When the day of Pentecost had come, the disciples 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. – Acts 2:1-4
This Sunday is the Feast of Pentecost when we celebrate the birthday of the Church. It recalls when the Holy Spirit came upon the gathered believers in Jerusalem in a powerful way, that they might be the hands, feet, and heart of Jesus in the world. Filled with the Holy Spirit, they were empowered to bring to the world the good news of God’s kindness, mercy, and salvation, the breaking in of Christ’s reign of justice and love.
Pentecost demonstrates at least a couple of important aspects of how God works in the world. Our God is a “communal” God – Father, Son and Holy Spirit. At the same time, God is One. God works through a body of diverse people united in the love and fellowship of the Holy Spirit. God works through the Body of Christ. The Holy Spirit came upon the believers when they “were all together in one place.” In our individualistic American culture, we may tend to think that my faith is between me and God and that commitment to church is optional. However, throughout the scriptures we see that God is a communal God, meeting people through other people, through community. At Pentecost the Holy Spirit comes to the gathered community of believers.
Secondly, God wants to expand his community to include all who will come to him. When the gathered believers were filled with the Holy Spirit they “began to speak in other languages as the Spirit gave them ability.” The Holy Spirit’s intention is for the gospel to go out to every person. Acts 2:5 says, “Now there were devout Jews from every nation under heaven living in Jerusalem.” In God’s perfect timing and through the voices of the gathered believers, people of every nation were able to hear the good news, and 3000 believers were added to the church all in one day! Pentecost shows us that God wants everyone to hear the good news of Jesus Christ. The church is God’s mouthpiece.
Pentecost invites us to renew our commitment to the Body of Christ, the Church. It invites us to renew our commitment to use the gifts the Holy Spirit bestows on each one of us in order to build the church and to share God’s love in Christ with the world.
Very shortly—next Sunday!—we will welcome our new Rector to All Saints’ Church. This is a time of new beginnings for us. As we welcome Fr. Nathan, Tiffany, Kira, and Brendan into our church community, let us be mindful of the commitments we make this Sunday when we will renew our baptismal vows. As we commit ourselves to Christ and the Church, let us also commit to support in prayer and action the priest God has called to guide this body of believers.
Pentecost is the birthday of the Church. As we celebrate this feast, let us also renew our commitment to Christ and the gathered body of believers, that we might be empowered by the Holy Spirit to be the hands, feet, and heart of Jesus to those in our communities, schools, and work places.
With Christ’s love,
This originally appeared in the email newsletter of All Saints’ Anglican Church in Amesbury, Massachusetts.