Being therefore exalted at the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, he has poured out this that you both see and hear.
Pentecost window at Our Lady of Victories Church in Paterson, United States.
Photo: Loci B. Lenar
We have celebrated with joy the feast of Easter. We have remembered Jesus’ departure from his disciples, those he loved and those who loved him at his Ascension into heaven. Now, today, we celebrate the feast of Pentecost, the day of God’s priceless gift to the world, the gift of the Holy Spirit. We are called in the power of that Spirit to turn again to God, to give ourselves to Jesus Christ joyfully and to serve our brothers and sisters who do not yet know the good news that Jesus loves them.
Long before the birth of Jesus, the people of Israel who gave our festival its name were celebrating Pentecost. At Pentecost the Israelites gave thanks for the harvest and offered the first fruits. They remembered how God had saved them from slavery in Egypt and gave them the Ten Commandments. In the book of Deuteronomy we read: “Remember that you were a slave in Egypt” (Deut. 16:12).
Many years have now passed since the days when Israel first celebrated the feast of Pentecost, recalling to mind God’s saving acts for God’s people. Today, Pentecost has taken on a new significance for us. We are no longer required to give to God the first fruits of the harvest. It is, rather, God who gives to us a gift, the gift of the Holy Spirit, to rekindle the flame of divine infinite love shown in the dying and rising of Jesus Christ for the salvation of the whole world.
Our president from the Pacific region has told us how the power of the same Pentecost Spirit has been at work among the Pacific Conference of Churches. In recent years many challenges, both financial and spiritual, have threatened the region. Yet, in the midst of it all, they have experienced renewal by the Spirit of Pentecost rekindling the flame of ecumenism, a passion for unity and solidarity in their communities. Church leaders, clergy, lay people, men, women and youth are engaged together in humble prayer and self-denial, inspired by the words of Micah: “God has told you, O mortal, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?” (Micah 6:8) This was the theme of the recent general assembly of the Pacific Conference of Churches (PCC). After fifty years of its existence, the wind of Pentecost still fills the sails of the boat that is the PCC, empowering it to continue on its missionary voyage through the Pacific Ocean and beyond, giving witness to God’s immeasurable love for the world. We rejoice at this witness to God’s Spirit still at work in the world today. In this year of ecumenical assemblies, we pray that the same Spirit will move in the regional assemblies of Latin America, Africa and Europe as well.
From all regions of the world Christians are travelling to the next Assembly of the World Council of Churches in Busan, South Korea, praying together, “God of Life: lead us to Justice and Peace.” Let us each open ourselves to receive God’s gift of the Holy Spirit that we too may be empowered to work together for justice in God’s hurting but beautiful world, to care for creation and to bring peace wherever there is violence and rumours of war. May Pentecost be a time when we, as the Church, all pray for the peace our world so desperately needs. Let us pray that the Holy Spirit of Pentecost will transform the hearts of all who will gather in Busan.
Lord, pour out on us your Holy Spirit,
as you poured your Spirit on your first disciples in Jerusalem;
Sanctify us and empower us as you empowered them.
Sweep us along by the wind of your Spirit
and make us bold in proclaiming your love and obeying your will.
Travel with us as a daily reality in our lives
and inspire the thinking and the decisions of our Assembly in Busan.
Lead us in the power of your Spirit to justice and peace.
Glory be to God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit, now and always.
The Presidents of the World Council of Churches
- Archbishop Dr Anastasios of Tirana and All Albania, Orthodox Autocephalous Church of Albania
- Mr John Taroanui Doom, Maohi Protestant Church (French Polynesia)
- Rev. Dr Simon Dossou, Protestant Methodist Church of Benin
- Rev. Dr Soritua Nababan, Protestant Christian Batak Church (Indonesia)
- Rev. Dr Ofelia Ortega, Presbyterian-Reformed Church in Cuba
- Rev. Dr Bernice Powell Jackson, United Church of Christ (USA)
- Dr Mary Tanner, Church of England