Thursday, June 6, 2019

Where are you this Pentecost?

I’ve been thinking about breathing a lot lately.  Because my mom has end-stage COPD (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease), we are beginning to accumulate various fans for her, because when you have trouble breathing, sometimes the airflow from fans eases the struggle to breathe.

Whenever I exercise, I think about this with every deep breath I have to take to continue my workout.  I think about how precious the simple act of breathing actually is and how we take it for granted, because for most of us, it comes without difficulty.

All this pondering about flowing air is rather timely now that we are celebrating Pentecost.  Pentecost is 50 days after the resurrection of Jesus (Easter) and is often called the birthday of the Church.  It is the day that the Holy Spirit came down upon the apostles in the upper room.

This event is beautifully described in the second chapter of the Acts of the Apostles, which can be found in the New Testament.

Forty days after his resurrection, Acts chapter 1 describes Jesus going up to heaven, an event called the Ascension.  Before his ascension, Jesus promised to send help—the Holy Spirit.  His promise is fulfilled ten days after his ascension, on Pentecost, when his followers receive the Holy Spirit.

Why did Jesus send the Holy Spirit?  He knew we would need some help.  The Holy Spirit brings with him many gifts that the Church needs.

Jesus knew his apostles would be frightened by his death, that they would need courage and strength to continue on; he also knew that they would need someone to guide them.

In Acts chapter 1, we are told that Jesus appeared for forty days after his resurrection, presenting “himself alive to them by many proofs after he had suffered,” during which time he spoke about the kingdom of God. 

Acts describes Pentecost this way:

“When the time for Pentecost was fulfilled, they were all in one place together.  And suddenly there came from the sky a noise like a strong driving wind, and it filled the entire house in which they were.  Then there appeared to them tongues as of fire, which parted and came to rest on each one of them.  And they were all filled with the holy Spirit and began to speak in different tongues, as the Spirit enabled them to proclaim.”

While this “strong driving wind” is significantly greater than the breath that I have been pondering lately, it is the breath of the Holy Spirit that animates our very life.

While we cannot actually see the Holy Spirit, we can see the effects of his presence all around us.  A common way to describe it is using the analogy of the wind.  While I can see the leaves of a tree moving because the wind is blowing through it, I cannot actually see the wind itself.

When we encounter someone whose passion and love for the Lord causes them to move in ways that cause us to pause and wonder, we might just be witnessing the Holy Spirit in action.

In fact, chapter 2 of Acts shows us how radical the Holy Spirit’s impact on us can be, when it describes Peter’s speech at Pentecost where he had to point out to the people that they (the apostles) were “not drunk, as you suppose, for it is only nine o’clock in the morning.”

How excited they must have been after receiving the Holy Spirit in that upper room!  Following Pentecost, the Acts of the Apostles takes us through all that the first community of followers did.  As they were bravely stepping out of that upper room, the Church was being born!

This weekend as we celebrate this great event, we, too, are renewed in our own baptism when we received the Holy Spirit on our special day.

If you are not baptized, but would like to know more about it, just call your local, friendly church and they can direct you to someone to talk about it. No pressure.

But for those of us that are already baptized, one question remains:  Have I been open to the Holy Spirit’s animation of my life, like those in the early church?

The breath of the Holy Spirit in us is not something we should take for granted, and it isn’t switched on like a fan (although in Peter’s case you could argue it was!)

The ideal arrangement is when we receive the Holy Spirit, are open to his promptings, and willingly act accordingly.   If this does not describe where you are on this Pentecost, all you have to do is ask, and God will pour out his grace to get things moving.

In fact, you may even find he takes your breath away!

Happy Pentecost!
Janet Cassidy

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