sent to you in your own language, or just a lot of shouting and incomprehensible babbling. Drunk or sober. Stained Glass museums or an improbable gathering for peace. Silver tea sets or blue jeans trailer park people. Serene beach with scripture verses or Buzz Lightyear butt.
Make of it what you will. At any given time, the elements of chaos and hope surround us. It’s only the act of will that can distinguish and choose between them.
Which is why, though I wouldn’t have been able to articulate it at the time, I was ordained on Pentecost.