Happy Birthday, everyone! That’s right, Happy Birthday! Today is Pentecost, the 50th day after Easter, and is often called the “birthday of the church.” In fact, Pentecost actually ranks higher than the wonderful celebration of Christmas. We began our celebration here with a Saturday evening vigil.
On that first Pentecost, after the Resurrection and Ascension of Jesus, the Holy Spirit came upon Mary and the disciples gathered together in the Upper Room. In that spectacular moment and event the promise of Christ was realized: “The Advocate, the holy Spirit that the Father will send in my name, will teach you everything and remind you of all that I told you.” (Jn.14:26)
Sadly, the commercial world saw dollar signs in the Christian celebrations of Chri$tma$ and Ea$ter and $t. Valentine’$ Day, and the holy eve of All $aint$ Day (better known as Halloween). These days of Celebrating the Faith have grown into commercial and economic events that created “Black Friday” and the newspaper flyer for “holiday specials.”
So… before my sarcasm on greed and its influence in our lives gets out of hand, let me try to share why this truly is a day of joy and rejoicing!
Pentecost, in the time of the Apostles, was a Jewish day of celebrating the wheat harvest (Shavuot), and commemorating God giving the Ten Commandments at Mount Sinai fifty days after the Exodus. And so the frightened little band of “Followers of the Way” as they would become known, were gathered, or maybe hiding, in the Room where they had eaten the Last Supper with Jesus.
Suddenly they experienced a life changing event. A “strong, driving wind and tongues as of fire” describe the presence of the Holy Spirit. The wind would signify a new action of God and the fire would symbolize the presence of God. There is nothing better than a hearty wind when one wants to bring new life, heat and light to a dying ember. Is that what happened on Pentecost? Was that little band afraid to continue the work of the Master? Were they just too unsure of what they were to do? Were they in despair that Jesus was no longer among them? Or, had they simply not gotten the picture?
Whatever the scenario, we do know that when the wind and flame came upon them, they were consumed by its power. The old was burned and blown away and they were made new! They went forth and took the message of Jesus to the “the ends of the earth.”
We, nearly two thousand years later, are the lucky recipients of that wind and fire. We carry within us a glowing flame and the “rush” or “breath of God.” When we allow the Seven Gifts of The Spirit – Wisdom, Understanding, Counsel, Courage, Knowledge, Reverence, and Wonder and Awe of God – to become brightly burning candles within us, we can become a beacon of hope for all whom we encounter.
How do we do that? With the help and the grace of God dwelling within us.
When the Gifts of the Spirit are nurtured and practiced within, we will bear the Fruits of the Spirit without. Gentleness, Faithfulness, Self-Control, Meekness, Patience, Peace, Love, Joy, Kindness, Faith, Goodness, and Temperance will grow in us and be the fruit, the nourishment and nurture we can and will give to others, as God gave to the disciples on that first Christian Pentecost.
Pentecost has remained hidden and forgotten under the commercial radar for two millenia. That’s good. On the stage of Christian faith, Pentecost has played a minor and misunderstood role for far too long in the lives of far too many. That’s bad. But as Paul Harvey used to say, “Now, you know the rest of the story.” 🙂