A Pentecost Sunday Reflection

I gave a brief meditation at our Pentecost Service on Wednesday. It went something like this:

This Sunday is Pentecost – the word means different things to many different people. For me an Egyptian-American born to Presbyterians parents who was raised in a non-denominational church in the Northeast but attended a Baptist college in the South, well, the term has taken me some time to get used to. Frankly, there was a time where I would have wondered what I would be doing at a service with the adjective “Pentecost.”

Now to a dear friend of mine whose grandmother found Christ in a charismatic setting, well that has made quite the difference for 3 generations, the idea of Pentecost holds special meaning for him. Pentecost. It means different things to different people all across the world.

What some might not realize is that it’s a very Biblical word, so for all who take the Scriptures seriously, we should reexamine its use and perhaps reclaim its Biblical meaning.

Pentecost was the fiftieth day after Passover. It was also an agricultural festival, the Feast of Weeks, when the wheat harvest was celebrated with a one-day celebration (Ex. 23:16, Lev. 23:15-21, Deut. 16:9-12). But for the Jews in the Old Testament, neither Passover nor Pentecost was simply an agricultural festival. These festivals, of course, celebrated the identity-forming legacy in the young nation of Israel with the stories of the Exodus and the Passover.

You may remember it would be 50 days after Passover until they would come to Mount Sinai and Moses would receive the law. Pentecost is about God giving to his redeemed people the way of life by which they must now carry out His purposes. His message and empowering them.

How appropriate then for God to send the Holy Spirit to this young church to proclaim He was with them.

In Acts 2, we think of the disciples gathered. Having seen the resurrected Jesus, having seen Jesus ascended and having been told to wait in Jerusalem. The disciples, still, in shock, still grieving (in some way), but still hopeful and still together. Suddenly a loud, rushing, violent wind fills the room and the Holy Spirit descends upon them like tongues of fire. They start preaching to the masses who had gathered from various cultures in Jerusalem for the Passover feast and people started hearing them in their own languages!

It’s a crazy scene – People start hearing the words in their own language and are amazed, some speculated that they disciples had been drinking.

Sometimes to us the miracle feels arbitrary or interchangeable. Jesus walking on water, or healing somebody but to change the miracle of tongues to something else would have changed an important part of the story.

Here’s what I mean. Had the Holy Spirit given the disciples say, the gift of flight and they starting flying around Jerusalem (even if they were singing – imagine singing flying apostles!), people would have gathered, they certainly would have been astonished and they would have asked themselves two questions: One, what does this mean? And two, have we been drinking? “Just what do they put in the orange juice here in Jerusalem?”

But back to the first question, what would this have meant?

To change the miracle would have been changed the meaning of Pentecost profoundly. The miracle of tongues at Pentecost is God saying, “I’ve made the message of salvation available to everyone, I’ve even put in your own language.”

One of the major points of Pentecost is that the message of the risen Jesus is for everybody. Regardless of ethnicity, background, tradition, tribe or language.

Here at Grace Chapel, we get to enjoy the blessing of being a multi-cultural church. Being an American Middle-Easterner, it’s one of the first things that I would notice. Like many here, I love our diversity. I for one, like the sound of broken English – it’s the language of home.

And so may we never take this multi-culturalism for granted. As we celebrate this, we should be challenged as well.
As we reflect on Pentecost Sunday, let us ask ourselves:

1. Are we being faithful with the gift of the Spirit that God has empowered us with?
2. Are we being faithful with the gift of each other?
3. Are we being faithful with the gospel message of the Risen Savior that is to be shared to all people?

May we as a Church reclaim the Biblical nature of Pentecost and may we be a Spirit-led people and Spirit-led church.


  1. great post. thanks for sharing your thoughts Tim. I certainly have a much deeper appreciation and fuller understanding of Pentecost now serving in a similar context. May every Sunday, in essence, be a Pentecost Sunday for God’s universal Church.

  2. Thanks for reading Dan. I read your post too – really connected with it. I know many others have said this but as much as I am grateful for the Protestant revolution, I do wish they/we would have had the foresight to keep the liturgical calendar. Grateful many are trying to rediscover it now.

Speak Your Mind