As a couple members of our altar guild changed the frontal on the altar from white to green after Trinity Sunday, one of them noted that they would not have to change the frontal again until almost the end of time. That was a bit of an exaggeration, but the Season After Pentecost, also known as Ordinary Time, is the longest season of the year.
I prefer to call this time of year the Season After Pentecost for a couple of reasons. First, the term, Ordinary Time, sounds as though nothing is happening. I realize that the “Ordinary” of Ordinary Time does not mean that this time is without any distinction. Rather, “Ordinary” refers to “Ordinal” meaning that each week of Ordinary Time is numbered. However, when most people hear the church name this season Ordinary Time, they think it is a time when nothing special is happening. The truth is a lot is happening during this time.
I also prefer to call this season the Season After Pentecost because it reminds me that the effects of Pentecost continue to bring life and growth to the church. Pentecost was not a one and done event. It was unique in the way the Holy Spirit was made visible in the church. Every single one of Jesus’ disciples proclaimed the gospel in a language they did not know. Something like a tongue of fire descended on each of the disciples present in Jerusalem that day. As far as I know, nothing exactly like that has happened since that day.
Although nothing exactly like that is recorded in the rest of the Acts of the Apostles, Luke makes it clear that the Holy Spirit remained active in the church. The Holy Spirit was active in some very visible ways. For example, at the opening of the Third Chapter of Acts, Peter healed a man who had been disabled from his birth. In several places, the Holy Spirit was poured out on Gentiles, and they began to speak in languages they did not previously know.
The Holy Spirit was also active in ways that might have been a little easier to miss. At the end of the Second Chapter of Acts, there is a phrase that is often seen as a footnote. Luke wrote, “And the Lord added to their [the church’s] number day by day those who were being saved.” (Acts 2:47b)
It was the Holy Spirit who added to the number of those who were being saved. That is one reason the color green is appropriate for the Season After Pentecost. It is a color of life and growth. The Holy Spirit continues to be active in the church, bringing life and growth. Sometimes the Holy Spirit does this in ways that are very visible. Often the Holy Spirit does this in ways that we might miss if we are not looking for them.
Every time a person is added to the number of the church, it is like Pentecost has been brought forward into our own day. As St. Paul wrote, “No one can say, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ except by the Holy Spirit. A couple of weeks ago, when several churches from the community joined together for Vacation Bible School, that was the work of the Holy Spirit. There was a time when Methodists, Episcopalians, Congregationalists, and Presbyterians would not have much to do with each other. The Holy Spirit is at work bringing healing to our divisions in the church.
As we continue to observe this Season After Pentecost, take time to look for the ways the Holy Spirit is still at work in the church. Then join in the work that the Holy Spirit has begun.
Rev. RJ Johnson is a rector with St. Peter’s Episcopal Church.