It’s a mysterious day of celebration. It is confusing and yet comforting. It brings power and peace. It is Pentecost.
When is Pentecost, and why does the date change every year? Pentecost is not just assigned on a random date to fill a low Sunday or to keep worshipers on their toes. There’s a real reason the date moves. Christians observe Pentecost seven weeks after Easter, and because the date of Easter fluctuates from year to year, the date of Pentecost varies, too. Easter is celebrated on the first Sunday after the first full moon after the vernal equinox (first day of spring). It is possible for Easter to fall between March 22 and April 25, so the Day of Pentecost can be between May 10 and June 13, always on a Sunday. Easter is April 12, 2020, and therefore Pentecost is May 31, 2020.
Why were people gathered in Jerusalem at Pentecost? Pentecost is an ancient Jewish festival also called Feast of Harvest, mentioned in the Pentateuch (first five books) of the Torah. Feast of Harvest was a holiday to mark the beginning of the spring wheat harvest and to celebrate the goodness of God. Thousands of Jewish men from many countries made the pilgrimage to Jerusalem to observe Feast of Harvest. Disciples of Jesus were gathered there for two reasons: Because they were Jewish and therefore honored the feast day, and because Jesus had instructed them to wait for him in Jerusalem.
1 3For forty days after Jesus had suffered and died, he proved in many ways that he had been raised from death. He appeared to his apostles and spoke to them about God’s kingdom. 4While he was still with them, he said: “Don’t leave Jerusalem yet. Wait here for the Father to give you the Holy Spirit, just as I told you he has promised to do. 5John baptized with water, but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.”Acts 1: 3-5 Contemporary English Version (CEV)
How did Pentecost get its name? Pentecost comes from a Greek word Pentekoste meaning 50th. The Feast of Harvest occurred 50 days after the Jewish Feast of Firstfruits, which marked the beginning of the barley harvest. Besides Pentecost, Feast of Harvest was also called Feast of Weeks, occurring a “week of weeks” (7 weeks) after Firstfruits.
Pentecost reminds me of Wind, Fire & Earth, not to be confused with the popular U.S. band Earth, Wind & Fire.
Wind and Fire. Suddenly the roar of wind filled the house where the disciples were staying. It was fierce, like the sound of an intense and powerful storm. Then the room grew brighter, and firelight stood over each person gathered there. The separated flames were sometimes called “tongues of fire,” unlike the tongue of fire you have after you eat a jalapeno. The flames did not hurt or burn them. A symbol of fire and the color red represent the flames that settled on the heads of the believers. A dove is also used as a symbol for the Holy Spirit, reminding us of the dove that descended upon Jesus at his baptism, but “Wind, Fire, Dove, and Earth” just isn’t a catchy title.
2 Seven weeks had gone by since Jesus’ death and resurrection, and the Day of Pentecost had now arrived. As the believers met together that day, 2suddenly there was a sound like the roaring of a mighty windstorm in the skies above them and it filled the house where they were meeting. 3Then, what looked like flames or tongues of fire appeared and settled on their heads. 4And everyone present was filled with the Holy Spirit and began speaking in languages they didn’t know, for the Holy Spirit gave them this ability.Acts 2: 1-4 Living Bible (TLB)
Earth. Before the Holy Spirit came to the disciples, they were sad, scared, and powerless. They lacked direction. They were without hope. And then God breathed God’s very own Spirit into their hearts. Now God was closer to them than ever before. God in the Holy Spirit came to live within them, reminding them of Jesus, helping them understand the things Jesus had taught them, and filling them with power. Suddenly, God infused life into the believers, giving them peace and boldness to go out into the world (that’s where my reference to earth comes in) to spread the Gospel of Jesus. The Christian Church was born.
So now what? Filled with the power of God’s Spirit, early Christian believers went boldly to witness about Jesus. They told others who then told others until the message of God’s love and forgiveness reached through time and across the earth and all the way to us. And now, as believers of Jesus, we have the same Spirit in us, prompting us to love and care for others and giving us power to live the way Jesus taught.
Does the breath of life fill you? Are you stirred by the wind? Is your heart on fire? Then be the church. God is with you and in you, and God has given you power to be a witness.
The birth of the Church was noisy. It was filled with excitement and passion and surprises. Oh, if we as the church lived every day like that, what a world this would be!