20 May – Pentecost
The Christian holiday of Pentecost, which is celebrated on the 50th day after the weekly Sabbath during the Feast of Unleavened Bread (Leviticus 23:15), commemorates the descent of the Holy Spirit upon the Apostles and other followers of Jesus Christ while they were in Jerusalem celebrating the Feast of Weeks, as described in the Acts of the Apostles. Some Christians believe this event represents the birth of the Catholic Church.
In Eastern Christianity, Pentecost can also refer to the entire fifty days of Passover through Pentecost inclusive; hence the book containing the liturgical texts for Paschaltide is called the “Pentecostarion”. Since its date depends on the date of the weekly Sabbath during the Feast of Unleavened Bread, Pentecost is a moveable feast.
The holy day is also called “White Sunday” or “Whitsunday”, especially in the United Kingdom, where traditionally the next day, Whit Monday, was also a public holiday (now fixed by statute on the last Monday in May). In Germany Pentecost is called “Pfingsten”, and often coincides with scholastic holidays and the beginning of many outdoor and springtime activities, such as festivals and organized outdoor activities by youth organizations. The Monday after Pentecost is a legal holiday in many European nations.
When Pentecost day came round, they had all met in one room, when suddenly they heard what sounded like a powerful wind from heaven, the noise of which filled the entire house in which they were sitting; and something appeared to them that seemed like tongues of fire; these separated and came to rest on the head of each of them. They were all filled with the Holy Spirit, and began to speak foreign languages as the Spirit gave them the gift of speech.
Now there were devout men living in Jerusalem from every nation under heaven, and at this sound they all assembled, each one bewildered to hear these men speaking his own language. They were amazed and astonished. ‘Surely’ they said ‘all these men speaking are Galileans? How does it happen that each of us hears them in his own native language? Parthians, Medes and Elamites; people from Mesopotamia, Judaea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya round Cyrene; as well as visitors from Rome – Jews and proselytes alike – Cretans and Arabs; we hear them preaching in our own language about the marvels of God.’
1 Corinthians 12:3-7,12-13
No one can say, ‘Jesus is Lord’ unless he is under the influence of the Holy Spirit.
There is a variety of gifts but always the same Spirit; there are all sorts of service to be done, but always to the same Lord; working in all sorts of different ways in different people, it is the same God who is working in all of them. The particular way in which the Spirit is given to each person is for a good purpose.
Just as a human body, though it is made up of many parts, is a single unit because all these parts, though many, make one body, so it is with Christ. In the one Spirit we were all baptised, Jews as well as Greeks, slaves as well as citizens, and one Spirit was given to us all to drink.
In the evening of the first day of the week, the doors were closed in the room where the disciples were, for fear of the Jews. Jesus came and stood among them. He said to them, ‘Peace be with you’, and showed them his hands and his side. The disciples were filled with joy when they saw the Lord, and he said to them again, ‘Peace be with you.
‘As the Father sent me,
so am I sending you.’
After saying this, He breathed on them and said:
‘Receive the Holy Spirit.
For those whose sins you forgive,
they are forgiven;
for those whose sins you retain,
they are retained.’
“There are different kinds of spiritual gifts but the same Spirit; there are different workings but the same God”
When I was a teenager, I used to envy all the ‘cool kids’ in my Christian youth group who could speak in tongues. Sadly, I was never blessed with the gift. When you’re an awkward teenager, trying to fit in is something that fills you with much angst. I remember I was inconsolable! What more proof did I need?! Even God didn’t think I belonged! Imagine what that does to a 15-yr old’s self-esteem? I felt so cast out!
I’ve since come to understand that “there are different kinds of spiritual gifts”. Like the proverbial image of the body of Christ having many parts, each of us has a role to play, and He gives us gifts to help us to succeed – “To each individual the manifestation of the Spirit is given for some benefit”. It’s taken some time for me to figure this out, but I think that mine might be the gift of nurturing. How can I be certain? Well, I can’t be for sure, but a deacon once told me to just ‘look at the fruit and see if it is good’. At the time, he was making a reference to a person’s authenticity. But the same filter can be applied to see if one’s pursuit is worthy of God. What is the fruit of our endeavour? Does it fulfil the conditions of what we know to be the “fruit of the Spirit” (Galatians 5:22-23) – love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control?
I’m glad I can’t speak in tongues. I would have been too self-conscious to do anything meaningful with it; it would have been wasted on me. I’m glad that instead, He gave me the gift of baking, of making wonderful dinners and organizing big family reunions. I’m glad God gave me the gift of patience, for when I have to deal with people who don’t always think of others first. I’m glad God gave me the gift of encouragement, for when people sit around my kitchen table spilling their tears with their wine. I’m glad God gave me the gift of meticulous organization, for those times when I have to multi-task and still stay on top of everything. I’m glad God gave me the time, the means and the inclination to be that person who is there to listen and offer a slice of cake, a mug of hot chocolate and a loving hug just when someone needs it most. Because the joy of being that person – of doing what He meant for me to do – has been the most fulfilling thing I’ve experienced ever, and I am so thankful for it!
(Today’s Oxygen by Sharon Soo)
Prayer: We pray for the Holy Spirit’s guidance in discerning the roles we are meant to play. Not everyone discovers it the first time around, but we pray that we all eventually find our way there.
Thanksgiving: We give thanks for the gifts He has bestowed on us, that help us to become who we were truly meant to be.