Half way through May we have, what should be, one of the most electrifying and exciting celebrations in the Christian year … Pentecost. The day when we remember something amazing, incredible and momentous happening 2000 years ago: the Holy Spirit descending on the disciples. Of course, the Holy Spirit had always been there (He’s first mentioned in only the 2nd verse of the whole Bible!), but Pentecost marks the beginning of the something quite new, which you can read in Acts 2:1-41:
2 When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place. 2 Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. 3 They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. 4 All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tonguesas the Spirit enabled them.
After convincing the crowd there weren’t drunk! Peter, the disciple who last month we remembered denying Jesus and hiding from the authorities, stands and delivers a powerful sermon making the case that Jesus is the promised Messiah (i.e. King) and “about three thousand were added to their number that day” (Acts 2:41). This then leads into the (true!) high-powered adventure story which is Acts, where Jesus’ followers proclaim the Good News that Jesus has died and rose again for the sins of the world, the church grows at a rapid rate, people are healed and the church are accused of “making trouble all over the world!” (Acts 17:6).
But what exactly is happening? Well three things (for now, anyway!)
Firstly, on a number of occasions in the Old Testament similar things happen. In Exodus 40 the people of God finish making the Tabernacle, a special tent in which God says he will dwell with his people on earth, it will be the place where heaven and earth meet. When it’s completed, the glory of the Lord descends on the tabernacle. A similar event happens on Mount Sinai (Exodus 19) when God descends to his people and gives them the ten commandments, for a short time Mount Sinai is the place where heaven and earth overlap. Likewise, when Solomon builds the Temple, God descends in power and fills it (1 Kings 8). By the end of the Old Testament the prophets have promised that when the Messiah comes there would be a new Temple and that God would again descend on it and this would be the place where heaven and earth overlapped, the place where God dwelt on earth (e.g. Ezekiel 43 and numerous others) and this would last forever.
Part of the point of Pentecost is that we, me and you, the church, are this New Temple! (read Ephesians 2:19-22, or 1 Corinthians 3:16-17, or 1 Peter 2:5 etc, etc). All christians are indwelt by the Spirit (Rom 8:9). So we are now the place where God dwells, in our hearts. We are the place where heaven and earth meet. People should look at us and see a glimpse of heaven (Do they? Why? Why not?).
As well as this, when the Spirit descends on the disciples at Pentecost they immediately begin to speak in tongues, and as Acts goes on other Spiritual gifts soon become clear. All Christians are given gifts, and these are for the good of the whole church (1 Corinthians 12:7). If you don’t use your gifts, the whole church suffers and the mission of the church can not be fully effective. These gifts include the “natural” (e.g. teaching, 1 Cor. 12:28) and the “supernatural” (e.g. prophecy also 1 Cor. 12:28). Are you using the gifts God has given you through his Spirit? Are all these gifts, the “natural” and “supernatural”, present in St. Anne’s? If not, why not?
The Holy Spirit is given to each of us so that we have God’s power to do His work in the world.
Finally, the Spirit working in us brings us into relationship with God and helps us to grow in that relationship. The Spirit helps us to pray to God (Rom 8:26), it gives us wisdom to know God better (Eph 1:17-18, e.g. helps us understand the Bible etc) and slowly makes us more and more Christ-like (2 Cor 3:18):
“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.” (Galatians 5:22)
But, most importantly, because of the Spirit dwelling in us, we are now children of God, able to call God “Abba, Father”. Abba is an Aramaic word (which was Jesus’ first language) which a child uses to call their father, like the English words “daddy”, “dada” “papa” etc. In other words, we are brought into a close intimate relationship with our God, our Daddy. (Rom 8:14-17).
So this Pentecost remember that you are God’s temple, his glimpse of heaven on earth. Remember that you are empowered with His gifts to use in His church to fulfil His mission. And remember that you are now the beloved child of your heavenly Daddy.
God bless you, and fill you with His Spirit, this Pentecost