By Rev. John Campbell,
United Presbyterian Church, Oakdale
In last week’s column, we looked at the ascension of Jesus, that is Jesus return bodily to God the Father, and now he rules the world till the time of his return. Just before Jesus went, he told the disciples to ‘wait for the gift my Father promised.’
This coming Sunday, called Pentecost in the Christian year, marks a special day to the Church. Originally this was one of the Jewish high holy days, marking the beginning of the wheat harvest. Literally in Greek it means ‘the fiftieth day,’ being fifty days since Passover, Unleavened Bread and Feast of Firstfruits for the Jews. Christians celebrate the giving of the gift of the Holy Spirit. Many call this the birthday of the Church.
On Pentecost, the Holy Spirit descended on individual followers of Jesus as they were gathered together in Jerusalem. Now the Holy Spirit had been active in the Old Testament, yet it usually came over a person for a special mission or purpose. As Jesus was preparing to leave the disciples in Acts 1, he told them, ‘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.’
In one sense Pentecost is the sign, the proof, that Jesus did indeed ascend to the throne of God. Peter in his sermon in Acts states that Jesus ‘exalted to the right hand of God, he has received from the Father the promised Holy Spirit and has poured out what you now see and hear.’ The Spirit is the gift of the Father.
This gift was for a purpose. And that purpose is that believers might be God’s witnesses in the world, sharing the good news of God’s love. We cannot preach the gospel without the Holy Spirit living in us, empowering us for the work of God.
Pentecost presents us with an opportunity to consider how we are living each day. Christians are meant to live in the presence and power of the Spirit of God. The Holy Spirit helps us to confess Jesus as Lord, empowers us to serve God with supernatural power, binds us together as the body of Christ, helps us to pray, and even intercedes for us with God the Father. The Spirit guides us, helping us to live like Jesus.
One note of importance is that the giving of the Holy Spirit happened as they were gathered together. It happened in community, also with a diverse group. This day is about the church as the community of the Spirit, not merely about the work of the Spirit in the hearts of individuals. Today, we are reminded that God wants us to work together as one people reaching out to every person.
What happened on the first Pentecost continues to happen to Christians throughout the world today, God pours out the Spirit upon all who put their faith in Jesus Christ and become his disciples.