When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place. And suddenly from heaven there came a sound like the rush of a violent wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. Divided tongues, as of fire, appeared among them, and a tongue rested on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages, as the Spirit gave them ability. (Acts 2:1-4)
Sunday, May 20, is celebrated in the Christian Church as the day of Pentecost. It observes the Day the Holy Spirit appeared to Jesus’ disciples and followers. It is often considered the birthday of the Christian Church.
The word ‘Pentecost’ comes from the Greek meaning ‘fiftieth’. The day of Pentecost occurs fifty days after Easter, the celebration of the resurrection of Jesus.
Pentecost has its roots in the Hebrews observance of the Festival of Weeks. This was the first harvest. It was celebrated seven weeks and one day after the Passover.
In the Christian Church, one might see this as the first ‘harvest’ of new followers of Jesus.
This weekend is also the celebration of the Jewish Holiday, Shavuot. This religious holiday recognizes God giving the Ten Commandments at Mount Sinai.
Joe Lieberman wrote an article in the Wall Street Journal entitled ‘A Holiday For The Rule Of Law” (May 18, 2018). In that article he points out Passover celebrates freedom and Shavuot celebrates the Law. Mr. Lieberman states:
“How do the children of Israel serve God? By accepting and obeying a code of law, the Ten Commandments. Freedom is not enough. Liberty without law leads to chaos, immorality and violence. Law without liberty is what the Israelites endured under Pharaoh’s tyrannical rule.”
In Mr. Lieberman’s article I see parallels to the Christian faith. The death and resurrection of Jesus has gained freedom from sin and death. The observance of Pentecost reminds us that with our freedom comes with responsibility. The Holy Spirit guides us in our responsibility to love God and to love others.
Have a blessed Pentecost and Shavuot.
Peace Lutheran Church
Mill Valley, California