The word Pentecost shows up in the New Testament only a few times. When it does it’s simply a marker. Both Luke and Paul use it to identify a date on the calendar in reference to an Old Testament feast. However, on one of those days, everything changed. In the first few verses of Acts 2 Luke writes:
When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place. Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came 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 of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them.
That was, as they say, a game changer. On that day the meaning of Pentecost was transformed. It would no longer be used to reference an Old Testament Feast, but would now, and throughout the church age, be the day that the Holy Spirit moved. The day that sounds like a violent wind blew through and filled not only the house they were meeting in, but the believers themselves with the presence of God.
The arrival of the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost was unexpected. The believers were gathered to pray, and to figure out what to do next. Jesus had in fact risen. They knew that they had a task ahead of them, but how would they be able to get it done? That question was answered when the Spirit blew through that room and empowered them for ministry. We too, can, and should, expect the unexpected. Expect the presence of God to come and fill us and empower us for the work ahead.
The Spirit’s presence that day was catalytic. What had been thus far a collection of individuals, became a community. The church was birthed as the wind of the Spirit ignited the hearts of those first believers. They became of “one heart and one mind”. Community was forged by the breath of the Holy Spirit.
Possibly, more than anything else, the movement of the Holy Spirit was empowering. Those first followers of Jesus were empowered that day to advance the Kingdom of God. Fear, doubt and confusion gave way to boldness, clarity and conviction. They would, from this day forth, be empowered to do the thing that Jesus had given them to do:
… go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.
As we consider Pentecost, what might it mean to us today? That we should expect the unexpected. That the Holy Spirit “hovers over the deep” and always has. The Spirit broods, waits, looks and longs to fill us afresh with the power of Pentecost. To release in this, and every generation of believers the breath of renewal and a fresh sense of purpose. That presence will always be catalytic. The Spirit unites. In a divisive world the answer doesn’t lie in new policies or different leaders. The only real solution is the wind of the Holy Spirit. And yes, The Spirit empowers. We are no different than those early believers. We too, have been given a task. We too need the breath of the Spirit to get it done. The church today can be a breath of hope, a light, an oasis of healing, peace and rest in a wearing and tearing world. But only with Pentecost. Only with that wind of the Holy Spirit can the church be what it is called to be.