Pentecost: The Spirit is Here!

19 May, 2024

By the Rev’d Lucy Nguyen

Season: Pentecost

Readings: Acts 2:1-21 | Romans 8:22-27 | John 15:22-27; 16:4b-15

When it comes to celebrations it looks pretty fab in here today! All Saints, engages well when we are celebrating. Outside of these walls, how’s the party going? How many of us, myself included sent Happy Pentecost cards or even thought to invite someone to today’s celebrative service?  

And yet, Pentecost is an event that is every bit as important as Christmas and Easter. Christmas, we know, marks with great celebration the birth of Jesus, and Easter celebrates his resurrection. Pentecost delineates the time onward, celebrating the creation of the Body of Christ—the Church.

The church, all of Jesus’ followers, now-and-to-come, are now responsible and proclaimed ready to carry Jesus’ ministry forward for all of time. It is a big deal!

Pentecost continues in the Jewish tradition—the celebration observed 50 days after the first day of Passover. It is a harvest festival, also called the Feast of Weeks and Shavuot, and celebrates God giving Moses and the people of Israel the Law. This law gave them a national identity under God and taught them to love God and their neighbours as a community.

in our Christian tradition, Pentecost has been expanded from remembering Moses giving the people of Israel the Law to the remembrance of the crucifixion, resurrection and ascension of Jesus with the culmination on the day of Pentecost of the coming of the Holy Spirit.

As we heard in the Acts reading, it was on that Pentecost, with Jesus’ followers waiting, that the Holy Spirit is recorded in our holy text to have arrived, in fulfilment of Jesus’s promise.

Now it is tempting to think, “Well, that’s nice. It happened, Jesus said it would, and it did good on him. Cool for those earlier disciples, sigh. Wish I could have been there.” Because we are all aware of the difficulties and challenges facing the Church and the world. And while we might have remembered to have worn a bit of red or to eat a bit of birthday cake (if we had any) to celebrate the birth of the church, we might also find ourselves slipping into an understanding of “that was then, this is now” – just an anniversary of sorts.

Or if you’re not that disengaged, you may be tempted to think and pray that the Holy Spirit would come upon the Church to help us grow, a bit like… “Come back, Holy Spirit, come back!” But the Spirit is already with us. Remember…

In Acts, the Spirit descends upon the disciples on the day of Pentecost. The accounts that follow refer to the disciples as having a new inward power that quite literally transformed them. No longer were they the disciples hiding in an upper room. They were bold, they spoke out with a new authority. They were ready to fulfil the Great Commission from Matthew’s Gospel.

On the day of Pentecost, the disciples were “all” filled with the Holy Spirit, and they began to talk as the Spirit enabled them to speak. The Holy Spirit, the Paraclete, and the Helper Christ had promised arrived. This is our faith, our understanding.

At Pentecost, we have this mind-blowing opportunity to examine how God might want to use you/us now and how the Spirit will enable us now. It is the presence of God that not only helps us to discern our mission, but the motivation to do it. We are not called on this day or any day to sit back and wait for the Holy Spirit to be active in the Church…

Yes, we will engage in silence and contemplation as these practices are woven into our practice to refresh, discern and receive wisdom and grace, but the Spirit is here! However, you may be tempted to look at headlines or simply look around our city of Auckland and think – we are too far gone. It is all too much…

So, remember Paul’s words, “For I am convinced that the suffering we now endure bear no comparison with the glory that awaits”… (Rom 8:18). “We know that the whole creation has been groaning … (Rom 8:22) These words are often quoted within a funeral service. But they deserve to be heard more than just at the end of our lives. In verse 22, Paul speaks of creation groaning, then in verse 23, it is ‘we’ who are groaning. Finally, in verse 26, it is the Spirit who groans on our behalf.

We live in difficult times.

Perhaps the world always has had disasters and only now are the difficult times in some way now at all our doorsteps.  It is vital that we do not forget in our fear or angst that we live in a time where the Spirit can help us in our weakness.

Some preachers and pastor will simply say “we must trust ourselves to the Spirit” and we might be tempted to think “yeah “she’ll be alright” and do nothing different.  This morning, I say – we must engage in the Spirit. The Holy Spirit, it is waiting for you!

It is tempting to rest on the laurels of our holy tradition and hear sermons only on the coming of the Holy Spirit and the effect that it had on the disciples or to hold in holy awe the wonder of Peter’s sermon, which led to some 3,000 converts.

But that would be irresponsible and unholy to stop there.

Today is about being reminded and inspired – because the world is not an easy place, and we cannot shelter and wait it out. Yes, look back, read the ancient texts and think about the effect the Spirit had on the disciples, not just on Pentecost but how they lived. No longer cowering in locked rooms but speaking boldly, openly talking about their faith, they cared for one another, they loved one another; they followed the example and commandment of Christ and loved their neighbour.

The coming of the Holy Spirit to those believers in the early church was the confirmation that they had not been left alone with Jesus’ departure at the ascension. Jesus had promised that the Holy Spirit, the comforter, the life-giver, the very presence of God in the world, would come and move them into action.

We are reminded that too many people are trying to go it alone.

Some suggest even too many congregations are trying to go it alone. We cannot do life alone or in our silos!  Let us come together – let us celebrate Pentecost for what it is: the remembrance of the birth of the Body of Christ, of which we are all a part, a living body – adapting and moving in the Spirit to care for the world.  

And so, I pray to God. “Keep us true to who we are. Enable us to use the gifts you have given. Bless us with Your Spirit ever present with us, that we might build upon the foundations of Christ as we seek to be Your Church at work in the world.” Amen.

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