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Come, Holy Spirit!

April 25, 2012

The following is adapted from an upcoming article from the St. Peter’s Lutheran Church newsletter.

On Sunday, May 27th, we will gather for worship at 9:30 a.m., many of us wearing red, to celebrate Pentecost.  Through the centuries, the importance of Pentecost has waned.  Easter has maintained its appropriate position as the center of our faith; Christmas has grown in importance.  But Pentecost is best viewed as second only to Easter.  After all, it is in the coming of the Holy Spirit that we are able to apprehend the meaning of Easter.  It is by the Holy Spirit’s calling that we are able to be the church.

So what is Pentecost?  In Keeping Time: The Church’s Year (Minneapolis: Augsburg Fortress, 2009) Gail Ramshaw and Mons Teig note that just as each “Sunday is the eighth day, the new day for the Christian life, so Pentecost is the eighth Easter, Christ’s giving over of his Spirit to the church.”  Pentecost, which means “fifty,” is the fiftieth day of Easter.  On that day, the Father and Son poured out the Spirit upon the believers gathered in Jerusalem.  They go forth into the city, Peter preaches the first Christian sermon, and the rest is history (Acts 2).  Today we still gather only because the Spirit makes it possible.  We preach Christ – crucified and raised – only because the Spirit compels and enables us to do so.

Many people were in Jerusalem to hear Peter’s sermon that day because Pentecost was already a Jewish festival.  Shavuot, or the Festival of Weeks, marks the fifty days from Passover to the giving of the Law on Mount Sinai.  Just as God had once delivered his people from bondage in Egypt and then graced them with the Law in preparation for entering the Promised Land, so now has God delivered his people from bondage to sin, death, and the devil.  Fifty days later, however, God does not give a new law.  God gives a life of freedom empowered by the gifts of the Spirit and the ongoing presence of the Spirit herself.

Pentecost therefore brings the fulfillment of the promises of Easter.  Christ was raised on Easter; fifty days later the church was raised up to share in the power of Jesus’ resurrection.  As people whose lives are marked by the festivals of Easter and Pentecost – whose existences are defined by the fact that Christ is alive and we are alive by his Spirit – we continue to gather by the Spirit for works of the Spirit.  As Christ spoke peace and breathed out the Spirit on the first Easter night (John 20) so now as people of Pentecost do we go forth speaking peace and offering the gift of forgiveness that the Spirit brings.

In his explanation of the Third Article of the Apostles’ Creed, Martin Luther writes: “I believe that by my own understanding or strength I cannot believe in Jesus Christ my Lord or come to him, but instead the Holy Spirit has called me through the gospel, enlightened me with his gifts, made me holy and kept me in the true faith, just as he calls, gathers, enlightens, and makes holy the whole Christian church on earth.”  Thank God for Pentecost!  Thanks be to the Spirit who creates the church, enables me to have faith in Christ, fills me with God’s good gifts, and sends me forth for the sake of the world.  May God continue to pour out his Spirit that the gospel of Jesus Christ would go forth to all the world with grace and peace.  Come, Holy Spirit!

“This Jesus God raised up, and of that all of us are witnesses. Being therefore exalted at the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, he has poured out this that you both see and hear.”  Acts 2:32-33

From → Odds and Ends

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