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May 22, 2013

Pentecost Sunday

Kevin E. Dayhoff

Last Sunday was Pentecost Sunday; the 50 day after Easter and the birthday of the church. Along with Easter and Christmas, Pentecost is one of the three most important holidays in the church. It’s time to renew the spirit of Pentecost in our daily lives. Here’s why.


Pentecost has many meanings, which are, in essence, really only different parts of the same elephant. The English word ‘Pentecost’ is actually a transliteration of the Greek word ‘pentekostos,’ which means ‘fifty.’


It is one of the oldest holidays in the church. Its roots may be traced to the Jewish Feast of Weeks, or Shavuot, (as is referred to in Exodus 34:22, Deuteronomy 16:10,) which is celebrated 50 days after God passed down the Torah, which included the Ten Commandments to the assembled nation of Israel at Mount Sinai. This year Shavuot took place May 14 – May 16, 2013.


There are those who believe that the Jewish faith borrowed the holiday from ancient pagan rituals which celebrated the death of winter and a spirit of (spring) renewal.


In the Bible, Pentecost is mentioned in St. Paul's letter to a troubled church, the First Letter to the Corinthians 16:8. “But I will stay in Ephesus until Pentecost…”


On my recent trip to Greece, I had the honor of standing in the marketplace at the very spot where it is believed Paul spoke to the turbulent crowds in Corinth. Thousands of years later, we must redouble our efforts to carry the example of Paul forward to address our troubled times.


Pentecost is also mentioned in the Acts of the Apostles in Chapter 20, verse 16: “For Paul had decided to sail past Ephesus, so that he might not have to spend time in Asia; for he was hastening to be at Jerusalem, if possible, on the day of Pentecost.”


Pentecost Sunday marks the end of the Easter season on the Christian calendar. Pentecost Monday – the first Monday after the celebration of Pentecost is celebrated as a holiday in many countries, most notably, in England.


The story of the first Pentecost is told by Acts 2; when people had gathered in Jerusalem for the Jewish festival, the Feast of Weeks.


It was during Pentecost Sunday, 10 days after the ascension of Christ, when the Holy Spirit descended upon the Twelve Disciples and followers of Jesus. Today, Pentecost is the important celebration of that fateful day when the Apostles were bestowed the gifts to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ to all peoples and nations.


According to Acts 2: 2-4: “… suddenly there came from heaven a sound like a mighty rushing wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. And divided tongues as of fire appeared to them and rested on each one of them. (4) And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance….”


The Apostles knew that Jesus had said that he would send his Holy Spirit back to earth when he ascended into heaven. But, the disciples were perplexed as to just exactly what Jesus meant. Now they knew…


Once they were granted the gift of the Holy Spirit, they were empowered to spread the good news. And on the very first Pentecost Sunday, 3,000 were baptized and accepted into the church.


Today, new members are accepted into the church on Pentecost Sunday, in the tradition of the first followers of Christ that joined the church after Peter’s Pentecost sermon. This is how Pentecost became known as the ‘Birthday of the Church.


In England, Pentecost Sunday is often referred to as ‘Whitsun or ‘White Sunday,’ because historically the new members of the church wore white for the baptism ceremony.


It is the gift of the Holy Spirit that completes the Christian church’s faith in God as Trinity. Our earliest and initial experience with God is that of the Creator – in nature, of heaven and earth.


Our second relationship with the Trinity is through God’s son, Jesus Christ, and the story of his life, death and resurrection.


Equally as important is the Christian concept that the Holy Spirit of God is part of our day-to-day world.


Yes, Pentecost may have its roots in history, but the spirit of Pentecost lives and breathes in the present and has a direct effect on our future.


It is the Holy Spirit that brings the church to life and provides meaning to our lives. Without the Holy Spirit, the church is just another social club in town. It is the Holy Spirit that makes the church a critical part of the fabric of our community.


Those of us who are Christian and have benefited from the gift of the Holy Spirit and share in the opportunities it provides; have profound responsibilities that come with that gift of life – and that is to share with others the joys of the church and a better life that comes with knowing Christ.


In March 2005, columnist Doug Giles said it best in an article, “Robust Faith,” in the publication,; in which he admonished: “In this day of rabid terrorists, scrappy secularists, and undaunted demons, the believer must seriously have his spiritual act together or he will soon become religious road kill…”


Part Two of “Pentecost Sunday – No better time for Christians to spread the good word,” – will address why we need a renewed purpose and meaning for Pentecost.


. . . . .I’m just saying. . . .


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