I've been preparing for Pentecost this Sunday and I'm seeing 'red'.
Vestments and church hangings changed to red? Check.
Red flowers? Check.
Red balloons everywhere? Check.
Helium tank refilled for red balloons? Check.
Vase of red flowers for the baby we're baptizing? Check, check and check.
Maybe it's seeing all this red that's made me a little green with envy.
As I've thought about the lessons for Sunday, I've suddenly found myself absolutely consumed with "mega church" envy.
You know the story from the Acts of the Apostles (2:1-21).The rushing wind. The people gathered from every corner of the earth. God's spirit poured out upon all flesh - sons and daughters and even slaves - and everyone shall prophesy!
It's a church alive with the Spirit.
So, let me ask you something: Is that the way your church will be this Sunday?
Oh, our church will have good, traditional liturgy and music, well done, but, like most Episcopal churches around the country, it will all be "meet, right and proper."
Have you ever really listened to the music and the words to most of the hymns in the Episcopal hymnal that are assigned to the Holy Spirit?
Oh, there are a few that are lovely, but is 'lovely' the word you would use to describe Pentecost? I can't think of one of our "traditional" hymns that comes anywhere near the fire and passion that we read about Pentecost in Scripture.
For this Sunday's service, I've actually taken more hymns from other traditions for this one service than I have at any other service all year. Only one is from the 1982 Hymnal. One.
And, the Sanctus is from Misa Bilingue (Kevin P. Joyce, arr Craig S. Kingsbury). I love it that we sing:
Holy, holy, holy, Lord, God of power and mightWe even have a bulletin insert with the Lord's Prayer in five - count 'em five - different languages.
Santo, santo, santo es el Senor
Heaven and earth are full of your glory
Hosana en las alturas . . .
And yet, I don't think we come close to what the Mega Churches do every Sunday - Sunday after Sunday - in recreating that Spirit of Pentecost.
When I started thinking about that - what it would take to re-create that 'Pentecostal' sense every week, week after week, I found myself awash in exhaustion.
I mean, really? Pentecost? Every Sunday?
How do they do it? How do they sustain it? Every. Sunday.
And, as a matter of fact, why?
It was shortly after I was pondering those questions that I stumbled upon this video. I think I saw it first posted on someone's FaceBook page. Then, it seemed to pop up everywhere I looked.
It's quite funny, I think. A liturgy class, if one could call it that, in how to do worship in the "Consumer Mega Church" model.
All show and hype and performance. Guitars and drums for Jesus in a format proven to be consumer-friendly. Just like they do at 'real' concerts.
Let us feed you the Bread of Entertainment. It may not be the Bread of Heaven but you'll find that it's absolutely heavenly and, oh-so entertaining.
What's really amazing is that people actually buy this stuff. Then again, MacDonald's still boats "Billions and Billions" of their fat-infused, chemical drenched fast food sold to hungry consumers who find their hunger temporarily satisfied, but still longing for something more. Something real.
So . . . I was envious of this because . . . .?
Envy, I think, is part of the whole point of Mega Churches - to create the appearance of so much success that other people envy your success.
Except, I've been wondering if success is the point of church - especially the kind of success that elicits envy in others.
I don't think that's exactly 'Christian'.
I'm a Resurrection girl, myself. I like the success that comes right out of the tomb. Messy and mysterious and incomprehensible.
One that sneaks up on you and surprises you.
You think you're talking to a gardener but suddenly find you're conversing with an angel.
You bring spices to cover up the stench of death and find yourself inhaling the sweet, earthy, musky scent of new life.
And suddenly, you find yourself changed and transformed and will never again be the same.
"Then everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved." Acts 2:21
I think THAT's the point of the Pentecost experience. That salvation is available to absolutely everyone because of the sacrifices made for us by Jesus.
When I see red this Sunday in church, I'll be thinking about the Spirit which is the gift of the Resurrection.
"And I will ask God who will give you another Advocate, to be with you forever. . . . But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom God will send in my name, will teach you everything, and remind you of all that I have said to you." (John 14:8-17, 25-27)
Sometimes, I think, you may have to see red before you can begin to see clearly.