About a month ago I accepted the invitation of one of our parishioners – Peter – to go gliding with him. It is certainly an incredible experience as you are towed up a couple thousand metres by an old crop-duster, and then once you reach the designated height the cable connecting you to the plain is released and then you are on your own – somehow managing to glide and soar up there – and not crash. Rather cool – especially because the only noise (still fairly considerable) is of the air rushing past – you don’t also have the vociferation of motors.As we flew around above Camden, Peter gave me a quick run through of gliding theory as we attempted to source any available thermals so that we did not just glide but also soar – the real object of modern gliding/soaring.He also explained that contrary to what I probably (and did) learn in science, that it is not really accurate to say that hot air rises, but that cooler air, being denser and thus heavier than warmer air, falls and causes warmer air to be displaced – and thus rise.
This started me thinking about the feast of Pentecost that we celebrate today – enriched with the imagery of the wind and fire of the Spirit – and celebrated by the first disciples as the festival of Shavuot, which also became known as the Harvest Festival or the Feast of Weeks, and celebrated seven weeks (or a week of weeks) after the Passover (Nisan 14), so that it usually fell on Sivan 6 or 7. [Today it is always celebrated on Sivan 6, so that it falls on the same day that we celebrate Pentecost this year.]
After being rescued from the slavery of Egypt and travelling through the wilderness for seven weeks, the people of God arrived at Mount Sinai – and for the first time in recorded human history – and perhaps the only time – God addressed himself not just to an individual, a family or a group of people – but to an entire nation (Exodus 19). God called this people as a treasured possession of the Lord – a chosen nation and a royal priesthood – a people who would be covenanted and be the people who received the law of God.
After the people settled into the promised land, this festival also took on the character of a harvest festival, when the first fruits of the summer harvest would be offered to the Lord. So both dimensions would have been in the minds and prayer of the disciples as they gathered in the upper room to celebrate Shavuot. The events of Pentecost could never have happened to only one or two holy people – it only made sense in community. And it could only make sense in a community that were caught up in the harvest and the desire to go beyond their own little world and their own little walls. Maybe this is what we are missing in the contemporary individual church?
Recorded at St Paul’s, 8am (9’41”)
EPB [E8B] – Pentecost Sunday (Year B)