“Pentecost” means 50 days and is the third most important Christian holy day behind Easter and Christmas. The 50 days marks the time between Easter and the day of Pentecost. Pentecost was the day the Holy Spirit was given to Jesus’ disciples who had been hiding in the Upper Room, afraid to come out now that Jesus had departed. Acts 2:1-4 says: “When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place. And suddenly from heaven there came a sound like the rush of a violent wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. Divided tongues, as of fire, appeared among them, and a tongue rested on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages, as the Spirit gave them ability.”
The disciples had been hiding out of fear, but when the Holy Spirit came on them they surged out into the streets and into the marketplace and began to preach boldly to everyone about Jesus Christ. The Holy Spirit gave them courage, but it also gave them the ability to share the message of Jesus with the people around them, no matter what language they spoke.
I have always seen Pentecost as one of the central, defining events for the Christian Church. In fact, it is often referred to as “the birthday of the church.” Yet I am amazed at how many ministers see Pentecost as a peripheral day in the life of the church. One clergy person I know changed the date of Pentecost one year at his church! He said none of the lay persons would notice and the date didn’t fit into his worship schedule. The minister at the church where Tom and I attended yesterday mentioned Pentecost in the opening announcements, but then never referred to it again.
I do not understand this. Without Pentecost we might not even have churches. Without Pentecost the disciples might have stayed in that Upper Room until they got tired and went back to being fishermen. In Pentecost the Holy Spirit gave us two things that are still vitally important in the church today: courage and ability.
The Holy Spirit gives us courage. Very few of us are bold witnesses for Jesus Christ. We claim that we are respecting the beliefs of others or that we don’t want to turn others off. We figure with the internet and our information age, people know as much about Jesus as they want to. These are excuses based on our timidity. Until people know Jesus as their Savior and give their lives to him as their Master, they do not know as much as they need to know. We must speak boldly, with courage, so that it is not a fault in us that keeps others from knowing Jesus.
The Holy Spirit gives us ability. We need to speak in the language of the people we are trying to reach. The Holy Spirit can help us bridge gaps of culture, age, or economic status. We need the Holy Spirit to show us how to speak with respect and courage to the people next to us at ball games, in the office, at the dinner table. We also need the Holy Spirit to give us the ability to lead lives that are an example of the love of Christ to others. Our words and our actions need to be consistent in order to avoid hypocrisy and help others see Jesus. We need to practice what we preach and let the Holy Spirit nurture the seeds of Jesus’s love in the hearts of the people where we plant them.
Come Holy Spirit. Create a new Pentecost in us. Give us courage to speak about what Jesus Christ has done in our lives – what he has done with us and for us. Give us the ability to speak the language of others who need to know the love of Jesus. Do not allow us to cower in our Upper Rooms. Lead us out – push us out – make us bold to share what we know with a world that desperately needs to hear your words of joy, faith, and peace. Amen.