Monday, April 28, 2008


This is the article I wrote for our church's monthly newsletter:

Pentecost. This may be my favorite Holy Day of the church year. For me, it infuses the worship service with an energy that can often be sadly absent the rest of the year. Don’t be surprised to come into the sanctuary that day (May 11) and find it ablaze with the fire of the Holy Spirit.

So what is Pentecost exactly? It’s often referred to as the birthday of the church. Ten days after Jesus ascended into heaven, the twelve apostles, Jesus' mother and family, and many other of his disciples gathered together in Jerusalem for the Jewish harvest festival that was celebrated on the fiftieth day of Passover, called “The Feast of Weeks”. While they were indoors praying, a sound like that of a rushing wind filled the house and tongues of fire descended and rested over each of their heads. This was the outpouring of the Holy Spirit on humanity promised by God through the prophet Joel (Joel 2:28-29). The disciples were suddenly empowered to proclaim the gospel of the risen Christ. They went out into the streets of Jerusalem and began preaching to the crowds gathered for the festival. Not only did the disciples preach with boldness and vigor, but by a miracle of the Holy Spirit they spoke in the native languages of the people present, many of whom had come from all corners of the Roman Empire. This created a sensation. The apostle Peter seized the moment and addressed the crowd, preaching to them about Jesus' death and resurrection for the forgiveness of sins. The result was that about three thousand converts were baptized that day. (You can read the Biblical account of Pentecost in Acts 2:1-41).

In short, it is the celebration of the gift of the Holy Spirit given to the church. Through the Word and Sacraments, the Holy Spirit gives us the power to believe and trust in Christ as our Savior. This gift of faith in the saving work of Jesus Christ is the reason Pentecost is the third "mega-festival" of the church (the other two are, of course, Christmas and Easter) and why we celebrate it with such joy and thanksgiving.[i]

We believe that the Spirit also brings the gifts of wisdom and discernment. You will always hear me invoke the presence of the Spirit before I read Scripture, so that we will hear and understand God’s word to us, and be empowered and inspired to share it with others.

Lastly, it is also an affirmation of our belief in a Triune God. As Presbyterians, we sometimes think we’d rather leave the exuberance of the Holy Spirit to those arm-waving, ‘Amen!’ shouting Baptists and Pentecostals. But without the gift of faith given to us in the Spirit, we could not have found the gift of life and salvation it leads to in Christ. If you ask me, that calls for an ‘Amen!’ no matter what denomination you’re in.

The Spirit isn’t just about boisterous alter calls and speaking in tongues. It represents the power of God in our lives. It comes to EM-power us, giving us the gift of witness and discipleship. It can be as gentle as a breeze or as mighty as a hurricane. It can always move you to marvelous things—if you let it. So I challenge you to let it. Open your arms to receive the Spirit and ask that it work through you to empower others in Christ's love as well.