The Importance of Pentecost
Sunday is Pentecost Sunday, a celebration of the gift of the Holy Spirit to believers. For Jews in the first century, the holiday occurred during the Feast of Sukkot or booths, when God gave the law in the wilderness and lit their path through a cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night. For Americans, this day falls each year during two other events. Children are finishing school, and we are celebrating Memorial Day. We watch students begin the next chapter while remembering those who paid the ultimate price for freedom. So let’s remember why this weekend is so important to the church.
We mark this Sunday fifty days after Easter and celebrate this day for several reasons. It’s the beginning of the church, the empowering of believers to bear witness to Christ’s work, the sending of the church into the world, the understanding that came to people speaking languages from all the nations, and the unifying of people for a common purpose. The New Testament records two stories of Pentecost. Acts 2 describes the disciples’ experience in the upstairs room with tongues of fire and a mighty wind. John 20 tells that Jesus personally appeared to the disciples and breathed on them. Both stories are important. Our hymns reflect both traditions. We need the “old time power that Pentecostal power” of Acts 2, and the “Breathe on Me” of John 20. Acts gives us power and understanding, John gives us authority and forgiveness. Acts sends revival and renewal into the world. John sends us to each other as ambassadors of peace. Peter’s sermon in Acts says that Joel’s prophesy will be fulfilled in these last days: sons and daughters will prophesy; old and young men will dream dreams and see visions. Jesus shows his scars to fearful disciples in John and gives them a gift that will carry them through their own times of suffering. We are led by the Holy Spirit to do God’s work in the world.
The gift of the Holy Spirit did not end with first century disciples. God continues to pour out his Spirit on all people even today. Our role as the church is to continue to discern what the Spirit says, receive and use the Spirit’s gifts to build up the body of Christ, pray as the Spirit communicates our needs to the Father, and trust the Spirit’s guidance as it opens new doors for the gospel in our midst and across the community.
On this weekend, as we gather to worship, we remember that none of us would be here without Pentecost. The Spirit created First Baptist to do its work in Tallahassee. The Spirit fills our lives as we help students and teachers in their search for truth. The Holy Spirit comforts the hearts of those who have lost loved ones while serving our country and removes fear from anxious families of those who serve our country. While we’re enjoying a hot dog, the Spirit gives us laughter, love, and rest. Look around this weekend and prepare for the Spirit to fall again. How will the Spirit lead you to love Jesus?