“Just as the resurrection of Jesus opened up the unexpected world of God’s new creation, so the Spirit comes to us from that new world, the world waiting to be born, the world in which, according to the old prophets, peace and justice will flourish, and the wolf and the lamb will lie down side by side.” –NT Wright
This week, all over the world, Christians are preparing to celebrate the birth of the Christian Church!
Fifty days after Easter, we celebrate Pentecost, a day called by several different names. Pentecost means the fiftieth day, and was coined that by the Greeks. In the history of Anglicanism it has more generally been called Whitsunday. This originated from the white garments worn by the newly baptized on this day.
Pentecost has long been a Jewish festival, a time of thanksgiving for the wheat harvest, called the Feast of Harvest. Appropriately enough, it also commemorate the giving of the Law to Moses, and thus was in effect the birthday of the Jewish Church. This made it easy to transform it into a kind of birthday of the Christian Church.
On Pentecost Sunday, we celebrate the birth of the Christian Church as described in Acts 2. The story is simple, powerful and inspiring. Jesus’ followers had all gathered for worship. Suddenly they were aware of a sound described as “of a rushing mighty wind”. Startled, they all looked up and saw flames of fire resting upon each head. The narrator saw this as the very baptism which John the Baptizer had talked about. Filled with the Holy Spirit, those present began to tell the Gospel story in a great diversity of languages, emphasizing the universal character of Jesus’s message.
Thus, in a sense, the Church was born! The Holy Spirit was sent to comfort, to teach, to inspire and to strengthen. As the people of God were filled, so were they strengthened to do the same. This fulfilled Christ’s ascension promises to never leave his people alone or without the help they needed to fulfill his commands. And when the Church prays as it has for centuries, Veni Creator Spiritus (Come, Holy Spirit) we are calling upon the Name of the Triune God to do his pouring out, comforting, advocating, defending work through His paraclete, the Holy Spirit.
This is why Pentecost is such an essential festival in the life of the Church, not because the Spirit needs a day of fame and recognition after years of neglect, but because the Spirit’s role is to fix our faith, mind, hope and love upon Christ Crucified. As the Spirit does these things, He fulfills the call of the Father through whom he is sent to gather, enlighten and sanctify the whole Christian Church on earth.
On this day, fifty days after the apocalyptic events of Easter, the Resurrection took on meaning, the Church came alive, the Holy Spirit gave tangible evidence of His divinity with the Father and the Son. It is no wonder then that we want to gather together to pray and celebrate! We will be hosting a Pentecost Prayer Service on Tuesday, June 13th from 7:30-8:30pm at Holy Trinity Church in Mclean. All are welcome and we hope to see you there!