Today we celebrate the Festival of Pentecost, the Third Great Festival of the Church Year, also known as the “birthday of the church” when the Holy Spirit came upon and filled the first disciples to be Christ’s witnesses and continue His gospel ministry to all the world. Pentecost Sunday celebrates the Holy Spirit: the gift of the God’s comfort, power, and strength given to His people.
On Christmas, Christians celebrate the Incarnation, the reality that God became human in the person of Jesus Christ. On Easter, we celebrate the Resurrection, the belief the Jesus rose from the dead, a sign of the promise of resurrection given to all God’s people. And on Pentecost, we celebrate the Holy Spirit, the gift of the God’s comfort, power, and strength given to God’s people.
According to Hebrew Scripture, the Jewish people celebrated a holiday known as the “Festival of Weeks.” This was a harvest festival, a time when the Israelites celebrate the generosity of God, shown in the successful harvest of grain. While the Temple stood in Jerusalem, each farmer would bring their first fruits, the first ripe samples from their fields – and give them as an offering of thanksgiving in the Temple. The Festival of Weeks happened fifty days after the Passover. For this reason, the Greek speaking Jews of the first century called the festival “Pentecost,” from the Greek word meaning “fiftieth day.” It was during the Festival of Weeks, fifty days after Passover, that the disciples of Jesus were gathered in Jerusalem. They had spent the last fifty days making sense of their experiences of the resurrection of their teacher, Jesus, and the fact that he had just ascended into heaven. While the disciples were gathered, the Holy Spirit filled them. They began to tell to the pilgrims who were gathered in Jerusalem about Jesus. As they preached, they were amazed to discover that all the pilgrims, regardless of what language they spoke, were able to understand them.
The Christian holiday of Pentecost is rooted in this historical event, an event sometimes called the “birthday of the church” because it marks the day that Jesus’ disciples began to share the story of Jesus and invite others to share in their faith in Jesus as the Son of God.
But Pentecost is more than just remembering a historical event. On Pentecost, we invite the same Spirit that filled the disciples that day to transform our lives. Even more important than looking backward and remembering what God did two thousand years ago, we look forward and invite the Spirit to pull us into the future. On Pentecost we invite the Holy Spirit into our own lives to transform and change us. The fruit of the Spirit, says Paul, is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. These are what we seek to live into, how we seek to transform the world, and the evidence of the Spirit at work in our lives.
Join us as we celebrate and explore all that Pentecost means for us.