PENTECOST

Today is Pentecost Sunday and churches all over the world are rejoicing. They are swinging incense and singing in choirs, or they are rejoicing with drums and guitars with arms in the air, or they are quietly delighted with the renewal of God’s Holy Spirit, whom we celebrate today. I must admit I still get a thrill when I read those opening words again ‘And when the day of Pentecost was fully come …’ (Acts of the Apostles, chapter 2)

Pentecost comes from a Greek word meaning ‘fiftieth’, and is 50 days after Easter. It’s also the Jewish harvest festival of Shavuot. It used to be called ‘Whitsunday’ or ‘White’ Sunday, because traditionally the adults baptised on this festival wore white garments. These days churches are much more likely to be decked in red, the colour of the fire of the Spirit.

It is a special day because it not only looks back to what happened that first Pentecost, but also at today and the future. Jesus had risen from the dead, had appeared to and spoken with his disciples, and had returned to heaven to be eternally with the Father. But first he told his disciples to stay in Jerusalem, until they received ‘power from on high’, that he would send them. Accordingly, they stayed in the city and prayed together.

That’s what they were doing when the day of Pentecost ‘had fully come’. They all heard the sound of a rushing wind, which filled their house. Then they saw what looked like tongues of fire hovering above each of their heads, and they knew themselves to be filled with the Holy Spirit. His power caused them to run out on to the streets, where there were Jews and Gentiles who believed in the Jewish faith from all over the known world. As the disciples started telling them excitedly about Jesus, who had risen from the dead, they found they could speak in the native languages of those who had come to Jerusalem for the festival.

CELPentecost[1]

(doveministries.org.uk)

This power from the Holy Spirit not only filled the disciples with joy and the desire to share their faith, but also with extraordinary courage, so that even when they were threatened, beaten, imprisoned and some killed by the authorities, the rest simply carried on, preaching the good news wherever they were scattered.

This same Holy Spirit, we Christians believe, is still given to us today. He (although there is no gender in God) is the one who works within us, bringing us to faith, healing us from the past, giving us gifts to use, teaching us the truth, guiding us at all times and helping us to live fruitful lives. We know that we often fail and let him down, abysmally at times: but the Spirit is the one who not only teaches us the truth about ourselves, which is sometimes not what we want to hear – but also the one who simultaneously fills us with the grace of forgiveness, healing and freedom.

It is an ongoing adventure.

The Pentecostal movement encompasses many different types of church, and is the fastest-growing Christian movement in the world today. The traditional churches too are renewed by the movement of the Holy Spirit, who shakes us up and leads us out of our comfort zones into fresh ways of sharing the love of God and the joy of knowing Jesus.

On this day, although we acknowledge the many things we have got wrong in the past, and continue to get wrong, we encourage each other to open ourselves again to the cleansing and challenging movement of the Holy Spirit in our lives, so that we can do what we should be doing – offering God’s saving love to those around us.

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12 thoughts on “PENTECOST

      1. 🙂 I think the prayers are coming through good! Thank you! Keep them coming PLEASE as the next thing is to just get mum’s carehome arrangements permanent either at current place or different!!! Then can breath again….:D

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  1. Hi Gillyk. I’ve been pretty busy with work, so didn’t notice this post till now, and am sorry that I didn’t have the opportunity to send good wishes for the holiday. Even so, I found it very interesting to read about it, from your point of view. Thank you for a very interesting post.

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  2. The festival of Shavout is a time of harvest and renewal. It has its own symbolism provided by what it represents. It is a simpler celebration, easier in many ways to attach to.

    Not to dampen spirituality and spirits, I cannot help but feel a keen sense of overlay of another belief, yet again, by the conquerors, in this instance the Christian church, over what was, as you say, Shavout. Spiritual elements of the renewal seem to be taken from the the Kabbalists, the Essenes. Perhaps these rituals are closer to those of the Pentecostalist Churches as we know them today, rather than the crusading putsch of days gone by. Nevertheless, they lead back to one original source as far as can be assessed, and that is the Judaic one.

    Even the other main annual religious festivals have been carefully put in place over other Pagan ones. In the final analysis, it raises the question about what should be believed.

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    1. This is an interesting angle, seemingly more sociological than theological. The Christian church at the original time of the event were not the conquerors, but in fact the conquered, and a tiny minority in a Jewish society. Of course the first Christian believers were all Jews, and in many ways we see our tradition in continuity with theirs. The Pentecost festival is there in the text to provide historical context, the time of the event.

      The event was not unforeseen, as Jesus had told them it would happen: the manner of it was, however, and the filling of the Spirit gave a small group of frightened people whose leader had been executed by the occupying power the courage to take the news of Christ’s identity and offer of salvation on to the public streets. This transformational quality is what led to the rapid growth of Christianity, and can still be experienced today.

      As to what one should believe: I guess that is up to the questions one brings, the assumptions one makes and what one is willing to accept as persuasive.

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  3. Familiar words…:yes: Echoed far and wide….
    Oddly enough….The Gospel Reading for today…John 20;19-23…
    Rather confusing…contradictory accounts? 🙄 ;)x

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    1. Interesting, isn’t it … there may well be overtones of Genesis 2, where God ‘breathes’ into the man and he becomes a ‘living being’. The breath of Jesus gives new spiritual life to the disciples, and perhaps is the foretaste of what happens at Pentecost, where the emphasis is more on spiritual power.

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