Pentecost – the traditional Jewish Feast of weeks, being celebrated by the disciples in Jerusalem when they were visited by the Holy Spirit.
Sermon 23rd May 2021 by Lay Minister Gerry Stacey.
Today is Pentecost. The day of Pentecost is 10 days after Ascension, forty days after Easter. This makes the day of Pentecost fifty days or the seventh Sunday after Easter. Some, especially in the Eastern tradition refer to the whole period between Easter and today as Pentecost. The name in fact coming from the Greek word for fiftieth. But the day of Pentecost is celebrated on the traditional Jewish Feast of weeks, a harvest celebration, as laid down in Leviticus chapter 23. Even unto the morrow after the seventh Sabbath shall ye number fifty days; and ye shall offer a new meat offering unto the LORD.
So many of the occasions we think of as New Testament events such as Passover when Jesus celebrated the last supper and Pentecost today are actually traditional Jewish events the disciples were meeting to celebrate. Equally the Holy Spirit does not originate with Pentecost but comes back. The theologian Karl Barth talks about the Spirit in the same breath as the word in the Old Testament. The spirit was there before the beginning and was intimately involved in the creation. The spirit interceded with man, talking to Moses from the fiery bush among other occasions. And the spirit acted through Jesus whilst he was on earth as he was the word become flesh as John puts it. So Pentecost is the return of the spirit, God working with the disciples and through them with all of us whilst Jesus is not present. As it says in John 7 Now he said this about the Spirit, which believers in him were to receive; for as yet there was no Spirit, because Jesus was not yet glorified
I am often struck by the power and impact of the account in acts. There was a rushing wind which filled the house with tongues of flame. Now that may sound significant enough but later we read “Now there were devout Jews from every nation under heaven living in Jerusalem. And at this sound the crowd gathered and was bewildered,” at this sound
Sounds innocuous but not just a sound in the house but such a commotion such a storm that drew people from all across Jerusalem. Parthians, Medes, Elamites, etc. in all Acts mentions seventeen different languages represented in the crowd. So it must have been an enormous crowd indeed, not forgetting Acts remembers to mention specifically that it included Jews and gentiles for this was a coming for all man.
We often talk about the calm after the storm, that amazing peace we often see and feel after a bad storm. Anyone who has been in a great storm will know what I mean, for me and many it will have taken place at sea where the feeling of complete loss of control to the elements and the fear and insecurity it brings makes the peace and calm of the following morning after the storm even more palpable. It must have been just so for the disciples. Swept away by the spirit, finding themselves doing and saying things beyond their experience but yet coming out of it in the peace and confidence that utter faith brings.
So until Jesus returns he will work with us through the Holy Spirit. Jesus understands the disciples fear and concern and explains to them that it is to their advantage that he goes. There are three things he says which the spirit will do and that is to prove that the world is wrong about sin, righteousness and judgement. That is to say that his ascension to god proves that he was without sin and was completely righteous. And judgement will be on the ruler of the world or Satan who is to be judged and condemned. But for the rest of us there is hope, as he says
When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth; for he will not speak on his own, but will speak whatever he hears, and he will declare to you the things that are to come.
So we have forgiveness and the spirit is the one who will guide us along the way and the truth. The spirit will help us not only to have and understand our relationship with Jesus but also to understand Jesus’ relationship with God and with the world and through that to play our part in the work of God in the world.
So I say to you remember Pentecost, this is the culmination of what Jesus said in the previous chapter of John.
My Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have told you. Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled; do not be afraid.
So open your hearts and call to the spirit, accept the storm he will bring, allow your lives to be tossed and turned, accept the direction his winds hurl you in and look forward to the peace he will give you after the storm.