“When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place. And suddenly, from heaven came a sound like the rush of a violent wind filling the entire house where they were sitting. Divided tongues, as of fire, appeared among them, and a tongue rested on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages, as the Spirit gave them ability.” (Acts 2:1-4, NRSVue)
“When it was evening on that day, the first day of the week, and the doors were locked where the disciples were for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said, ‘Peace be with you… As the Father has sent me, so I send you.’ When he said this, he breathed on them and said, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit.’” (John 2019-20, 21b-22, NRSVue)
This coming Sunday is Pentecost—the day commemorating the fulfillment of Jesus’ promise to send his Holy Spirit to the disciples to empower their witnesses to the world. Pentecost is fifty days after Easter, as indicated by the “pente” part of the word. Luke, who wrote both the Gospel of Luke and the Book of Acts, says the Spirit descended upon the disciples in ways resembling wind and fire, mysteriously transporting them from the safety of the Upper Room into the city street. The Spirit further enabled them to share the gospel of Jesus Christ in the native languages spoken by those who had come from around the known world to celebrate the Jewish harvest festival of Shavuot. It must have been a chaotic scene.
John’s gospel talks about the Spirit’s coming in a little different way. On Easter evening, Jesus appeared to his disciples and spoke a gentle word of peace, assuring them that everything would be okay. No wind or fire in this version—just his breath. This manifestation of the Holy Spirit was much calmer than the episode in Acts.
Rev. Dr. Derek Weber writes of the contrasting revelations of the Spirit:
“Observing both the loud and the quiet Pentecost, a uniting presence is celebrated on this day. Barriers and divisions are overcome. Differences become signs of the artistry of God and not reasons to be afraid. Strangers are not enemies to be opposed but sisters and brothers to be embraced and included. Pentecost is a day where we remember that Spirit, wind, and breath are all part of the same experience and that life itself is a gift from God and a sign of God’s goodness and presence in our lives. We share the need to breathe; the same wind impacts us; we share the same Spirit. Let us breathe in our unity and celebrate our oneness with God and one another. Pentecost is the day Jesus breathed [his Spirit] on us, [empowering us to be his witnesses].”
Join us this Sunday as we experience the joy and mystery of the Spirit of God at work in our midst, calling us to be his witnesses to a world desperately in need of the salvation that only Jesus Christ can bring. And don’t forget to invite your friends as we celebrate the beautiful ways God breathes his Spirit into us.