Rev. Fred Gilley
Pentecost is a day and a liturgical season. Both depend on the date of Easter, which is the first Sunday that follows the first full moon after the Spring Equinox, March 21. Consequently, Easter can be as early as March 22 or as late as April 25.
Easter 2016 was March 27, which was early but not as early as the day can be for Christians and others. The Easter dating method was fixed by the Council of Nicaea (east of today’s Istanbul, Turkey) in 325 – fourth century, C.E.
Emperor Constantine called the Council because he was tired of hearing opposing theological and liturgical views from bishops or other leaders. The emperor wanted at least general agreement on what to believe and do. By majority votes, Council also approved a Doctrine of the Trinity and the Nicene Creed, which some churches use in Communion services.
The better known and more widely used Apostles’ Creed dates from about the sixth century in the form used by many current hymnals. However, creed content may have ties to a first century baptismal ritual.
Some parts may have been inspired by the Great Commission, with which Matthew closes his gospel. Ironically, the best known and most used creed begins in mystery. The creed also is misnamed, for the apostles were neither formulators nor reciters.
Pentecost is an English word that is derived from a similar Greek word that means fiftieth, which is equivalent to Feast of Weeks in Hebrew‚ seven Sabbaths from the day after Passover. The fiftieth day after Passover/Easter (Resurrection) was May 15th this year. The day was an Old Testament festival with a dual purpose—gratitude for harvests and remembering gift of the law to Moses on Mount Sinai, after Romans destroyed the temple in 70 C.E.)
Old Testament origin of Pentecost is recognized by the second chapter of The Acts of the Apostles, which begins with “And when the day of Pentecost was fully come, they were all with one accord in one place… . (King James) The Day of Pentecost in Acts is followed by Ordinary Time, the longest liturgical season of the entire church year, extending from May or June until Advent. Designated “Sundays after Pentecost,” this year’s season is 27 Sundays long.
The approaching first Sunday in June is the third after Pentecost for Year C, with designated readings from the Revised Common Lectionary—First Kings 17:8-16 (17-24); Psalms 146; Galatians 1:11-24; and Luke 7:11-17. The readings say little or nothing about Pentecost or Weeks, which also is known as reaping, binding, or harvest feasts. RCL readings are selected for pulpit coverage of the bible in three years, each of which are designated Year A or B or C.
Methodists, before the denomination became United Methodist through merger with the Evangelical United Brethren (German Methodist origin), attempted to divide the Pentecost Season by calling the Sundays Kingdomtide from the last Sunday in August until Advent. The color was green, replacing the red of Pentecost. Apparently, only Methodists ever had a Season of Kingdomtide, which is no longer a part of the United Methodist liturgical calendar.
A long season of Sundays after Pentecost can be informative, instructional, and inspirational. May yours be so.