Pentecost fails to ignite

Pentecost fails to ignite

The Rev. Sande Ramage

24 May 2013

 

Pentecost is no match for the World of Wearable Art that puts the Wow factor into Wellington. It's the festival where art, fashion and theatre collide , the only boundaries being the limits of human imagination .
 
Festivals need to promise good times, strutting their stuff with music, laughter, food, entertainment and, if we allow them to, speaking subtly of a deeper connectivity, that becomes apparent through the creativity of the human spirit.
 
The ancient Artemisia festival had it all. People gathered from all over Turkey to enjoy food, wine, music, games and theatrical contests in honour of the Goddess. As well as providing a boost for the economy it was an opportunity to flutter eyelashes and flex muscles to impress a potential mate. Definitely a crowd puller, even Pliny the Roman writer thought so.
 
The Temple to Artemis was one of the Seven Wonders of the World and a sanctuary to those fleeing from persecution or punishment. But today it lies barren and forgotten. There are no festivals. No special days. Little marking what was once a pinnacle of cultural sophistication and spiritual enlightenment.
 
The Christian festival of Pentecost may be headed in this direction, even though its beginning, according to the Archbishop of Canterbury, was the big bang event for the church.
 
So the story goes, a great wind came from heaven and filled the house where a group of Jesus followers were gathered. Tongues of fire rested on each person and they were filled with what the writer calls the Holy Spirit. Quite a sensational story; no wonder Archbishop Justin calls it a cataclysmic event.
 
He also says that this Holy Spirit is what enables Christians to embrace diversity and be comforters in the world. Drawing them together from different backgrounds and traditions into a body that loves one another. We live in hope about that but surely people who are not Christians have these qualities too.
 
For is this Christian version of Spirit so different from that which has always infused the Earth's people? Is it so different to the inspiration in the Temple of Artemis that meant sanctuary was provided for Ephesians in trouble?
 
When you have much invested in a system of any kind, it's easy to think that your beliefs, texts, rituals, stories and festivals are the only ones that bring life. But history shows that there have been many and varied ways to honour the Spirit that unlocks our potential to be givers of light and life to those around us.
 
Unless Pentecost and other Christian festivals become crowd pullers by speaking to what lies within each human person in ways we can all understand, the story of Jesus as a light to the world will fail to ignite and, like the story of Artemis, fade away.
 
What will live on though, is what we call Spirit that wells up through human imagination and creativity, going beyond religious boundaries and traditions and even popping up in Wellington from time to time.
 
Image: Danielygo