Skip to content

Empowered by the Holy Spirit

May 25, 2020

When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place.  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 them.  All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit.” (Acts 2: 1-4)

The story told by Luke in the second chapter of Acts takes place when the fledgling church was celebrating Pentecost, also called the Feast of Weeks, 50 days after Passover.  Jews have celebrated Pentecost for centuries; it is a celebration of the wheat harvest, and also remembers Moses receiving the law from God on Mount Sinai.

The windstorm that engulfed the young church that day was unusual because it was “a violent wind from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting” (Acts 2: 2).  People from many different countries were filled with the Holy Spirit. Each spoke in his own language, but was still able to understand the others speaking in their native tongues: “Utterly amazed, they asked: ‘Are not all these men who are speaking Galileans? Then how is it that each of us hears them in his own native language?  Parthians, Medes and Elamites; residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya near Cyrene; visitors from Rome (both Jews and converts to Judaism); Cretans and Arabs—we hear them declaring the wonders of God in our own tongues!’  Amazed and perplexed, they asked one another, ‘What does this mean?’” (Acts 2: 7-12).

The events that occurred on Pentecost, 32 A. D., as told by Luke, are viewed as the birth of the church under grace—the day that the Holy Spirit came to Jesus’ followers.  Peter gave his speech to an international audience, and 3,000 souls were saved. (Acts 2:41).[1]  That first Pentecost of the Christian church occurred 50 days after the Resurrection, 10 days after the Ascension of Jesus.[2]  It is no coincidence that the birth of the church under grace occurred on Pentecost, when Jews were celebrating the birth of the church under the law.  While we believe that the Holy Spirit resides in the heart of each believer, on Pentecost, God emphasized the importance of the church—the body of believers who are Jesus’ representatives in the world.  It is also no coincidence that believers from all nations were gathered that day, symbolizing the unity of believers around the globe.

The first Pentecost of the Christian church is reminiscent of the work of the Holy Spirit when Moses was having problems managing thousands of complaining Israelites in the desert.   God told Moses to bring “seventy of Israel’s elders who are known to you as leaders and officials among the people.  Have them come to the Tent of Meeting . . . I will come down and speak with you there, and I will take of the Spirit that is on you and put the Spirit on them. They will help you carry the burden of the people so that you will not have to carry it alone.” (Numbers 11: 16-17).  And that’s what God did.  Afterwards, Moses said that he wished the Lord would put his Spirit on all of the people (Numbers 11: 29).

God knew that the burden of teaching and taking care for the people was too great a burden for Moses, and for Jesus’ disciples.  He sent the Holy Spirit to help Moses, and centuries later, to help Jesus’ disciples in their task to spread the gospel.  All who were gathered in the house church on that Pentecost were filled with the Holy Spirit, enabling them to speak to each other in their native tongues and still be understood. That is a powerful lesson, showing us that despite our differences, people of faith from all over the world can come together, unified in their common beliefs.

The Holy Spirit is shown in Scripture to be a powerful force for good in our world.  Symbols of the Holy Spirit are wind and fire—a picture of the church on fire, fueled by the wind of the Holy Spirit.  Red is the color of Pentecost, symbolizing the church on fire.  In his last lecture to his disciples, Jesus spoke to them about the Holy Spirit.  He told his grief-stricken disciples: “Unless I go away, the Counselor will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you . . . When he, the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you to all truth” (John 16: 7, 13).

And that’s what happened.  God sent the Holy Spirit on Pentecost, 10 days after the Ascension, 40 days after the Resurrection.  The gospel reminds us that Jesus promised the Holy Spirit to believers: “Whoever believes in me, as Scripture has said, rivers of living water will flow from within them. By this he meant the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were later to receive”  (John 7: 38-39).

Empowering employees to become productive, contributing, and happy members of a work team is a current management concept.  It is strikingly similar to a concept I learned as a young manager in the 1970’s called Participatory Management.  Both concepts ask managers to share their leadership vision with employees to encourage, trust, and empower them to reach the goals of the organization.  Managers and employees work together, side by side, to achieve the goal.  This is what God has done through the ages in sending his Holy Spirit to his people to work side by side with them to help them.  The word “Counselor” (John 16:7) or Paraclete, is translated from the Greek word “parakletos.”  “Para” means “alongside,” and “kletos” means “to call.”  Parakletos means to call to the side of another.  The Holy Spirit was called to be with us by our sides.   By sending the Holy Spirit to the church on that Pentecost, God sent the message that he is accessible to all, not just to a select few.  In management parlance, the CEO is working side-by-side with the office worker or with the worker on the assembly line—guiding, trusting, encouraging, and helping the worker to complete the project.

You are empowered by the Holy Spirit who lives within you.  When you call on him, when you unleash the power–that wind-driven fire–you will affect the lives of others positively.  To paraphrase St. John, a river of living water will flow from within you to others.  God gave us the gift of the Holy Spirit so that we can all carry the message of the Good News to others.

We carry that message in many different ways—sometimes with words.

Prayer:  Holy Spirit, we thank and praise you for who you are—the Spirit of God who lives in us to empower us to follow your path and to show your love to others.  We thank and praise you for coming alongside us each day as we ask for your help in all tasks—big and small.  We ask for your help in expressing your love for others mostly by our actions and sometimes by our words.  When we do use words, clamp our mouths shut when we are tempted to open old wounds or to let slip sharp, critical, or angry words.  Open our mouths when we are inclined to speak words of praise, encouragement, assistance, and love.  Help us speak the healing words of love and encouragement to others that you whisper to our hurting souls.   Amen

Diane Cieslikowski Reagan

[1] The Scripture texts for Pentecost are Numbers 11: 24-30; Psalm 25:1-15; Acts 2: 1-21; John 7: 37-39.  A version of this blog was published on this website in June 2017.

[2] In the Jewish tradition, Pentecost, which means 50 in Greek, occurred 50 days after Passover, and was known as the Feast of Weeks, one of the three annual pilgrim festivals in Jerusalem.  The birth of the church under the law occurred on the first Pentecost in 1446 B. C., when Moses was given the law on Mt. Sinai.


Comments are closed.

%d bloggers like this: