Last Sunday – Pentecost Sunday – I celebrated in a way that I never would have dreamed possible a generation ago. I attended my niece’s ordination. But instead of being ordained as a Christian minister (as you might expect), after graduating from Rabbinical School, Sarah was ordained to be a Jewish Rabbi!! In many ways it was a similar ceremony to our ordinations – she was charged with responsibilities, invested with a prayer shawl, given a blessing. She was surrounded by her teachers and family and fellow students. And then she was sent out into the world to teach and preach and walk with faith communities on their holy and blessed journey. It was lovely – and not just because my niece was one of the ordinands (although that helped!).
Once the ceremony was finished, the celebration began. And what a celebration! Dancing and singing, clapping and hugging, laughing and crying! The young rabbis (11 of them) were lifted in chairs and danced around the room! Joy pulsated and caught everyone who was gathered in its outstretched arms. Celebration overflowed.
I began to wonder, as I made my way through that crowded room, what it would feel like if we celebrated Pentecost in our congregations with some sort of abandoned joy. Certainly, abandoned joy and overflowing celebration marked the first Pentecost! The authorities thought Peter was drunk, after all! Might it be that one of the deepest gifts of Pentecost was the unbridled joy and celebration that welled up in the crowd as the gifts of the Holy Spirit were poured out upon all flesh?
We talk a lot these days about what is needed to revitalize the church. It is important pondering. I wonder, in this first week after Pentecost, if one of the things we need most is joy! Simple awe, wonder, gratitude and joy. These are genuine responses to the amazing blessing that has been given to us in the presence and power of the Holy Spirit. Maybe revitalization Is not only about programs or buildings or strategic plans. Maybe it is also about an outpouring of JOY that infuses the spirits of all who have gathered, and then sends us all out into the world glowing with the Spirit’s fire.
The gift of the Holy Spirit is an amazing gift! Let’s sing and dance and lift our hearts to the One who blesses us each and every day with a faith that brings strength, and courage, and prayerful peace, and hope, and justice, and so much more into our lives and the world. Thanks be to God!
—Rev Katherine Mulhern
Program Support/Adjunct for Iowa Conference 2030 Iowa