There are at least a couple of times in the Bible where being filled with the Holy Spirit is juxtaposed with getting drunk. One of them is on the occasion of one of the Great Days of the Church—Pentecost, celebrated this year on May 31. We don’t (typically) celebrate by getting drunk; we celebrate in the same way the first church did: by being “all together in one place” (Acts 2:1). And maybe we continue the celebration the way they did: not by getting drunk but by getting “pentecosted.”
That’s how Walter Brueggemann described it in his 2001 Pentecost sermon. On the day of Pentecost—when faithful Jews celebrate the blessing of Torah, given to them by God in the wake of their exodus from Egypt—the Christian church received the blessing of the Holy Spirit. They were now a new people, with a new commission and correspondingly new boldness.
Prior to the institution of Pentecost, the Jews were still a slave people—recently delivered, of course, but having no independent identity. Torah changed that: the Jews were reminded on Pentecost that they were the people of God, with the privileges and responsibilities that attend to such a high calling. Having received the great blessing of the Ten Commandments and the Levitical code, they went back to the task at hand: walking aimlessly through the desert.
That’s sort of what Pentecost is for the Christian church. Much is made of the spectacle of the day: mighty rushing winds, tongues of fire descending, a cacophony of voices sounding a single message, a mass conversion to life in Christ. But having received this great blessing, they went back to the task at hand. Here’s how Brueggemann describes it:
Pentecost may be flamboyant and dramatic. But it was enacted by the Spirit upon a receptive group of disciples who took their place in the body of disciplined believers. The text moves from the exotic to the daily, from imagery to disciplines. Who would have thought,
•that apostles’ teaching is a match for a bloody moon?
•that table fellowship is answer to a dark sun?
•that daily bread is a powerful response to blood, fire, and smoky mist?
But it is!
In the Christian calendar, Pentecost is followed by Ordinary Time, the weeks and months that separate such major events as the coming of the Spirit and the advent of Christ. I think that’s appropriate, a big picture made little in our daily living. The hours and days that pass between such major events as the Eucharist and the Passing of the Peace are no less sacred simply because they are “ordinary.” On Pentecost we get “pentecosted”; that’s all well and good. In the days and weeks that follow we are being discipled, then, because we remain disciples. In a similar way, on any given Sunday we may be “getting churched”, but Monday through Saturday we are being the church.