given on Sunday, May 27,2012
Pentecost & Memorial Day
Looking at the calendar sometimes reveals a surprise or two. This week’s surprise was seeing that Pentecost and Memorial Day weekend coincided. Our American holiday of Memorial Day eclipses the Christian recognition of Pentecost. This creates a quandary—how to work with both events. Then I started thinking about it, and the emails being forwarded on the internet brought a few more ideas to surface.
Was Pentecost something of a Memorial Day for the disciples? True the event was the baptism by the Holy Spirit, but might this have been similar to the experience we have as we stand by the graves of our own teachers, mentors, family and friends?
Jesus had told the disciples and the early Christians that he had to leave, but this time for good. Peter explains that Jesus told them that this baptism would come, but in God’s time. They were to be prepared.
As I stand by the grave of my family members, I am reminded of all the lessons they taught me. We may not always understand God’s decisions, but all of the family and friends who have gone did everything they could to prepare us for life without them.
Is not that what Jesus and God did? They spent the three years with Jesus and we have been fortunate to have our teachers many years, usually far more than three years. Yet, every time we face the death of a loved one, we become frightened. We feel stranded and alone. We think we cannot manage without them.
These are the same feelings that the disciples must have experienced upon the death of Jesus. They joined together to mourn together. They worshiped together. They cried together. And then they were surprised to find Jesus back with them.
There are times when I wish I had my mom return. But then I know that there would once again be the pain of loss when she had to leave again. This makes me feel like I understand how the disciples felt with Jesus those final days after his resurrection.
Yet, even if Mom cannot return, there are those times when I sense her presence. It might be because I heard a song she always sang or I see something in nature that she took great joy in. She does return at those times and I feel as though her spirit is there to guide me once again.
These experiences make me feel as though I can understand Pentecost and the baptism by the Holy Spirit. When Jesus ascended, he left the disciples with one last direction—stay together until the Holy Spirit baptized them. Certainly they must have felt confused and stranded as Jesus was lifted up into the clouds.
Today, the Sunday of Memorial Day Weekend, we are surrounded by the memories of all those who have died. We are filled with the emotions of loss, but also the love, the thankfulness, the joy of having these family and friends in our lives.
God’s timing does not always make sense to us, but we have our faith. We take this weekend to stop and reconnect with all those family and friends who have given us the lessons and the confidence to continue in our faith journey.
Memorial Day may have originated with the purpose to honor our fallen veterans, but the holiday has grown. This is the time to honor those who have died for our freedoms, but it is also a time to honor all those special people who have taught, guided, and prepared us for our own journeys.
The coincidence—or God-incidence—that Pentecost falls so closely to Memorial Day makes sense to me. The colors of red, white and blue may be our American connection, but the color red is also our God connection.
Today, even though we have been baptized by water, we also have been baptized by the Holy Spirit. We have the tools to continue in our faith journey as long as we use them. We need to use them to help others, whether we know them or not, to find God to guide them in their life journey.
Just like our American freedoms, we have them but we need to use them. The veterans from all the generations before used their faith on the battlefields, in the offices, on the ships, wherever they were to protect and to preserve our freedoms—and those they did not even know in places they never expected to be.
How very fortunate we are to live in a country that values our faith, guarantees our freedoms, and only asks us to support those who actively serve to protect us. Today, Pentecost, we know that the Holy Spirit protects and guides us, too.
Dear Heavenly Father,
Today many are out enjoying their freedoms,
forgetting who truly protects them.
Whisper in their ears how much you love them.
Fill them with compassion for one another.
Remind them that Jesus died for us.
Today as we join with families and friends,
Remind us how the disciples were together, too.
Let us be like them, waiting for God’s direction,
Thank you for all those who serve you:
Jesus, the Disciples, the earliest Christians,
Along with all those who have followed.
We know that the Holy Spirit has made
The Difference in who we are today.
Help us to hear your whispers to us, too,
As we continue to work and to play.