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When the Holy Spirit came

When the Holy Spirit came When the Holy Spirit came
The Rev. Kathy Brumbaugh, Special Writer

Background text: John 20:21-22

Devotional text: Acts 2:39

Sunday will be the celebration of Pentecost in Christian churches around the world. Celebrated seven weeks after Easter, it is the culmination of the waiting period by the disciples of Christ to receive the power of the Holy Spirit.

In Acts 2, we read about the disciples all together in one place when they suddenly heard a strong wind and tongues of fire alighted above their heads. They began to speak the good news of salvation in Jesus by speaking in many languages they did not know or understand.

Yet, the Jewish pilgrims in Jerusalem for the Feast of Weeks (Jewish celebration of Pentecost), who had come from many countries far and wide, understood Christ’s salvation in their own language, as spoken by the disciples.

It is said 3,000 new believers were added that day. And so, the coming of the Holy Spirit is known as the beginning of the church of Jesus Christ, as well as the powerful indwelling of the Holy Spirit to all believers.

How do we reconcile these verses in Acts with the verses in John 20:21-22? Some say Jesus didn’t really breathe the Spirit on his disciples in the John passage; he was just preparing them for what to come. They use this explanation for the awe-inspiring entrance of the Holy Spirit in Acts 2.

I don’t think so. Being a minister for a number of years, I have found that even today not all people understand the indwelling of the Spirit. People need to be educated about the Holy Spirit: the gifts, the fruits, the works, mentioned over and over in the New Testament. It has even been suggested that the Book of Acts of the Apostles can also be called the Acts of the Holy Spirit through the Apostles.

When Jesus appeared to his disciples following his resurrection, he breathed on them the Holy Spirit. He explained that the Holy Spirit would be their counselor, teacher, protector and guide. We tell our congregants the same today.

All that is good, nice and encouraging, but now what?

Yes, we can — and do — feel the Holy Spirit within us, nudging us to do the right thing and bringing to our minds of the righteousness of God’s mercy. However, we don’t really know the Holy Spirit until we act on the Spirit’s work in our lives. It is when we personally feel the power of the Spirit that we begin to understand the power and truths of God.

So it was on Pentecost. The disciples were not so different from believers today. Although they heard the teachings of Jesus from himself, as we read the gospel stories we find they were confused, not really understanding everything he said. It was all new to them. They did not have the New Testament as we do today. They were the believers who experienced it all for the first time.

Today, we know that as we believe the Holy Spirit comes upon us. We are told about the Holy Spirit. We are directed to Bible passages about the Holy Spirit, and, if we take to heart these teachings, allowing the Holy Spirit to nudge us and lead us, we begin to see how the Spirit acts in our lives each day.

After the resurrection, the power of the Spirit was basically not understood by the disciples. Just as Jesus explained to them his death and resurrection, they heard but did not understand until it came to pass. It was the same on that day of Pentecost so long ago.

A sudden, loud wind, the tongues of fire, the gift of speaking in various languages that coincided with those who were in Jerusalem for the Jewish holiday all came together in such power and grace that the disciples of Christ experienced the Holy Spirit as never before, and the church exploded with new believers.

Today, we are used to wearing red clothing to church on Pentecost Sunday in remembrance of that day so long ago. Some churches have red helium-filled balloons around the sanctuary and blowing in the breeze as they are tied outside of the building. Some churches try to re-create the sound of the wind. Others make headbands with tongues of flame in the center to wear. It’s a great celebration, the coming of the Holy Spirit upon all believers, forever.

Most of us will not have this celebration this year because our churches are temporarily closed due to the novel coronavirus. Does that mean we cannot celebrate? Does that mean the Holy Spirit is not among us?

As people of God, we will celebrate. It may not be in the same way as we have on prior Pentecosts, but we will celebrate. We can still wear red clothing. We can put out red balloons. We can read the scriptures in our own homes. We can watch live messages from our pastors. There are many creative ways we can celebrate this day of the Holy Spirit.

Is the Holy Spirit still with us today? Of course. Jesus sent the Spirit to us as Counselor, Comforter, Guide and more. In Isaiah 11:1-2, the prophet tells us about the gifts of the Spirit being “wisdom and understanding, counsel and power, of knowledge and the fear of the Lord.”

In the New Testament, Paul wrote in Romans 12 about what it means to live in the Spirit: “lives that are holy and pleasing to God.” In 1 Corinthians 12, he wrote to us of the different gifts given to us by the same Holy Spirit. The gifts written about here include wisdom, knowledge, faith, healing, miraculous powers, prophecy, distinguishment between spirits, speaking in tongues and interpretation of tongues.

“Each is given as the Spirit determines,” wrote Paul.

Going to Paul’s letter to the believers in Ephesus, chapter 4, his list of gifts from the Spirit also include calling some to be apostles, prophets and evangelists, as well as pastors and teachers.

The Apostle Peter wrote to us in 1 Peter 4:10 to use our gifts to serve others. He adds to the list of gifts those of hospitality and caring for one another. Above all, Peter reminds us the greatest gift from God is love. We are to do all things in the love of God, for God loves us.

Pentecost is here. The Holy Spirit is still with us. Let us celebrate God’s love for us as we recognize his gift.

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