Holy Spirit, truth divine, dawn upon this soul of mine;
Word of God and inward light, wake my spirit, clear my sight.
- Samuel Longfellow
As church holidays go, Good Friday is more inspiring, Easter and Christ-mas better known, and Pentecost the most ignored - or associated only with those who take their religion a little too seriously. On this Pentecost Sunday, however, perhaps a closer look at the traditional Birthday of the Church will help both the uninformed and the uncomfortable understand what this day is all about.
Forty days had elapsed since Jesus rose from the grave. In a few hours He would leave the earth, and He had some final words for His disciples. Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature (Mark 16:15).
What a tall order for this group of fishermen, even if He were not going away. They wondered how they could carry on their Lords work without Him there, or why would He trust them with such a big assignment.
Jesus knew their thoughts, their weaknesses and their record. Hadnt they deserted Him during the crucifixion? In answer to their questions He spoke again: You will receive power after the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses. (Acts 1:8).
Is this what Hed meant when He promised to pray to the Father, and He will send you another Comforter to be with you forever? Was this the Holy Spirit who would teach them all things (John 14:16, 26)?
They pondered these and other words they didnt quite understand as they watched Him ascend into the clouds.
A few days later the disciples were together again for the Day of Pentecost, which the Jews had observed on the 50th day after Passover for generations. But there was nothing ordinary about this years celebration. Suddenly, there came a sound like a rushing, mighty wind... and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit... (Acts 2:24).
Much has been written, and debated, about what happened on that Day of Pente-cost, but no one disputes what happened to the disciples. The former cowardly, ineffective men left the house where they were as-sembled and preached that gospel all over the known world.
The charismatic movement, a resurging interest in the Holy Spirit, blew across the world some 30 years ago like a modern Pentecostal wind. Christians were tagged spirit-filled or just nominal believers, and our Maine church was one of many to experience the great divide.
Those were spiritually wrenching years. Like many, I saw the need for more enthusiasm or Pentecostal power in the church, but I also saw the need to integrate the whole Bible rather than elevate one part above the rest. A few began speaking in tongues, some left the church, and bewilderment settled over the rest. How could we know if the Holy Spirit of God were filling us, or passing us by?
When the prophet Elijah experienced a similar crisis God took him aside and answered his prayer. A wind, an earthquake, and a fire passed by, but the Scriptures tell us, The Lord was not in the wind... the earthquake... the fire..., but in a still, small voice (I Kings 19:11-12).
My own still, small voice came in the memories of Sunday school lessons and well-rooted messengers of God who patiently taught and affirmed my faith. I remembered one lesson in particular:
In one form or another God is and always has been with us. In the beginning He often communed in person with our forefathers. Then, as the Son of God, He came to Earth to live for 33 years. Now, Hes here as the ever-present Holy Spirit. If thats difficult to understand, just think of the Holy Spirit as "God in the present tense.
Whatever the Holy Spirit is, He is not the bestower of depression, feelings of un-worthiness, or division in the church He brought to life. He is just what Jesus said He was: the Comforter, who will be with you forever.
(Barbara Seaborn is a local free-lance writer. E-mail comments to seabara@ aol.com.)
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