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Why we celebrate the Feast of Pentecost

“When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all gathered in one place.” Acts 2:1

Pentecost existed before Pentecost.

The Jews had always been celebrating the Feast of Pentecost. Traditionally it was mid-summer feast, marking the end of the barley harvest. In the time of Jesus, the feast celebrated the giving of the law and the covenant at Mt Sinai. It commemorated the events in Exodus 19-20.

According to the Scriptures, the law was given fifty days after the Passover. As a text from the Hebrew liturgy of Shauoth says, “This day of the Feast of Weeks is the time of the gift of Torah.”

Pentecost is associated with the history of salvation (God’s work in our history in providing salvation). Just as at Mt Sinai, the people became a kingdom of priests through the law, in the new Pentecost, the people became a people of God, a Church, through the giving of the Spirit. The OT promises came to pass e.g. “I will write it in their hearts…” (Jer 31:33), “A new heart I will give you…,” “a new spirit I will put within you…” (Ezek 36:26-27). Paul said the same, “The law of the Spirit of life in Jesus Christ has set me free from the law of sin and death.” (Romans 8:2)

If this is understood, then properly speaking, Pentecost is Salvation Day! Peter stood up and gave an evangelistic message. It is not just a day to celebrate the gifts or revealed/ experienced power of the Spirit, but the birth and work of the Church.

Having understood this, we also need to be reminded of how mission became the first and immediate fruit of the birth of the church. And indeed, how central the work and power of the Spirit is to all this! It is when the Spirit is working in our hearts and lives, that there is a ‘life’ to share.

The Apostles were instructed by Jesus Himself and witnessed the death, resurrection and ascension. However, it was only after the Spirit came on them that they were able to do what the church is called to do.

What should our posture be? Just as the disciples were praying, we need to do likewise. Praying may seem such an ‘inactive activity,’ and yet it is always a prelude to some significant work of God in our lives. Just as the disciples were patiently waited, likewise we should learn to wait for the promises of God to unfold. Just as the disciples were boldly proclaiming (in tongues, in words), likewise we should not be afraid to step out and exercise our faith. In this continual pandemic season, more than ever, we need His power that we may be effective witnesses.

The Church does not superstitiously observe days, merely as days, but as memorials of important events in our history. They are not meant to concentrate our attention on a few days, only to forget about them for the rest of the year. Pentecost gave birth and continually marked the nature of the Church. She is a community of His presence.

May we experience Pentecost afresh - i.e. the presence and power of the Spirit - every time we gather.

The Collect for Pentecost Sunday:

Almighty God

who on the day of Pentecost

sent your Holy Spirit to the disciples

with the wind from heaven and in tongues of flame,

filing them with joy and boldness to preach the Gospel:

send us out in the power of the same Spirit

to witness to your truth and to draw all men to the fire of your love;

through Jesus Christ our Lord.



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