We all know there are four seasons—winter, spring, summer, and autumn. I live in the northern part of Florida, just on the border with Georgia. Unlike our friends further south in Florida, we are lucky enough to get at least a taste of each of the four seasons. Some of them are fleeting, but we enjoy them while we can! As spring melts into summer (and it’s so hot it really does feel like everything is literally melting), we find ourselves in the midst of another kind of season, graduation season.
It just so happens that Pentecost, an important church celebration, typically coincides with graduation season. Pentecost comes fifty days after Easter. It bounces around on the calendar and generally falls between May 11 and June 13.
In terms of the Liturgical (i.e., church) Calendar, Pentecost is the conclusion of the Easter season. After Pentecost, we mark the Sundays of the year by their relationship to Pentecost. In fact, we sometimes call this “Ordinary Time” because the Sundays are counted with ordinal numbers—“the Second (Third) (Fourth) (Fifth) Sunday After Pentecost.”
I like the coincidental pairing of Pentecost and graduation.
Even though graduation marks the end of something, we typically call the graduation ceremony a “Commencement.” To commence means we are at the beginning of something, not the end, right?
Pentecost, like graduation, is simultaneously the end, and beginning, of something wonderful. When a person graduates, they finish their education but embark on their career (or the next phase of schooling).
In Pentecost, we mark the end of the Easter season, but we celebrate the outpouring of the Holy Spirit.
The Holy Spirit is the presence of God among us. When the incarnate God was no longer with us in carnate form, God remained with us in Spirit.
The first Pentecost for Christians was nearly two millennia ago, but the Spirit has never left us. The word for Spirit itself tells you how close the Spirit—the presence of God—is to you. In the Hebrew (Old) Testament, the word for spirit is ruach. In the Greek (New) Testament, the word is pneuma.
These words can also mean both wind and breath.
On the first Pentecost after the Ascension of Jesus, the Spirit came from heaven “like the rush of a violent wind” (Acts 2:1). The Spirit can come in like a storm, but the Spirit isn’t solely strength and bluster, the Spirit is also as gentle as your breath.
I can be reminded of the closeness of God by simply taking a deep breath. Knowing that God is as close to me as the breath I breathe reminds me there is nothing closer than God.
As we move into the heat of summer, I’ll be reminded of God in another way. The gentle breezes that bring relief from stifling heat are like a love note from God. No wonder, since God’s presence is ruach and pneuma!
When that happens to me, I tend to smile and turn my face towards the breeze, the body language equivalent of “gimme more.” And then, of course, I take more. I take a deep breath, breathing in even more of the God who loves me.
What about you? Have you ever thought of Pentecost as a graduation-style Commencement? Do you find God in the breezes and breaths of the day? Tell me about it in the comments, an e-mail, or on Facebook.
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