Today is the day of celebration we know in the Church as Pentecost. The term “Pentecost” means “fiftieth”, and in the Jewish tradition celebrates the day 50 days after Passover, also known as The Feast of Weeks. In the Christian tradition, it comes 49 days (the seventh Sunday) after Easter and celebrates the coming of the Holy Spirit on the disciples of Jesus and other followers of Jesus who were gathered in Jerusalem for the Feast of Weeks.
In the Christian Church it is also the day which many call the birthday of the Church and the start of the Church’s mission to the world.
The events of that day are dramatically recounted in the second chapter of the book of Acts. There we find the disciples gathered in one place when there was the sound of a mighty wind and what appeared to be fire resting on the disciples. One result of this was that the disciples began to speak in the languages of other nations. Not surprisingly this caused a bit of a stir among the populous. Some thought they were simply drunk and dismissed them (Acts 2:13, 15). Others, however, wondered, “What does this mean?” (Acts 2:12)
It’s a good question. What does it mean, this amazing event? There are many answers that could be given to that question but one of the answers surely is that the Spirit is a life giving Spirit- the Spirit brings life!
In the very beginning of the Bible we read that the earth was formless and void, but the Spirit was hovering over the earth and began the process of creation- bringing life. The writer of the Psalms, reflecting on this affirmed, “When you send your Spirit… they are created.” (Psalm 104:30). The prophet Ezekiel is given a dramatic vision at a time when the nation of Israel was going through the most difficult of times, when the nation seemed to have lost its life. In the vision of the valley of the dry bones Ezekiel sees the bones joined together and flesh is put on them, but they are still not living. God says, “I will put my spirit within you… and you will live.”
That is why the Church in its creeds proclaims, “We believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the giver of life.” Pentecost, the celebration of the Spirit, is a celebration that God is a life giving God.