This Sunday, June 5, the church celebrates its birthday. The ecclesiastical calendar marks it as the day of Pentecost. It was the day when the church was launched and 3,000 people were ushered into the kingdom as God poured out His Holy Spirit on a group of 120 people who had gathered in an upper room to pray and to wait. As these people prayed, they didn’t really know what it was that they were praying for. “Who or what was this Holy Spirit they were waiting for?” They knew the Holy Spirit had somehow been involved in creation. Genesis 1:2 (NLT) “The earth was formless and empty, and darkness covered the deep waters. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the surface of the waters.” They knew too that the Holy Spirit came upon the prophets of God as they spoke on His behalf. But what was this about? How would they even know if and when their prayers had been answered? And what did eventually happen was the fulfillment of the promise Jesus had made to His disciples before He had been taken up into heaven. Acts 1:8 (NIV) “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”
Before we look at the implications of what happened on the day of Pentecost, let’s take a few moments to look at the historical context. When the people of Israel were wandering across the wilderness on their way to the Promised Land, God commanded them to present themselves in the temple that had yet to be built, in a city that was not yet in their possession, for three annual festivals – Passover, celebrating their deliverance from Egyptian slavery, and fifty days later for the feast of weeks or as we know it, Pentecost, and finally for the feast of tabernacles when they remembered their wilderness wanderings. There were two reasons for the feast of Pentecost. The first was to present to God the first fruits of the barley harvest. It was a celebration of the goodness of God, not unlike our celebration of Thanksgiving. The second reason was to commemorate the anniversary of the giving of the Law on Mount Sinai.
Now, Pentecost would be the day when God poured out His Holy Spirit on all people who believed, and they would be empowered to be His witnesses to all the world. That means that whatever words we need when we have an opportunity to share our faith, will be given to us. It also means that through the Holy Spirit, we will be empowered to live a life that will reflect Jesus to those we meet. St. Francis of Assisi famously said, “Preach the gospel at all times and if necessary, use words.” When we believe, we are given the Holy Spirit and He begins His work of growing His divine fruit in our lives. Galatians 5:22-23 (NIV) “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.” Through the Holy Spirit we have the ability both to live a virtuous life and to be able to explain what it is we believe and why.
This gift of the Holy Spirit was covered with some pretty spectacular wrappings – sounds of a rushing wind, flames appearing on the heads of all the people assembled and the ability to praise God in languages they had never learned. The city of Jerusalem had been filled pilgrims from all over the Roman Empire. Acts 2:8-10 (NIV) “Then how is it that each of us hears them in his own native language? Parthians, Medes and Elamites; residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya near Cyrene; visitors from Rome.” Pretty spectacular stuff! But more important than the wrapping was the gift Himself – the blessed Holy Spirit – who is with us always and will never leave us nor forsake us.
So, this Sunday as you gather to worship, remember, and celebrate the pouring out of the Holy Spirit and trust Him to be with you and to lead and empower you. In the meantime, Keep the Son in Your Eyes.