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Birthday of the Church

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A Descending Fire

The text for this week is John 15:26-27, 16:4-15.  This is the text that describes the arrival of the Holy Spirit.  The church commemorates this day as the Feast of Pentecost.  The word Pentecost comes from the Greek word  Pentēkostē, meaning “fiftieth”.  This word is used because Pentecost is always celebrated on the 50th. day after Easter Sunday.  It is commonly regarded as the “birthday of the Church”. 

The text in the Gospel reading is not as dramatic as that in Acts 2:1-21.  This is the scene where tongues of fire descend upon the Apostles.  John is much less dramatic, yet the importance is just as real.  Jesus has promised an Advocate, or helper to assist His followers.  This Advocate embodies the Spirit of truth.  This is a descending fire regardless of whether it is explicitly described as such.

The Role of the Spirit

The Holy Spirit has the role of testifying on behalf of Jesus.  This is necessary because Jesus is returning to the Father.  This is not a thing that should bring sorrow.  We may not understand God’s plan and why He does things the way that He does, but we do not need to.  We simply need to trust.  We should be comforted that although Jesus must leave this earth, God has sent this Advocate to be with us. 

The Holy Spirit will be there to assist in proclaiming the Good News of our Lord and Savior Jesus the Christ.  Verse 13 makes all this clear, “When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth; for he will not speak on his own, but will speak whatever he hears, and he will declare to you the things that are to come.”.  That is we will be informed of what we need to proclaim, when we need to proclaim it.  The Holy Spirit will work with us as God always does, in His word revealed in Scripture , and in the people, God places in our lives.  This is proclamation in its widest form.  It encompasses the entirety of our witness, in thought, word, and deed.  The Holy Spirit will take what  belongs to Jesus and declare it to us, thus giving us what we need to be effective witnesses to God’s saving grace through Jesus Christ. 

Proclamation is the Church

The ability and help needed to proclaim God’s good and gracious word is the essence of the Church.  We are not a church if we do not witness to our faith in all we are and do.  To proclaim, to serve and to invite, is what it means to be the church.  God has always called His people to proclaim boldly His love, forgiveness, and redemptive grace.  Knowing that we need assistance in doing this is why God has given us this Advocate.

Therefore it is entirely appropriate to use the arrival of the Holy Spirit as marking the birthday of the church.  Emboldened with this Advocate, and given the strength via this Advocate to go forth and give witness to the glory of God is what makes the church the church.  It is after the arrival of the Holy Spirit, so dramatically described in Luke, that the Apostles go forth into the world and begin to proclaim and to bring people to God through Jesus.  All of this marks the moment when Jesus’s first followers went forth and changed the world. 

We too, all these centuries later, can draw upon the power of the Holy Spirit to go forth and continually change the world.  Let the power of this Advocate, this Spirit of Truth descend upon you and light a fire under your backside.  Then go forth in faith to witness to all that God has done for humanity, and invite others into relationship with a God who loves us beyond measure.  Use Pentecost to mark the day when you believed, then obeyed.

Praise Be to God

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