Sponsor spotlight: What is Pentecost?

Pentecost is one of the high holy days of the Christian calendar. It falls this year on May 19.

Ten days before Pentecost is the feast of the Ascension (May 9 this year), when Christians celebrate the ascension of Jesus to the right hand of the Father. “It is good that I go away,” Jesus told his disciples, “for I will send you the Comforter to be with you” (John 16:7). And then he told them to return to Jerusalem to wait for the coming of the Spirit.

And so, 10 days later, the disciples were gathered in an upper room somewhere in Jerusalem. As Jews, they were observing the feast of Shavuoth, which celebrated the beginning of the wheat harvest and also the giving of the law to Moses on Mt. Sinai.

Suddenly, as they prayed together, the Holy Spirit fell upon them in what seemed like a roaring wind and tongues of flame. The disciples found they could speak, miraculously, in languages they had never learned, and they went out to the streets of Jerusalem and preached the good news of Jesus’ resurrection to all those gathered in the city for Shavuoth. Everyone who heard was amazed, for each of them heard the message in his or her native tongue.

Christians commemorate this event on Pentecost, so named because it is 50 days after Easter. (The Greek word for fifty is penteconta).

The outpouring of the Holy Spirit on Pentecost marks the beginning of the church. Interestingly, the gift of the law, celebrated on Shavuoth, was the inaugural event of the nation of Israel, and on this same day came the gift of the Holy Spirit, the inaugural event of the church

Pentecost is the day the Father and the Son sent the Spirit to the disciples in the upper room, the day the church was born because of the coming of the Spirit. Pentecost is the day that tongues of flame settled on the heads of the disciples and loosened the tongues of their mouths to speak in languages they had never learned.

In His death and resurrection, Jesus reversed the curse that Adam had brought upon the human race, drawing all people to Himself because sin was no longer a barrier. In His descent on Pentecost, the Holy Spirit reversed the curse of Babel, drawing all people together because language was no longer a barrier. All the things that separate us from God and from one another are eradicated by the work of Jesus on the cross and the work of the Holy Spirit in our hearts and minds and lives.

Pentecost marks the end of the season of Easter and the beginning of the season called Ordinary Time. It is a bridge from the life of Jesus to the life of the church, from the first half of the church year, when we celebrate the life of Christ, to the second half of the church year, when we celebrate the work of the Holy Spirit empowering God’s people to be the hands and feet and voice of Jesus right here, right now.

— By K.C. Ireton, author of The Circle of Seasons: Meeting God in the Church Year and parishioner at Holy Trinity Edmonds

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