Pentecost by Revd fiona pennie
On this morning of Pentecost, the Sunday in our church calendar when we remember the events of that first anointing of the Holy Spirit to a large group of people, I invite you to travel back almost 2000 years and imagine yourself in the place where the apostles and disciples were.
We know from Acts 2 verse 2 that they were sitting in a house in Jerusalem, perhaps in an upstairs room, Acts 1, verse13
When they had entered the city (Jerusalem), they went to the room upstairs where they were staying,
It was some time after Jesus had ascended and they were following Jesus’ final instruction to them; Acts 1 verse 4
he ordered them not to leave Jerusalem, but to wait there for the promise of the Father. ‘This’, he said, ‘is what you have heard from me; 5 for John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with[b] the Holy Spirit not many days from now.’
We read that they constantly devoted themselves to prayer…and they were waiting.
I wonder in the waiting what were they feeling? We hear earlier, when Jesus appeared in the upper room, that the disciples were afraid and had the door locked. Jesus had gone, but what next. The fear now seems to have abated and prayer had taken over.
I have a sense that during this time of pandemic we too have gone through a similar roller coaster of emotions, firstly when we were ordered to stay inside and not go out except in an emergency. We were fearful of becoming ill, or infecting those who we loved..or even strangers on the streets. This fear kept most of us in, ‘behind locked doors’. We are now slowly emerging from lockdown, many people have found comfort in attending church services on line, many praying perhaps for the first time. We are also waiting, wondering what life will be like when we finally get back to the new normal.
I think this experience can help us imagine ourselves in that house, 2000 years ago.
Pentecost had been a fixture in the Jewish calendar for many centuries. It began as an early harvest festival, celebrating the gathering of the first ears of wheat and is called the Festival of weeks or shavuot and is referred to in Leviticus Exodus and Numbers and spiritually it was the time when they remembered God giving Moses the ‘Torah’ on Mount Sinai
In the 300 or so years before Jesus was born the festival also became the time when Jewish people remembered God’s promise or covenant to Noah, as we find in Genesis chapter 9. It is celebrated seven weeks after Passover.
So for those disciples they would be missing the physical presence of the risen Christ but also remembering the promises of God through Moses to be with them and Jesus promises to them of a new way, of being baptised not of water but by the Holy Spirit.
The physical experience of wind and heat was recognised as this new baptism and the disciples began the task to spread the word about Jesus Christ and the new way that people could believe in God through His Son Jesus.
As the ‘winds of change’ now blow through our church and wider community following the Covid19 pandemic, I hope and pray that we too will be filled with the power and energy of God the Holy Spirit as those earliest Jesus followers were. That through the power of the Holy Spirit we too will be able to give our testimony or story of how God has been with us through this stormy time and be ready to take the Gospel out to the communities around St Aidan’s, St Nathanael’s and St. Mary’s.
As we read of the rushing wind blowing through the house all those years ago I am reminded of the strong winds that we experienced here last week. Bruce and I came across several branches brought down by the wind as we walked near our house.
One in particular had come down from an old diseased tree trunk and as it lay across our path I gave thanks that no-one was injured and I hope and pray it’s coming down will make way for a new tree to grow up in it’s place.