Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Shavuot-an Introduction

I have spent the last few days studying the Festival of Weeks, aka Shavuot. It is such a rich holiday, full of tradition and connection that I decided I needed to divide my thoughts into multiple posts. This is the first of three-and maybe four--posts about how the Jewish celebration of Shavuot (this year on May 14-16) connects to the modern Christian church. There are many lessons for Christians today.

Throughout the millennia, the Jewish people have celebrated traditional holidays that, although they alter over time and by culture, remind the faithful of the significant events of their history. Because God is sovereign over all of time and history, Christians can learn much by studying and even celebrating these traditional feasts.

Passover, of course, is the most well known in the Christian community because it is so closely tied to the Passion of Christ. There is a holiday only weeks later, however, that is far less known. The Feast of Weeks, or Shavuot, is a multi-day ancient Jewish celebration that found its New Testament fulfillment in Pentecost.  In more conservative congregations, Pentecost rarely elicits mention, although there are denominations that mark the 50th day after Passover. In the Jewish calendar, however, this time is an important holiday.

The name, Pentecost, comes from a Greek translation for the Feast of Weeks, a  Jewish commemoration of  the giving of the Law at Sinai about 50 days after the Exodus from Egypt. In the Christian Church, it was at the Pentecost celebration that the Holy Spirit descended on the Apostles and led to the beginning of the Church (Acts 2). Eastern churches typically make more observance of Pentecost as to most Western churches, although even in the West, there are many liturgical congregations that regularly remember Pentecost. Of all denominations, however, it seems the Evangelical movement is least likely to observe Pentecost.

The Jewish observance is multi-faceted, and I think the modern Christian church misses out on much by letting it pass by without notice. The memorializing of the Law at Sinai, the gratitude for God’s provision of food, and the connection of Ruth all merit study, as they all have direct applications in the New Covenant.

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