Pentecost Sunday 19th May

Read: John 14: 15 – 17, 25 – 26 and Acts 2: 1 – 13

Today is the day we regard as the birthday of the Church because of the events that happened more than 2,000 years ago on the Jewish Festival of Pentecost which was (and still is) a major Jewish festival. The word comes from the Greek meaning ‘fiftieth’, because it’s celebrated fifty days after Passover.  Originally it was a day of celebration to mark the end of the barley harvest and the beginning of the wheat harvest.

After the Temple was destroyed in 70 AD and the Jews had become scattered, the purpose of the celebration changed to mark the giving of the Law – or the Torah to Moses at Mount Sinai, and it became a major feast to help the Jews recall their identity, as they remembered the covenant Law by which they were required to live as God’s people. This Jewish festival is now known as Shavuot.

It was to this great Jewish Festival 2,000 years or so ago that worshippers came to Jerusalem from all parts of the then known world.  And it was at this Jewish festival that an event of enormous significance for the Christian Church and for our understanding of God occurred.

This anniversary day is a major Christian festival. Some of you will remember Churches full of worshippers and whole community cerebrations and processions. It was a day for baptisms, and those being baptised wore white clothing. So, in British Churches the day became known as ‘White’ or ‘Whit Sunday’… but the correct name is Pentecost.

Imagine, if you will, a few, small dried corn kernels, the sort you use to make popcorn. They’re tight, they’re hard, and they are small – you could fit a lot in one hand. But, when you add heat and air to them, something remarkable happens. The corn starts to pop and burst, uncontrollably, flying in all directions as the heat and air expand it and fill it full to bursting!

Let Popcorn symbolise the first disciples!  Even though they’d witnessed the resurrection, encountered the risen Christ and seen first-hand the power of God, without Jesus they felt small, shrivelled, insignificant, frightened, unsure and literally dis-spirited.

At Pentecost something enormously powerful was added to these grieving, lost people – the work and presence of the Holy Spirit!

Through something like a mighty rush of wind (air) and fire, that crowd gathered in Jerusalem for Pentecost, saw a Spirit fuelled transformation happen in those dis-spirited Disciples.

Although we can’t see the Holy Spirit herself, through the written account of this event we can begin to glimpse the effect she had on the disciples when an explosion of high energy gushed and rushed around them, in a closed room, like wind and flames – well, as near a description they could find the words for.

Immediately, it seems, the disciples were able to come out of their closeted room in Jerusalem and into the open, bursting with energy and exuberance for God, because of what Jesus had already done and what the Holy Spirit was now doing, in and through them!  Now they were able to go out, beyond the confines of the upper room and into the world, no longer shrinkingly small and deflated and withdrawn, but popping and bursting with joy and life. Astonishingly they were able to speak about God, the works of Jesus and the Holy Spirit and be understood by anyone and everyone.  The crowd were bewildered, but the disciples had their attention as the Holy Spirit transformed them.

And she still does her transforming work amongst us today.  It’s through experience, not logic and reason that we know this is true.

Take time to think about where you see the Holy Spirit at work today, as we celebrate our Christian identity – enlivened and empowered by the Holy Spirit, as promised by Jesus!

Rev Janine