Do you enjoy celebrating birthdays? Do you enjoy birthday parties? I usually do, unless it’s my own. Birthday parties are intended to be joyful occasions. We celebrate birthdays for everything that is important to us, and that includes extremely joyous memories, but it can also be a birthday of an extremely sorrowful event, such as the holocaust, or the day that Pearl Harbor was bombed or 9/11. In our short pilgrimage of life on this earth, we store up good memories and not-so good memories of dates.
On this day called the Day of Pentecost we celebrate the birthday of the Church of Jesus Christ. And on this first birthday, which was fifty days after Easter, the first parish and the first (one) holy catholic church was born. It was an extremely joyful day, overwhelming the early disciples who realized that the Holy Spirit was sent as a powerful reminder of things to come, as a first-fruit of the beginnings of the church.
We are told that on this Day of Pentecost, 50 days after Easter Day, and 10 days after the Ascension of Jesus into Heaven, the disciples were all gathered together in an upper room, prayerfully waiting as instructed by Jesus, to receive the promised Holy Spirit that will create, transform, empower and commission the church, to be a sort of first fruits offering unto the Lord. And, when the fire of the Holy Spirit rested on this early group of followers of Jesus, they were met by something so powerful, a force that overwhelmed them with a fire of joy and tremendous awesomeness that totally changed them into witnesses that began to share the “good news” of the love of Jesus to the world, beginning in Jerusalem and working to the ends of the world as they understood the world at that time.
The disciples began speaking in unknown languages. People who witnessed this event, witnessed an act of God, like a fiery furnace that overflowed into the streets of the city below. The observers who were all gathered for the Feast of First Fruits, from all parts of the known world, the diaspora of Jews that had escaped from the persecution of the Romans, and fled to all parts of the world, but gathered here to celebrate one of the important feasts of Judaism. They were overwhelmed with awe because they heard people speaking in a multitude of languages, and they also recognized that some of them were speaking in the various languages of the observers.
Faithful Jews were required to travel to Jerusalem for three major feasts, Passover, the Feast of First Fruits, which was 50 days after Passover and at the Feast of Tents or In-gathering that would be the final harvest celebration in the late fall. In the Christian faith we connect Easter with the Feast of Passover, First Fruits with Pentecost (Pentecost means 50. So, Pentecost is 50 days after Easter). The Feast of In-gathering at the end of summer harvest time can be viewed in the Christian faith as the gathering of the disciples from all parts of this world.
The promise of the coming of the Holy Spirit is for all people. And, it is clearly our responsibility to share the good news about what God has done for us, and to invite people to join into this blessing, a blessing that brings joy and laughter. A time to say, come journey with us as we follow Jesus and welcome others to enjoy the blessings of Pentecost.
And as the prophet Joel exclaimed: “In the last days it will be that I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh, and your sons and your daughters will prophecy, and your young men and women shall see visions, and your old men and women shall dream dreams.” (Acts 2:17; Joel 2:28)
I am reminded of one of the Psalms of Ascent, a psalm that was sung by the people of Jesus time as they traveled to Jerusalem to celebrate one of the major feast times, and this time specifically, the Feast of the First-Fruits, or as refer to this Feast as the Day of Pentecost.
When the Lord turned again, the captivity of Zion. We were like them that dream.
Then was our mouth filled with laughter, and our tongue with singing.
Then said they among the nations, the Lord has done great things for them.
The Lord has done great things for us, whereof we are glad.
They that go forth weeping, bearing precious seed,
Shall doubtless come again, bringing their sheaves with them. (Psalm 126)
Today we celebrate the Blessed Day of Pentecost, the birthday of the Church of Jesus Christ.
The Reverend Dr. David Madsen