by Ralen Robinson–
“All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages, as the Spirit gave them ability” (Acts 2:4).
The day of Pentecost has always been one of my favorite Sundays. When I was very young, on the seventh Sunday after Easter, in early summer, I’d sit in the pews of my childhood church marveling at the red hues wrapped around the sanctuary. I loved the red and orange fabrics adorning the large wooden cross above the altar. I delighted in the banners showing an iconic dove, wings extended, with the rays of the sun behind and fire surrounding it all. Red, orange and yellow flowers created a subtly sweet scent throughout the sanctuary. I would take a deep breath so it could fill my lungs. Printed in our worship bulletin and ingrained in the songs, hymns and Scripture readings was this phrase: Come, Holy Spirit. That invitation, the colors and the delightful scents mesmerized me. To me, Pentecost was vibrant—red, orange and yellow. Not until years later did I finally come to understand that while the decorations were beautiful, the Day of Pentecost signified so much more.
That realization happened one Sunday when I was still in high school, during a visit to a local college. I sat in the little college chapel in what seemed, at first, to be a regular Sunday worship service. Nothing was striking or out of the ordinary. Then my ears perked up. Here was a familiar tune: “Every Time I Feel the Spirit” (This Far By Faith, 241). Echoing throughout the chapel, it brought me right back to my little congregation in Philadelphia. After that, the worship leaders read from the book of Acts, describing how people from various places, who spoke different native languages, finally heard and understood one another. The heavens opened up, and a gust of wind permeated the house. The Spirit caused the people inside to all be on one accord. The campus pastor told us that the promise Jesus made to his disciples was fulfilled that day.
Red decorations and draped cloths were unnecessary. The Word and the songs remained unchanged. I realized that even after Jesus’ death and ascension, Jesus follows through on his promise for the disciples and for us. After he makes the ultimate sacrifice, Jesus does not let us fend for ourselves. How easy it would have been for him to simply say he’d done his job and endured enough—enough of the lashes, the verbal abuse, the crucifixion, our lack of understanding. I wouldn’t have blamed him. Yet this is not the God we serve. Jesus comes back from death, rises to the kingdom and lets us know we are not alone. With the Holy Spirit, Jesus is still here with us, overcoming death and sin, holding us tightly in God’s unyielding love, compassion, mercy and grace, just as he promises.
I will not leave you orphaned; I am coming to you. In a little while the world will no longer see me, but you will see me; because I live, you also will live. On that day, you will know that I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you (John 14:18-20).
We will never be forsaken. Jesus’ ministry continues in the Spirit of the Lord, who helps, leads and dwells in the children of God—chosen vessels to proclaim the Good News and follow the blueprint Jesus laid out so many generations ago.
As a child, I was unaware of the true meaning of Pentecost—a continuation of Jesus’ birth, death and resurrection—the gift of accompaniment here and beyond, into the life everlasting. Even now, at times, it’s easy to miss the significance of this holy day. Caught up in the colors, scents and celebration, we can lose sight of the point of it all, the gift. Here it is: Jesus says he will never leave us.
This Pentecost promise reinforces not only my Christian beliefs, but my call to ministry. When God’s only begotten son, Jesus, came to us for our salvation and the forgiveness of our sins, this was perfect love and grace—the ultimate gift. And it didn’t stop there. The gift continues through the Holy Spirit, given to reach the disciples, us and future generations. We haven’t seen anything yet! Jesus’ ministry did not end on the cross; it continues, now through us.
When the Holy Spirit is embedded in our lives, we continue the journey the apostles left for us, together with our siblings in Christ from all walks of life. Like a vibrant, inner light, the Holy Spirit comforts and challenges us in our broken world.
When we lose our way, when things become rough, when it seems impossible to continue, we can rest assured that God’s light will never leave us. Whether we’re wondering, wandering or feeling lost, the Spirit of God moves through the world around us, through us, connecting us to the Word in Scripture and in Christ. Our faith is rekindled through fellowship, as we bring Scripture into our lives, into our world, praying in whatever ways we choose.
Pentecost is a day of rejoicing and celebration. You might not find it marked on a secular calendar, but Pentecost is no less important than Christmas or Easter. Pentecost is more than red, more than sweet, more than a song. It is a promise, fulfilled by Jesus, who is both human and divine.
Now is the time for us to step into that promise. Now is the time for us to pick up where Jesus and the disciples left off. Now is the time for us to be the hands and feet of the Word of God, lighting a path to the Creator wherever we go, with whomever we encounter.
Ralen Robinson is an M.Div. student at United Lutheran Seminary at Philadelphia. She is currently serving as an intern at the Lutheran Church of the Holy Communion, while offering chaplaincy at a major hospital in Philadelphia.
This article is from the June 2019 issue of Gather magazine. To read more like it, subscribe to Gather.
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