With the exception, I hope, of Pentecostals, the Day of Pentecost is one of those undoubtedly important days in Christendom about which most of the laity know half a thimble of diddly-squat. Which, sadly enough, is to be expected. After all, Pentecost is all about the Holy Spirit. And if there was ever a member of the Trinity to get short shrift at the weekly Waffle House-based Bible study, it’s the Holy Spirit. Even calling Him a ghost has not upped his Q-rating with the youths.
Yet, the Holy Spirit is undoubtedly an entity of importance surpassing even that of St. Louis Cardinals slugger Albert Pujols who, according to my 15-year-old nephew, is the greatest non-manger-born human being ever. Ever. After all, the Unpardonable Sin is the sin of blaspheming against the Spirit and the complete rejection of Christ. So, knowing more about the Holy Spirit would undoubtedly do us all no small amount of good as we go along our Christian walk. But as longtime readers of this column know, you’re in the wrong classroom for such an education.
Nonetheless, I shall attempt at not-so-great length to decipher the activities, occurrences, flibbertygee and whatnot of Pentecost.
Pentecost stands as the Holy Spirit’s coming out party. Yet most people associate it with a group of babbling apostles crammed inside a mid-sized Honda sedan (in the KJV) sporting flaming tongues who were then summarily accused of dipping into ye olde wine jug one to many times by the local citizenry. This is not quite a correct interpretation of the scriptures. Although probably just as valid as whatever follows here.
The word “Pentecost” is derived from the Greek roots “pente,” meaning “five-sided penne pasta,” and “cost,” meaning “members-only warehouse store.” Therefore, Pentecost relates to acquiring massive amounts of carbohydrates for free from a kindly sample lady manning a nuclear-powered portable microwave oven. In high school English teacher’s terms, it’s a metaphor. In layman’s terms, the sample lady represents God the Father freely bestowing the gift of carbs, aka the Spirit, to the warehouse (church) members. See, that wasn’t so difficult.
Acts 2:2-3 states: “Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them.” I don’t know about you, since your last Facebook status says “Class of 2008 rawks!!!!,” but the closest I’ve come to a tongue of fire involved a bit of language-based miscommunication at a Thai restaurant. And while I thought I was going to die, I don’t think it was technically a spiritual experience.
So what exactly were these “tongues of fire”? Most biblical scholars agree that they were supernatural manifestations of the Holy Spirit in general, and the subsequent – if temporary – gift of speaking in tongues in particular. But frankly, methinks these scholars have had a bit too much book-learnin’. I postulate that the flaming tongues were a sign to the apostles to form the first incarnation of an alternative rock band that would eventually come to be known as the Flaming Lips. Think I’m joking? Then you obviously weren’t paying attention in your pass/fail music appreciation class during the discussions of the 9th century’s Flaming Gums, the 16th century’s Flaming Adenoids or the popular (for Appalachia) 19th century group, the Flaming Esophageal Ulcers.
Of course, all of these bands were prophesied by Micah. But who reads Micah? Anyone? Pastor? No? Exactly.
If you’ve been following my logic, well, you’ve been doing a better job than the author. Even so, this Amtrakian train of thought leads us to one clear conclusion: the Holy Spirit wanted the apostles to rock. Maybe not like Stryper or Petra or any other late-80s CCM “rock” groups, but to R-O-C-K in the Is-rah-lay nevertheless. Rockin’ out the gospel message from sea to salty, Dead Sea and beyond. Hey, they weren’t called the apostolic band for nothing.
Pentecost. The day the Holy Spirit came upon the assembled believers and taught them to wail. As Jack Palance used to hiss, believe it or not. But don’t blame me when the Spirit moves you to go forth and rock likewise.