As we think about and celebrate Pentecost, often referred to as being the “birth of the Church”, it can be all too easy to overlook the role of the Holy Spirit prior to that point. After all, it wasn’t as if he was sitting in the wings waiting to be called onto the stage! The Holy Spirit had been active in Creation (Genesis 1:1-2), in Old Testament history with leaders like Gideon (Judges 6:34), David (1 Samuel 16:13), the life and ministry of the prophets like Elijah, Isaiah, Elisha and so on and in the birth, life and ministry of Jesus (Luke 1:30-37; 4:1, 14; Acts 10:38).
On the day of Pentecost two significant changes took place:
- The Spirit would dwell in people and not just come on them, and
- His presence would be permanent, not temporary (John 14:16-17)
The Spirit could not have come sooner, for it was essential that Jesus die, be raised from the dead, and return to heaven before the Spirit could be given (John 7:37-39; 16:7ff). That picks up the nature of glorification that we spoke about recently at our last Bible study and also about the nature of the Trinity.
The presence of the Holy Spirit is manifest in several different ways:
- A sound like the blowing of a violent wind (Acts 2:2).
- An awareness of filling – the whole house where they were sitting, and individuals being filled with the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:2,4)
- The “tongues of fire” that separated and came to rest on them (Acts 2:3). I wonder if there are parallels between the fire of the burning bush and the tongues of fire – God making the profane Holy, the secular sacred? No wonder in 2 Timothy 1:6 we read “For this reason, I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you”
Then there are the implications of the Holy Spirit being at work:
- A coming together of people “from every nation under heaven”, both Jews and converts to Judaism (Acts 2:5,11) – unity.
- Understanding – each one heard their language being spoken, so in one voice, a voice that all could understand (Acts 2:6,8,11)
- Amazement – clearly God at work in a miraculous way (Acts 2:12)
- Praise and worship – each person declaring the wonders of God (Acts 2:11)
- Transformation – Peter being transformed from a simple fisherman into an eloquent orator and evangelist with an impressive command of scripture.
I rejoice in the gift of the Holy Spirit and his work in us today, and what an incredible gift He is! I rejoice when I see people who are open to the prompting of the Holy Spirit, where we see the Church acting with one accord, the gifts of the Spirit at work and the Fruit of the Spirit in abundance.
Most Wednesday mornings I have been able to be part of Ministers’ prayers, with representatives from most of the main Church denominations from across our locality. We typically have representatives from the Catholic Church, the United Reformed Church, the Methodist Church, the Anglican Church, and the Baptist Church. As a Local Ecumenical Partnership, we recognise that sense of oneness very well. The unity and accord that is tangible is such an incredible gift too. The Church must be one in essence, founded on one Gospel, and indwelt and empowered by one Spirit. It is from that position of unity that we can seek to lead others to faith and maturity as we journey as disciples together.
In our prayers, we should frequently ask for the Holy Spirit to guide us and equip us, that we too might see the outworking of the Holy Spirit’s indwelling in us. I often pray that the Holy Spirit might hover over our communities just as he did over the waters of creation, a time of incredible creativity, nurturing, unity and transformation. The Holy Spirit draws us into community as the Trinity is “in community”, truly valuing the gift that that is and should be.
I pray that people might be drawn into fellowship with a hunger and desire to know God. In a time of contradiction, division and often antagonism, seeing a community of believers acting with one accord, loving one another is distinctive, attractive and compelling. Seeing a community transformed is a wonderful thing too!
My heart yearning is that as we emerge from the Covid-19 lockdown and the associated restrictions, that the new normal that takes shape will demonstrate a revaluing in us and in our communities. May we pray that just as the Holy Spirit was active in Creation, that in this time of ‘reformation’ He may be active in that too, that we might emerge in unity mindful of the gift we are to one another and how precious we are to God. Amen