- The Revd Canon Camellia Flanagan, TSSF
Pentecost A Acts 2:1-21 Psalm 104 6-36 1 Corinthians 12:11-3 John 20: 19-23
+ In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
What is Pentecost really all about? Is it just a Red letter day of tongues of fire, or is it more?
God’s plan had always been for the salvation of his people. In the early days of the organization of the Children of Israel, as God’s chosen people, God revealed to his prophets how the people were to worship. He established Holy Days and Festivals around the seasons, and you can read about it in chapter 23 of both the books Exodus and Leviticus. The Passover reminds us of God’s deliverance. The Feast of Weeks which celebrates the end of the barley harvest, and the beginning of the wheat harvest is known as Pentecost. This festival that we are celebrating today was sometimes known by the Children of Israel, as the season of first fruits, or Shavuot, because it is seven weeks plus one day, or 50 days in all after Passover. Pentecost is the Anglicized version of the Greek word, which means “fiftieth.”
As the disciples were together on the evening of the first day of the week after Jesus’ crucifixion, still in a frightened huddle, locked up and hiding in fear, God showed once again, how He is harvesting his people for eternal life in His Kingdom to come. Jesus stood in their midst and breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit” Can we be helped to understand that God follows a systematic plan, symbolized by his Holy Days to save all humanity by offering all people eternal life in his kingdom?
In this world we are simply at the beginning of the harvest for the Kingdom of God. On this day we are celebrating, fifty days after Easter and after Jesus had ascended into heaven which in our calendar this year was celebrated on the 18 May, the disciples were together once again. They did not have time to be locked up in a frightened huddle this time, because suddenly the Holy Spirit dramatically changed their lives, and from this point on, the Holy Spirit has been available to all. This day is an annual reminder that God poured out his Spirit to establish the Church, the group of believers who are led by the Holy Spirit.
Why do we need the Holy Spirit? Apart from being the comforter and advocate that Jesus promised he would give the Holy Spirit of Jesus is the best friend and guide we can have. No matter how hard we try not to, we still sin, no matter how much we study God’s word, becoming godly in our thoughts, attitudes and actions is beyond us, without the help of the Holy Spirit. Just as the first fruits were brought to celebrate the harvest throughout time, God uses the analogy of the harvest and particularly at Pentecost to illustrate aspects of his plan of salvation.
Jesus is described as the first fruits of eternal life. God’s spirit within us, identifies us and sanctifies us, and sets us apart as Christians, and includes us with Christ as God’s first fruits. (James1:18) This does not happen automatically, God calls people (John 6:44, 63) and God controls the timing of his harvest, and expands his spiritual harvest as Joel prophesied, so that ultimately all people will have the opportunity of living in the Kingdom (Joel 2:28-29 Acts 1:21)
What is the work of the Holy Spirit? The coming of the Holy Spirit dramatically changed the lives of the early Christians. The Holy Spirit is described as the Power of God at work in our lives, and this is the same power that was at work in the ministry of Jesus, and the power that raised him from the dead. This power allows us to be led by the Spirit of God.
The season of Pentecost is our annual reminder, or the “Good News” and the Good News is God’s love. God sent his Son to show us what God is like, to show us how God wants us to live, to die for our sins, so that we are forgiven of everything, if we believer in the death and resurrection of Christ. Jesus sent his Holy Spirit, to dwell in us, to help us to believe, and to help us to live a full life with his guidance. Through his grace, we inherit the fullness of eternal life. We only have to ask God, through prayer, for his Spirit to dwell in us, and he will.
The other side of the good news is, that we have been promised, that judgment day is real. That I as an ordained person will be called to give account before Jesus if I have neglected to help anyone to know God as life-giver and saviour. And all of us will be called at the same judgment if we have rejected God’s call on our life as will our children and their children. Giving up on those who will not honour God is not an option. Just as God will not abandon any of us, if we will head him, God has promised that he will be our God if we will be his people and search after him with all our heart and soul. (Deuteronomy 4:29f) Pentecost serves as an annual reminder that our Creator God, still works miracles, and is merciful, granting his Spirit to the first fruits of his spiritual harvest, empowering all to carry out his work in this world.
Later apostles travelled through the world leaving ordinary people with hearts and tongues on fire with the message of Jesus. They had never seen Jesus face to face, but they believed, nevertheless. They spread the Gospel from house to house, to neighbour, to friend, and family. This has always been the case, it is not the apostle or the preacher or priest that is most used to spread the power of the Holy Spirit, it is God, working in human beings, the grandmother and mother, the father and uncle, even the person in need who visits our Pantry. These are the people who go about winning souls to Jesus Christ and nurturing those souls into maturity by their living example. Statistics have proven that if a person spends at least two hours a week in spiritual activity and is gathered with others in a religious service more times than once a month, their life will be well balanced. From this aspect, bums on seats do matter.
The future is in our hands. The message is clear. Jesus said, “Receive the Holy Spirit” He also said, “Peace be with you – as the Father has sent me, so I send you.”
God did not give us a spirit of cowardice but a spirit of power and of love and of self-discipline. May we rekindle the gift of God within us. Amen.
The Reverend Canon Camellia Flanagan TSSF