Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Why does Pentecost matter? (2)

The Church is central in God’s work in this world – through the power of the indwelling Spirit.

We are busy thinking about what difference it makes to us today that the first Christians were filled with the Holy Spirit 2000 years ago on the Jewish festival of Pentecost. The first difference was that we all received “the indwelling and power of the Spirit”.

The second reason why Pentecost matters, is that we now know that the Church is central in God’s work in our world.

We know that the Holy Spirit was poured out on individual disciples of Jesus, including his biological brothers and his mother, as they were patiently waiting upon the fulfillment of the promise Jesus made to them about the coming of the Spirit. They were praying continuously as they together waited upon the Lord to fill them and share the power of the resurrected Christ with them by baptizing them with the Spirit of God.

And then we see clearly how this gathering on the Pentecost day is turned into the first congregation of the Christian Church as they all received the power of the Holy Spirit. On the very first Sunday, new believers were baptized as they were initiated into the Church. Along with the first disciples they also shared in becoming a Christian community or family.
They taught, broke bread, prayed and enjoyed such a special fellowship that more and more came to join in their faith and in celebrating the resurrected Jesus. They cheerfully gave of their belongings to feed the hungry and maintain the ministry of Word and Sacrament. And “the Lord daily added to their number those who were being saved” (Acts 2:47). Pentecost matters, because it tells us about the birthday and role of the church.

The Spirit could have been given to individuals praying on their own, in their homes during their quiet times. But this was not God’s plan and strategy for his work.

It was no coincidence that the congregation was praying together when the Spirit was poured out. This first mother church would be the root from which the Church of our Lord would grow. Their experience on the first Pentecost teaches that the Church is central to God’s work and plan through the power of the Holy Spirit that dwells in the Church. Paul therefore calls the Church the Temple of God in which the Spirit dwells. (1 Cor 3.)

Pentecost matters because it clearly shows us what place the Church of the Lord has in our personal relationship with God and for our worship. The truth found throughout Scripture is, that the Church in which the Spirit dwells, is central to the Father’s work in the world and is central to our worship, growth and service too.

Pentecost insists that we reflect on our own participation in the work, mission and life of the Church of God. We need to continuously renew our covenant with the God of grace, received at baptism and confirmed by our public confession of faith, to live as a contributing member of the body of Christ.

Pentecost calls us to build the Church of our Lord by preaching the Word, sharing in her holy sacraments and spreading the love, power and justice of Jesus Christ across the world.

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