And we’ve arrived. We’ve hit the end of the events in the liturgical year. Now breathe. Is that how you see Pentecost? The end of the story? But Pentecost is just the beginning. Jesus’ ministry, death and resurrection was a pregnant pause that looked forward to the new birth for humanity: the new covenant. Pentecost is just the beginning! In Ancient Israel, Pentecost was known as the Feast of Weeks: a time that ended the spring harvest but looked forward to the autumn Festival of Booths. It was the beginning of the period where the first fruits were offered to God. Pentecost ends the gestation period and brings forth the new birth. For us, it is the birth of the church and the beginning of God’s ministry without the physical presence of Jesus. Yet, those of us who have followed the lectionary know that Jesus time and again promised the Helper, the Advocate, to his disciples, so that God’s mission on earth could be accomplished. Luke’s retelling in Acts describes just that event: the giving of the Holy Spirit to God’s people.
Those of you who have a ministry of reading in church, might look at this reading in Acts and think, ‘I’m glad I’m not having to read all those names today!’ But those language names are important: they tell of the wideness of God’s new covenant. It’s not just for Israel (though it came to them first); it’s for all people in every place as God declares: I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh. God comes to each person in their own language, in the way they can understand and come to know the love of God.
But Pentecost was just the beginning of this! The Holy Spirit’s work, through Jesus’ disciples, did not end when the story of Acts finished. The Holy Spirit has been working through the followers of Jesus for nearly two thousand years. Calling us to follow, shaping our ministry, guiding our work. It is our task to be open to the nudging of the Holy Spirit, to hear the voice of God, whether it be through tongues of fire, or a still small voice. It is only then that we are able to truly be part of God’s reign on earth and fulfil the ministry of the church. My challenge to us all is to seek God and open ourselves to the radical direction of the Holy Spirit so we may reach out to others with the love of God.