by Lauren Lye
What is Pentecost and what does it mean for us today? The readings for the Feast of Pentecost not only describes the events that took place many many years ago, but it also speaks of who the Holy Spirit is; illuminating the transforming power of the Holy Spirit and that of Christ’s life. It moved the apostles from a place of fear, to hearts of courage and freedom that empowered them to spread the Good News when the power of the Holy Spirit was breathed into them.
Perhaps many of us can relate to the Apostles in the upper room – who knew Jesus, journeyed with Him, believed in Him and loved Him, but upon His death and “disappearance”, were left in despair, isolation, confusion and fear, locking themselves in the upper room. When things go wrong in our own lives, or when we experience loss or heartbreak, we too are often left with feelings of despair, fear and may even begin to doubt Jesus.
The story of Pentecost brings us into this very struggle. Though the disciples had journeyed with Jesus, encountered Him and witnessed His works, they struggled to not only truly believe that He would be resurrected, but to fully fathom what that would mean. They had already encountered the Holy Spirit through Jesus, but had yet to recognise Him as the One Jesus had spoken of as advocate, paraclete, comforter and friend.
“ And I will ask the Father, and He will give you another advocate to help you and be with you forever— the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept Him, because it neither sees Him nor knows Him. But you know Him, for He lives with you and will be in you. I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you. Before long, the world will not see me anymore, but you will see me. Because I live, you also will live. On that day you will realise that I am in my Father, and you are in me, and I am in you.” (John 14:15-21)
The Holy Spirit is not something, but someone; not just an embodiment of the characteristics of a person, but of a personhood. In that same upper room, amidst the prayers and fear of the Apostles, was the fulfilment of Jesus’ promise, the promise of the Holy Spirit, and thus the birth of the Church, “And suddenly from heaven there came a sound like the rush of a violent wind, and it filled 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)
In the descent of the Holy Spirit, the outpouring of the living love of the Father and Son, transformed the Apostles in the upper room. It was a revelation of who the Spirit truly is that changed and transformed them. They recognised in that moment that Jesus had not left them as their relationship with Christ was also the same relationship with the Holy Spirit. There was a renewal of courage and of faith, as the Spirit was poured into them. It was an experience that could not be contained or kept hidden in that room, but one that was to be shared not because they had to, but because they knew that the Spirit living in them was Christ, and they couldn’t help but be moved to share Him with the world.
Scripture says, “You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. People do not light a lamp and put it under the bushel basket; rather, they put it on the lampstand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven.” (Matthew 4:14)
Once we encounter Christ and are filled with the Holy Spirit, we too are transformed and no longer feel the need to live in fear and despair, but experience a desire to come out of our own upper rooms and live as renewed people and disciples of Christ. Indeed a true encounter with Jesus changes the way we live our lives entirely. As such, through the outpouring of the Holy Spirit the Lord equips us to be bearers of the Good News to our friends and family and beyond. The Apostles received many gifts from the Holy Spirit and were equipped for the mission of spreading the Good News. Like them, we too are bestowed with the gifts of the Holy Spirit and therefore empowered to do what Christ calls us to do.
The descent of the Holy Spirit is not isolated to just the experience of the Apostles in the upper room, but is happening right now. In this moment, we too are renewed with the same fire and power that descended on each of the Apostles. At Pentecost, we are reminded that we are constantly being restored in faith and courage because God knows how often we forget, doubt and turn away from Him.
My brothers and sisters, in each of us lives the Holy Spirit, in each of us is a gift that is purposed for the good of others. This is the call for us today as Christians – to recognise that we have a relationship with a Living God, to walk in the power of the Holy Spirit and to preach this Good News to others. Let us be fully alive in Him everyday! I pray that we too make our lives an upper room for the Lord – to be constantly filled with the power of the Holy Spirit, and to make God known to all the world. “Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.” (Matthew 28:19-20)
Main image credit: The Southern Cross