Tomorrow morning I’ll rise early, donning a frilly dress and borrowed fascinator (thanks, Ruth!) to drink tea in dainty cups and watch the Royal Wedding with friends. I’m not particularly enamored with the Royal Family and don’t often leave the house on Saturday morning wearing a feathered hat, but who could resist the invitation? For Brits, a Royal Wedding is akin to a High Holy Day, cause for both reverence and delight. For me? It just sounds like fun.
I wonder if my Muslim neighbors will think me odd, flouncing out of the house as they consume a hurried Suhoor before the day’s Ramadan fast. Strings of colored lights festoon their front porch. Balloons bounce. An enormous star and crescent display beams from their front door. After sunset, their home is filled with friends for Iftar. They are celebrating, as well. Ramadan is one of the Five Pillars of Islam, commemorating the first revelation of Quran to Muhammad. Silly hats optional.
Meanwhile, one of my Jewish neighbors drove into our cul de sac on Wednesday afternoon just as I was getting home from work. I was surprised to see him in his best black synagogue suit on a weekday. He told me he was returning from sitting Shiva for a long-time friend, whose death had touched him deeply. We talked for some time outside our cars, reflecting on the gift of Shiva—a required period of mourning. Shiva is not a celebration, exactly, but a ritual gathering of the faithful that both honors the deceased and encourages the living.
Rituals—whether royal weddings or religious events—bind us to one another, to God, and bring order to our days.
We gather Sunday morning for our own ritual celebration. The festival of Pentecost is not original to Christianity, but is an annual Jewish harvest festival and marking of the giving of the Torah on Mount Sinai. In a shameless burst of cultural appropriation, the Holy Spirit chose Pentecost, a day when Jerusalem would be filled with merry makers, to blow and burn the Christian church into being. (Acts 2.1-21) The disciples had been cooling their heels in Jerusalem after Jesus’ Ascension, waiting for the promised gift of the Spirit. When? Where? How? No one knew, but they had been instructed to wait. So they did. Neither Pentecost nor they would ever be the same.
We mark Pentecost at Ascension with a raucous reading of the Pentecost story, complete with musical sound effects. The building will be dressed in red. Seven of our young people will affirm their baptisms, and nine households (with 19¾ children among them) will join Ascension as new members. Will the Holy Spirit blow through our building as on that first hijacked Pentecost? Will our young men see visions and our old men dream dreams? Will our sons and daughters prophecy? Will the sun be darkened and the moon turned to blood? I don’t know. There is no telling what the Spirit will do with us when we let that holy wind ruffle our feathers. But I’m willing to find out if you are.
I am privileged to live in a wonderfully ecumenical and interfaith neighborhood. We are Jews, Muslims, Christians and a smattering of adherents of the Church of the New York Times. I am eager to learn how our new Korean neighbors might mix up the mix. Each of us from our own traditions celebrates and grieves, remembers and hopes. And though we may call on God by different names, we trust that God is at work in all our rituals, blessing all our gatherings with hope and courage and joy.
The Spirit sends us, specifically in Jesus’ name, with a particular word of witness. We proclaim that all who call on the name of the Lord will be saved. (Joel 2.28-32) Come, Pentecost with us. Like my Royal Wedding bonnet, it may prove to be a Fascinator.
Pastor JoAnn Post