On Sunday May 20th Christians everywhere will be celebrating the birth of the church through the giving of the Holy Spirit. It is seven weeks after the resurrection that God sends the Holy Spirit throughout the world and the Christian Church, also known as the body of Christ, and the gospel begins to evolve from being a small group of disciples to a movement that spreads throughout Europe into Africa and Asia. For most Christians the festival of Pentecost is the beginning of summer and the transition from two services to one. Unfortunately, Pentecost isn’t given the same amount of pomp and circumstance as Christmas and Easter, but it should. Without the gift of the Holy Spirit Jesus’ mission would have shriveled up and died on the vine. Peter, Paul, and the other apostles were motivated, provoked, and led by the Spirit to proclaim the gospel in the face of incomprehensible odds.
The miracle of the good news of Jesus spreading throughout the known world is on par with the incarnation and the resurrection. In the incarnation and resurrection God, through the Holy Spirit, was able to lead Jesus on his radical ministry that changed the world. Through the giving of the Holy Spirit to all the world, God and the Son were able to us broken and fallen people to become the messengers of the gospel of Jesus. That the Holy Spirit is able to overcome our sins, our selfishness, our ignorance and build the church is just crazy awesome. When we look back over the last two thousand years and see what God has accomplished through just ordinary humans can make even the biggest pessimists see the glass half full.
When God sent the Holy Spirit in Acts chapter 2 we are told that there were devout Jews gathered there from all over the world, people of different languages, cultures and races. What they had in common is that they were devout Jews who had gathered in Jerusalem for the Jewish feast of Pentecost, which is a harvest celebration. The beginning of the church takes place at a moment of great diversity and a blessing on creation and the fruits of the field. The symbolism of choosing Pentecost as the time to give the Holy Spirit shouldn’t be overlooked. In the Spirit diversity is created, celebrated, and made holy. The birth of the church is combined with a celebration that God is inclusive and not sectarian. God is the God of all and all are welcome to his mission through Christ.
It would be safe to say that the significance of God sending the Holy Spirit during the festival of Pentecost was not lost on the disciples. Soon after chapter 2 the disciples begin to disperse throughout the Roman Empire proclaiming the gospel to all people, both Jew and Gentile. The belief was that the life, death, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus is for all people. Soon churches begin to pop up in Roman territories and are full of both Jews and Greeks. Differences were not ignored, but celebrated and unity in Christ was achieved.