On the fiftieth day of Easter, The Day of Pentecost (Greek for Fiftieth), the Christian Church gathers each year to celebrate the ongoing life of the Holy Spirit who is its breath, vitality, and inspiration for all we do. Through the Holy Spirit, the Good News unravels age-old divisions among peoples and nations. In the waters of baptism, the Spirit gives us birth as sisters and brothers in Christ and unites people of different races, tribes, and ethnic groups.
On this day each year, the church gives thanks to God for the Holy Spirit, who continues to sustain life and faith in each new generation. This year, Pentecost fell on May 27th Memorial Day weekend, to be more precise. As such, there’s a decent chance many of you missed the festivities, which included Riley Paxton’s Confirmation (congratulations, Riley!) and almost a dozen folk proclaiming, Jesus of Nazareth is risen from the dead and is Lord of all! at the same time during the Acts 2 reading our attempt at capturing a bit of the flavor of that first Pentecost, when the apostles proclaimed the Good News about Jesus in the native tongues of their many listeners. Thanks to all of our readers!
Pentecost is also a wonderful opportunity to consider the Holy Spirit, who in Lutheran circles is often called The Forgotten Member of the Trinity. Too true! Most Lutherans are far more comfortable with Jesus and God our Heavenly Father than we are with the Holy Spirit. I don t find this all too surprising, as the majority of Lutherans come from northern European stock, a cultural landscape where control and a general lack of expression dominates. In contrast, Jesus tells us in John 3, The wind blows where it chooses, and you hear the sound of it, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit. The apostle Paul furthers this analogy when he writes, And because you are children, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, Abba! Father! (Galatians 4:6). Think with me of a child crying out for Daddy’s (or Mommy’s) attention, not really pausing to consider whether or not Daddy is occupied with someone or something else. (Some of you don t need much imagination to picture this, only memory!) Or think of a child running to greet her or his parent coming through the door . . . not very quiet or controlled, is it? And in the same way, the Spirit doesn t always cooperate with our attempts at control and quiet.
In terms of the New Testament as a whole, the phrase Holy Spirit occurs a total of 89 times. Here are a few, all of them taken from before the Day of Pentecost in the Bible:
The angel said to [Mary], The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be holy; he will be called Son of God. (Luke 1:35)
[Jesus said,] I baptize you with water for repentance, but one who is more powerful than I is coming after me; I am not worthy to carry his sandals. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. (Matthew 3:11)
[Jesus said,] If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him! (Luke 11:13)
[Jesus said,] When they bring you before the synagogues, the rulers, and the authorities, do not worry about how you are to defend yourselves or what you are to say; 12 for the Holy Spirit will teach you at that very hour what you ought to say. (Luke 12:11-12)
[Jesus said,] I have said these things to you while I am still with you. But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you everything, and remind you of all that I have said to you. (John 14:25-26)
Jesus said to them again, Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you. When he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained. (John 20:21-23)
[Jesus said,] But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth. (Acts 1:8)
Thank God for the gift of God’s Holy Spirit, first given to the Church on that first Pentecost so long ago!
In His Grip,