Pentecost and Spiritual Gifts

Unlike Christmas and Easter, hardly any of us anticipated Pentecost Sunday—which we celebrated on May 27—as an important holiday. But the events commemorated by Pentecost are just as crucial to our faith and spiritual life as those marked by Christmas and Easter. Seven weeks after Easter, we move on to the season of Pentecost—a celebration of the Holy Spirit, the breath of God, the One who moves in mysterious ways.

Here’s how it went down: The remaining disciples were staying in Jerusalem. Jesus had told them to wait, though for what exactly they didn’t know. In his typically cryptic way, Jesus had told them “I am going to send you what my Father has promised; but stay in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high” (Luke 24:49). I can almost hear the disciples (I mostly imagine Peter’s voice, probably just because he was the resident loudmouth): “Right, Jesus. Ok. What specifically did you mean by ‘what the Father has promise’? He’s kinda made a lot of promises… And when exactly will we be ‘clothed with power’? And what’s that going to look like?”  But Jesus isn’t around to answer any of their questions. They end up waiting in Jerusalem for about fifty days, and I’m sure they were getting tired of waiting. But then, “Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them” (Acts 2:2-4).  Maybe they didn’t know exactly what they were waiting for, but they knew it when they saw it. And things got crazy. People are preaching. People are listening and believing the message and being baptized. The young Church explodes with new members—about three thousand of them. So, for the Church, Pentecost marks the gift of God’s Spirit to us and reminds us that everything is different because of it.

But what does it mean that the Holy Spirit has been given to us? In Paul’s words, God “has given us the Spirit as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come” (2 Corinthians 5:5). The Spirit is the bridge between the already and the not yet—that is, between the Kingdom that has already come with the advent and resurrection of Jesus Christ and the fullness of God’s Kingdom that has not yet fully come to us. Jesus is not with us in body, but He’s with us in Spirit right now—and He’s promised to come back to us. He’s risen, but He’s also here—and the Spirit is our promise and our proof that He is indeed coming back.

The gift of the Spirit means we are a community, a family, because the Holy Spirit dwells in me just as much as in you and that ties us together in a way I can’t begin to understand or explain. The gift of the Holy Spirit means we’ve entered into a brand new way of life together. It means also that we each have been given individual gifts and talents meant to be used to serve this new community. I have seen so much growth in my personal and spiritual life this past year, and I know much of it has to do with the opportunities I have had to serve using my gifts—doing what I am actually good at, doing what I love in order to serve God and build up the body of Christ. This is what we are called and empowered to do because of the gift of God’s Spirit to us, a gift that changed everything.

Author: Alicia McClintic

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