Updated: May 6
Read through the lesson below (if you are in a group take turns reading). Then have a discussion, possible questions are included at the end. If you are alone, try to pair up with others in a small group though texting or even a phone call.
Pentecost? What is it and why do we celebrate it?
This year Pentecost will be on the 31st of May, only a few weeks away. This year however, Pentecost may have a special significance, one that closely ties to what we really celebrate when we celebrate Pentecost. If you look up the word Pentecost, you will find things like “from Greek pentēkostē ‘fiftieth day.’” Or “the Christian festival celebrating the descent of the Holy Spirit on the disciples of Jesus after his Ascension, held on the seventh Sunday after Easter.” And they are true, but in simpler terms we are celebrating the start of the Church. The day of Pentecost, when the Spirit came upon the disciples and they were transformed, the beginning of the Church started that day.
The significance this year is that maybe, just maybe if all goes well, it may be one of the first Sundays that we will be allowed to all be together again. We can only pray that this will be, and what a fitting and special day it will be.
Let’s look at what happened on that day some 2000 years ago from the Book of Acts:
Acts 2:1-42 (NRSV)
“When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place. And suddenly from heaven there came a sound like the rush of a violent wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. Divided tongues, as of fire, appeared among them, and a tongue rested on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages, as the Spirit gave them ability."
"Now there were devout Jews from every nation under heaven living in Jerusalem. And at this sound the crowd gathered and was bewildered, because each one heard them speaking in the native language of each. Amazed and astonished, they asked, “Are not all these who are speaking Galileans? And how is it that we hear, each of us, in our own native language? Parthians, Medes, Elamites, and residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya belonging to Cyrene, and visitors from Rome, both Jews and proselytes, Cretans and Arabs—in our own languages we hear them speaking about God’s deeds of power.” All were amazed and perplexed, saying to one another, “What does this mean?” But others sneered and said, “They are filled with new wine.”
Peter Addresses the Crowd
"But Peter, standing with the eleven, raised his voice and addressed them, ‘Men of Judea and all who live in Jerusalem, let this be known to you, and listen to what I say. Indeed, these are not drunk, as you suppose, for it is only nine o’clock in the morning. No, this is what was spoken through the prophet Joel:
‘In the last days it will be, God declares,
that I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh,
and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy,
and your young men shall see visions,
and your old men shall dream dreams.
Even upon my slaves, both men and women,
in those days I will pour out my Spirit;
and they shall prophesy.
And I will show portents in the heaven above
and signs on the earth below,
blood, and fire, and smoky mist.
The sun shall be turned to darkness
and the moon to blood,
before the coming of the Lord’s great and glorious day.
Then everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.’
‘You that are Israelites, listen to what I have to say: Jesus of Nazareth, a man attested to you by God with deeds of power, wonders, and signs that God did through him among you, as you yourselves know— this man, handed over to you according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of those outside the law. But God raised him up, having freed him from death, because it was impossible for him to be held in its power.
For David says concerning him,
‘I saw the Lord always before me,
for he is at my right hand so that I will not be shaken;
therefore my heart was glad, and my tongue rejoiced;
moreover my flesh will live in hope.
For you will not abandon my soul to Hades,
or let your Holy One experience corruption.
You have made known to me the ways of life;
you will make me full of gladness with your presence.’
‘Fellow Israelites, I may say to you confidently of our ancestor David that he both died and was buried, and his tomb is with us to this day. Since he was a prophet, he knew that God had sworn with an oath to him that he would put one of his descendants on his throne.
Foreseeing this, David spoke of the resurrection of the Messiah, saying,
‘He was not abandoned to Hades,
nor did his flesh experience corruption.’
This Jesus God raised up, and of that all of us are witnesses. Being therefore exalted at the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, he has poured out this that you both see and hear.
For David did not ascend into the heavens, but he himself says,
‘The Lord said to my Lord,
‘Sit at my right hand,
until I make your enemies your footstool.’’
Therefore let the entire house of Israel know with certainty that God has made him both Lord and Messiah, this Jesus whom you crucified.”
The First Converts
"Now when they heard this, they were cut to the heart and said to Peter and to the other apostles, ‘Brothers, what should we do?’ Peter said to them, ‘Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ so that your sins may be forgiven; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is for you, for your children, and for all who are far away, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to him.’ And he testified with many other arguments and exhorted them, saying, ‘Save yourselves from this corrupt generation.’ So those who welcomed his message were baptized, and that day about three thousand persons were added. They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers."
Needless to say, there is a lot going on in these 42 verses. So much so that I feel we may need to take a few weeks to unpack it all. But the important parts that I would like to highlight this week (scripture in bold and underlined type above) is the coming of the Spirit and the starting of the First Church, what many call the Acts 2:42 church.
Even with Peter’s eloquent preaching we must not lose sight of the fact that on that day the Holy Spirit was at work. It is what enabled the Apostles to speak in the many languages and say what was needed to be heard. And it was because of this that thousands came to know Christ and received the Holy Spirit that day. It was then their dedication with the workings of the Spirit in them that the Church was started and is still going strong over 2000 years along.
The point I would like to make today is one of most significance, one that we sometimes forget. The beginning of the Church was Spirit led. The continuing of the Church through all its troubles has been Spirit led. The Church of today is only here, and only continues because of the Spirit's leading. During this time of crisis and separation it has been the Spirit that has kept us connected, has kept us loving and caring for one another, even in isolation. Because isolation with the Spirit is no isolation at all. Pastors preaching only works because of the Spirit. My teaching and writing only works because of the Spirit. Lynnette’s work at the church and Pastor Frankie’s loving the children and your love for one another only works because of and with the Spirit.
As I write this devotional, I am listening to Francesca Battistelli’s song “Holy Spirit” on YouTube. You can find it here at this web site https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=2zEiiZi2DKk. I would encourage you to listen to the words of this song and pray for His Spirit, the Holy Spirit, to fill the place you and your family are this day, and the places where all of the Church is this day.
When you come to church, do you expect to have an encounter with the Spirit of God?
When you come to church to worship God, do you invite the Holy Spirit to be in that place with you?
In the days of Covid-19 let’s pray that the Spirit will not only be with us on these days of worship in separation, but with all those worshiping. Wherever they may be worshiping. This is the way revivals have started. This is the way the First Church started.