This month we celebrate Pentecost. I like Pentecost. It confuses the sceptics – they don’t know what to do with it. No one claims that it was originally a pagan festival, like they do with Christmas and Easter. It is exclusively Christian (OK it was an Old Testament Israelite festival first, but that makes it one of ours). No one has tried to commercialise it. There are no Pentecost cards, no Pentecost chocolates. There are no daffodils (or equivalent seasonal flowers), rabbits, chicks, or lambs to represent Pentecost. Funnily enough there is no season leading up to Pentecost – no Advent or Lent equivalent. Shouldn’t we have a 10 day prayer meeting just to make it more significant? Even the hymns are not up to much. We have lost the good old Pentecostal hymns from our hymn books and there is nothing much in the modern stuff.
So I like Pentecost. It was a significant date in the early church. This was the fulfilment of so many Old Testament promises and longings. From Moses wanting all of God’s people to be prophets (Numbers 11: 29) through to Joel saying the time was coming when all God’s people would prophesy (Joel 2: 28). We have reduced it to “the birthday of the Church”, but it is so much more than that.
This was when the disciples received “the promise of the Father” (Acts 1: 4). This was when The Holy Spirit was poured out onto the Church and everyone – men and women – were given the ability to testify to Jesus and actually see results.
God broke into history and lived on earth at Christmas; God broke into hell at Easter; God broke into the Church at Pentecost.
And we still don’t know what to do with Pentecost. It was a once-for-all event, as was Christmas, as was Easter; yet each year we try to repeat Christmas and Easter. They cannot be repeated. Jesus died once-for-all (1 Peter 3: 18) and He was raised to live forever. At Pentecost the Spirit was poured into the Church, but there is a need for each of us to be continually filled with the Spirit as the first disciples were: Acts 4: 31, and as Paul tells us: Ephesians 5: 18.
I don’t mind the commercialisation of Christmas and Easter – it gives us an opportunity to remind people that God has walked where we walk; that He has died the death that we die; that He has conquered death so it need not be the same for us. But Pentecost is for Christians. Jesus said, “This is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, because he abides with you, and he will be in you” (John 14: 17).
So I’m OK with the fact that no one understands Pentecost. It’s an in-house affair. It’s not for sharing.
But imagine if we took it seriously! Look what the early church achieved when they took Pentecost seriously; when they opened themselves to the power of the Holy Spirit. And just imagine the church we would have!