On Sunday June 8th, we will celebrate the third great feast day of the Church Year, Pentecost. For many people, Pentecost is an invisible holiday. At least there is no distraction from the world around us about this day! There are no Pentecost cards, traditions, bunnies, or anything else. So what is this day all about?
Pentecost was a Jewish spring harvest festival which took place fifty days after Passover. Many Jews from around the Roman Empire would come to Jerusalem for this festival, so that there would be people from many different countries with different languages present. Our feast of Pentecost comes from the account in the Book of Acts, which was part two of the Gospel according to Luke. According to Luke/Acts, the early followers of Jesus were waiting in Jerusalem after Jesus’ ascension. On this Pentecost, the Holy Spirit came upon them with power, like a rushing wind and flames of fire. These disciples then began to praise God in many languages, so that people around them could understand them in their native language. As described in Acts, this experience of the Holy Spirit empowered the disciples of Jesus to witness to him and to do his work with authority. The experience was also a sign that God was present for all peoples and cultures.
This Pentecost event was only recorded in Luke/Acts. The other gospels and the letters of Paul do not talk about this event. Whatever happened historically, it is clear that the presence and power of the Holy Spirit were central to the life of the early Church. Knowing God’s presence within them is what gave those followers of Jesus the strength to share Jesus’ love with people all around the Roman Empire, even in the face of persecution.
Like the first Christians, we also need to know God’s presence and power in our lives. Otherwise, our talk about God is only a nice philosophy or abstract theology. What lights us up is the experience of God’s presence in us, not in history long ago but in our lives today. The feast of Pentecost is a reminder of our need for the Holy Spirit in our lives individually and as a church community. The Spirit makes God real in our lives and enables us to do God’s work in the world around us. Pentecost also tells us that God is at work in all peoples and cultures in our world.
Please come join in worship at St. George’s on Pentecost Sunday June 8th. In recognition of the flames of the Spirit described in Acts, wear something red that day! This is a wonderful time to celebrate the “birthday” of the Church in the power of the Spirit.