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Christianity FAQ
What is Pentecost and what difference does it make in our lives today?
Written By Lowell E. Grisham and William A. Kolb

The Day of Pentecost is the occasion on which pious Jews from all over the new Christian world gathered to celebrate "The Feast of Weeks," probably just months after the crucifixion of Jesus. That Feast was a Jewish festival (all of the first Christians were also Jews) at which first fruits were offered to God. On this day, a miracle occurred: tongues of flame lighted on each person...AND each person spoke their own native tongue but, miraculously, everybody understood everybody else!

The difference it all makes in my life is that on this same day the promised gift of the Holy Spirit was given to the Church (the small Christian faith). I believe that it is that force, the Holy Spirit, that has powered the Church all these two thousand years, kept it going, fed us, strengthened us, supernaturally. Many, in fact, think of Pentecost as the "birth day" of the Church, because it was on that day that we received the gift that has made it all possible. —William Kolb

Pentecost is the Church's celebration of the gift of the Holy Spirit. It comes from the realization that God's very life, breath and energy lives in, with and among us. Those who are Christians experience this life through Jesus because they see the Spirit so fully manifest in him. If you attend church on Pentecost Sunday, you will most likely hear read a passage from John's Gospel (20:19-23). It tells of a visit of the Risen Christ to the disciples huddled in fear. "Peace be with you," Jesus says. "As the Father sent me, so I am sending you." After saying this, Jesus breathed on them and added, "Receive the Holy Spirit." The breath, the life, of Jesus himself. We are God-breathed. Pentecost celebrates that reality.

The feast day of Pentecost remembers a day not long after Jesus' resurrection when the energy of the Spirit was poured out in power upon the Church. It was a unifying Spirit that crossed the artificial boundaries of language, race and culture. People could speak and be understood; strangers heard one another; communion happened. The Spirit breathes peace.

Here's what seems to happen when people allow this divine Spirit to energize them. Love, joy, peace, long-suffering, kindness, goodness, faith, meekness and self-control. We call that the "fruit of the Spirit." It's a description of the qualities of Jesus. That's who we are and whom we are to become. The celebration of Pentecost moves very naturally into the following Sunday's celebration of the Holy Trinity, the unique way that Christians describe our experience of God. We see the life of the Trinity as descriptive of the whole of reality:

Yet all is one complete love. That's a way of thinking of God.

And that same dynamic is present in our lives, breathing us into being. For instance, I experience the Trinity and the Spirit in my relationship with my wife. There is a love that I have and give to her, and a love that she receives and responds to by returning to me. But more than that, after thirty years of marriage, there is something that exists between us, a reality, a Spirit of love that sees our relationship and values it profoundly with humility and joy. Sometimes I pinch myself to be so lucky to live in such love. Love given, received, and valued. Yet it is all one love. That's breathing the Spirit of God.  —Lowell Grisham