Although the world joins Christians in celebrating Christmas, and some join us at Easter too; another major Christian festival is the feast of Pentecost. The feast of Pentecost celebrates the birth of the Christian Church and is sadly overlooked by the world and in Great Britain, this festival no longer supports a holiday weekend.
The story of Pentecost is told in the book of Acts:
After the resurrection, Jesus promised his disciples that a Holy Spirit would come upon them, enabling them to go forward and tell the gospel story, perform acts of healing and become a blessing to millions.
“When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place. Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a mighty wind came forth from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each one of them.”
Such an experience did indeed fill the disciples with power and they went out to heal and preach in the name of Jesus. So, how does the Church celebrate this miraculous event?
Many churches have special services to celebrate Pentecost Sunday – I have taken part in outdoor services on Portsdown Hill which have been a real blessing and it is very exciting to be part of the Pentecost experience. We are often asked to wear something red – symbolising the flames of the Holy Spirit.
To some people, the thought of flames could cause worry but the “tongues of fire” were a symbol of God’s gracious power. The disciples also heard a mighty, rushing wind and were transformed from timid, lonely men into inspired preachers and healers. That power is available today to transform lives and to inspire each one of us.
Image: One impression of ‘tongues of fire’
The New Testament is full of signs, wonders, beautiful language and messages of hope to inspire and encourage us.
No sign is more wonderful than the pouring out of the Holy Spirit upon many people after Jesus had returned to heaven, as recorded in Acts 10:
“All the prophets testify about him that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name. While Peter was still speaking these words, the Holy Spirit came on all who heard the message. The circumcised believers who had come with Peter were astonished that the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out even on Gentiles. For they heard them speaking in tongues and praising God.”
On this occasion, many who had not been Jews were blessed – that includes us, the Gentiles. Indeed, many thousands of people have been blessed with the power of the Holy Spirit and their lives have been changed.
I especially recall the story of St Paul and his blessing on the road to Damascus. This event changed his life completely and through his writings, he changed the lives of millions of people across the world.
The Holy Spirit was promised at the baptism of Jesus. Jesus himself promised again, after his resurrection, that the Spirit would be poured out on his disciples. One day this gift will be for everyone who truly believes.
Can I encourage you all to come to church this Pentecost Sunday, 4th June, to hear more of this wonderful story, pray for the world and sing praises to the Lord?