Theme: The Gift of the Holy Spirit
In Easter time, we celebrate Christ’s resurrection from the dead. We give thanks to God for raising Jesus from the dead. Jesus, 40 days after he rose from the dead, ascended into heaven. Just before his ascension, Jesus told his disciples to wait in Jerusalem until they received the Holy Spirit. The promise from the Father. They were to be his witnesses to the end of the earth.
Today we remember the day when this promise was first fulfilled and we reflect upon how we too wait on the Spirit and are empowered by the Holy Spirit.
Pentecost is seen by many as the birthday of the church. It also became associated in God’s redemptive work, with the tower of Babel, as it laid a new foundation of unity for all peoples. Thus reversing the fragmentation of the tower of Babel. (Genesis 11)
For the Jewish people, the Day of Pentecost was the `Feast of Weeks’, a Harvest Festival celebrated 50 days after Passover. There were greater numbers of Jews in Jerusalem at this time than for the Passover, which was early in Spring and travelling was more difficult because of the colder weather. In latter Jewish Tradition it was also associated with the giving of the Law at Mt Sinai, a day of thanksgiving for the ‘Words of Life’. Both themes are tones of Pentecost for us. The Harvest of the Spirit and the renewal of the law, for it is the Spirit that writes the law upon our hearts.
The points of meditation are to help you reflect and listen. As we hear the words, we listen to the Word God speaks in our hearts in the power of the Spirit.
Acts 2:1 21
When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place. 2 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. 3 Divided tongues, as of fire, appeared among them, and a tongue rested on each of them. 4 All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages, as the Spirit gave them ability.
5 Now there were devout Jews from every nation under heaven living in Jerusalem. 6 And at this sound the crowd gathered and was bewildered, because each one heard them speaking in the native language of each. 7 Amazed and astonished, they asked, “Are not all these who are speaking Galileans? 8 And how is it that we hear, each of us, in our own native language? 9 Parthians, Medes, Elamites, and residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, 10 Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya belonging to Cyrene, and visitors from Rome, both Jews and proselytes, 11 Cretans and Arabs—in our own languages we hear them speaking about God’s deeds of power.” 12 All were amazed and perplexed, saying to one another, “What does this mean?” 13 But others sneered and said, “They are filled with new wine.”
14 But Peter, standing with the eleven, raised his voice and addressed them, “Men of Judea and all who live in Jerusalem, let this be known to you, and listen to what I say. 15 Indeed, these are not drunk, as you suppose, for it is only nine o’clock in the morning. 16 No, this is what was spoken through the prophet Joel:
17 ‘In the last days it will be, God declares,
that I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh,
and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy,
and your young men shall see visions,
and your old men shall dream dreams.
18 Even upon my slaves, both men and women,
in those days I will pour out my Spirit;
and they shall prophesy.
19 And I will show portents in the heaven above
and signs on the earth below,
blood, and fire, and smoky mist.
20 The sun shall be turned to darkness
and the moon to blood,
before the coming of the Lord’s great and glorious day.
21 Then everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.’
We reflect on
- the significance of the Holy Spirit coming upon the disciples and their being filled with the Holy Spirit, being a community experience; and experience whilst they were at prayer and worship together.
- What this story reveals to us about the Holy Spirit and its significance for us personally and in our church community.
- The importance of waiting upon the Holy Spirit in our lives and seeking to live and act in the power of the Spirit
- the significance of the Holy Spirit coming as a rushing sound and manifesting as tongues of flame above the head of each of the believers gathered there.
- What the image ‘from heaven’ conveys to us.
- The significance of Peter being prompted by the Spirit to quote the prophecy of Joel about the day of the Lord and experiences, prophecy, dreams, visions that people will have through God’s Spirit being poured out on all flesh
- The inclusiveness of this prophecy
- the disciples being heard by the people gathered in Jerusalem speaking in their own language. Did the disciples speak different languages or did they speak in tongues or some similar phenomena and the people heard in their own language?
Pentecost is a great and unique moment in the story of our salvation and the life of the church.
Jesus came to baptise with the Holy Spirit’, to give the Holy Spirit to all who believe in him. Jesus’ life shows us what a Spirit filled or Spirit inspired life is like. During His earthly life, he began introducing his disciples to that life. Through His resurrection and ascension, he completes that process. John records how on the first Easter eve, Jesus came and breathed the Holy Spirit upon the disciples (John 20: 19-23)
The day of Pentecost marks another important stage in the process of the giving of the Spirit. The disciples had been told to wait for the promise from the Father. At Pentecost, this promise was fulfilled, not as a completion but as a new beginning. The Holy Spirit comes upon the disciples and inspires them so that they communicate the Good News of Jesus with people of other languages than their own.
This, together with other passages on the Spirit, for example the Baptism of Jesus, this passage helps us to understand that the Spirit:
(i) is the fulfilment of Jesus promise that He made to his disciples and empowers them to go out throughout the world and proclaim the Gospel. Jesus is present with them through the Spirit and through the Spirit, reveals himself to them and the truth that they are to proclaim.
(ii) is given within the church and to people within the church. All who are of the Spirit will be a part of the church.
(iii) should be the power behind everything that we do and that we should wait on the empowering of the Spirit.
(iv) can inspire a person to do something that they would not, normally, be capable of.
(v) can be both heard and seen.
(vi) is like fire, it has warmth and kindles the warmth of love within us.
(vii) can seem to hover over our heads as with the descent of the Spirit at Jesus baptism and here at the Day of Pentecost with the tongues of flame
(viii) that being filled with the Spirit, can with worldly eyes, seem like a person is drunk.
(ix) can communicate through any language. This reveals to us that despite the diversity of cultures that ultimately, there is only one God and one Faith. As Christians, we believe that this faith has been revealed through Jesus Christ, God’s Son. Through his death and resurrection, Jesus has been given authority over all things and is the source of salvation for all.
(x) that the Spirit can give us prophecies, dreams, visions and inspire us to speak in what is called tongues. Tongues is a language of the Spirit. As we discover the prayer of the Spirit within ourselves, as St. Paul says in Romans 8: 26 – 27; we can find that we pray in sounds or tongues that are different to our normal language. Yet, although speaking in tongues is one of the gifts of the Spirit, as Paul comments in 1 Corinthians 14, it is not a gift that everyone has and, if it is expressed in communal worship, there needs to be an interpreter. Consequently, it is better exercised in personal prayer than communal.
It is important that we note that Pentecost was a communal event. A group of disciples gathered together in prayer and worship. It reminds us that we too can expect God to move in our midst when we gather in worship.
Pentecost, because of its foundational nature, and in a sense, the birth of the church, has led to great diversity of faith communities (denominations, churches) throughout the ages. We continue to hear Jesus prayer that we will be one as he and the father are one.
For all who are led by the Spirit of God are children of God. 15 For you did not receive a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received a spirit of adoption. When we cry, “Abba! Father!” 16 it is that very Spirit bearing witness with our spirit that we are children of God, 17 and if children, then heirs, heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ—if, in fact, we suffer with him so that we may also be glorified with him.
We reflect on
- as with the Pentecost reading, how we are led by the Spirit, both personally and communally
- the significance of us being able to call God ‘Abba – Father’.
- The experience of the Spirit bearing witness with our spirit.
- How we suffer with Christ so that we might ‘be glorified with him’.
Paul emphasises the freedom that we have in Christ, a freedom of the spirit that brings us into a deep personal relationship with God in Christ, whereby we call God ‘Abba! Father!’ This is a very intimate term of a child speaking to its father.
We know the truth of this through the Spirit witnessing or communicating with our spirit. Through this relationship, as we say of baptism, we are made one with Christ in his death and resurrection. We die to sin to rise to newness of life. We are buried with Christ in baptism that the new nature may be raised up in us and the fruit of the Spirit grow and flourish in us.
By contrast, the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, and self-control. (See Galatians 5:22 – 26)
John 14:8-17, 25-27
8 Philip said to him, “Lord, show us the Father, and we will be satisfied.” 9 Jesus said to him, “Have I been with you all this time, Philip, and you still do not know me? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? 10 Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me? The words that I say to you I do not speak on my own; but the Father who dwells in me does his works. 11 Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father is in me; but if you do not, then believe me because of the works themselves. 12 Very truly, I tell you, the one who believes in me will also do the works that I do and, in fact, will do greater works than these, because I am going to the Father. 13 I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. 14 If in my name you ask me for anything, I will do it.
15 “If you love me, you will keep my commandments. 16 And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, to be with you forever. 17 This is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, because he abides with you, and he will be in you.
We reflect on
- How the Holy Spirit reveal Jesus our risen Lord and in knowing him we know the Father
- How do we experience the Spirit leading us into all truth and telling us of Jesus?
- Do we believe that as we grow in Christ, we can do what he did and more?
- What does Jesus description of the Holy Spirit not being known by the world reveal about our experience of the Spirit?
We reviewed this passage briefly for Easter 6. Jesus reply to Philip’s request to ‘show us the Father’, is not necessarily what we would expect. Deep in the heart of each one of us is the desire to see God face-to-face, to know God directly. Jesus points us in a more subtle direction. Whoever has known him, seen him, has seen the Father. Similarly, in hearing Jesus words, we are hearing the Father speaking in him.
Pentecost is a fulfilment of Jesus saying that his disciples will do the works that he has done and in fact greater works, because he goes the Father. This was completed at his final ascension, 40 days after Easter. Pentecost the fulfilment of his promise that he would send the spirit.
It is important that we realise that has disciples, as we grow into new creation, that the new nature is raised up in us, in other words, as we are sanctified by the Spirit, that his disciples will be capable of great things. This includes having God speaking us, his disciples. Even though some 2000 years have passed, we ought never lose sight of this hope for the church, for the disciples of Jesus.
Jesus goes on to say how this will be possible through our love of him and the Spirit being in his disciples.
As remarked previously, versus 15 to 17, are critical for our understanding and experience of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit, the Spirit of truth, will be with them forever. (Verse 16) Although the world, that is the world of the senses, can neither see nor know the Holy Spirit, Jesus disciples will know the Holy Spirit because the Holy Spirit ‘abides with you, and he will be in you’. (Verse 17) Peter testifies to this relationship when preaching to the Gentiles in Acts 10:34 – 43, when speaking of what God has done for humanity through Christ, Peter says ‘but God raised him on the third day and allowed him to appear, 41 not to all the people but to us who were chosen by God as witnesses, and who ate and drank with him after he rose from the dead’.