In the Scriptures, Pentecost is known by several names: The Festival of Weeks, the Harvest Festival, and the Festival of First Fruits. According to Moses, Pentecost was celebrated fifty days after Passover. Passover, you will remember, celebrates the exodus of Israel from Egypt after God sent the ten plagues against that oppressive nation – the last of which was the death of the firstborn throughout the land of Egypt.
The only homes spared the death of the first born were those homes in which the people had obeyed God, sacrificed a lamb, and brushed its blood on the top of the doors as well as the sides. Those movements, as I have demonstrated several times in the past, made the sign of the cross on their doors. And so, when the angel of death saw the blood, he ‘passed over’ those homes and did not take the life of anyone within that home.
Much later in Israel’s history, when God exiled them from the Promised Land because of their continuing sins, many exiles stayed in those nations, raise families, establish careers, and so forth. That’s why we find in the second chapter of Acts that Luke records there were Jews from "every nation under heaven" visiting Jerusalem.
They were visiting Jerusalem because Pentecost was one of the three holidays during which God required Jews to make pilgrimage to Jerusalem. The other two days were Passover and the Feast of Tabernacles.
Pentecost Sunday commemorates for Christians the day on which the Holy Spirit fell upon the 120 men and women gathered in that upper room, waiting for the fulfilment of the promise the Lord made just before He ascended back to the Father: “And behold, I am sending forth the promise of My Father upon you; but you are to stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high.” (Luke 24:49)
Here is how Luke records what happened in Jerusalem on that first day of Pentecost when – as some say – the Church was born: “And suddenly there came from heaven a noise like a violent rushing wind, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting. 3 And there appeared to them tongues as of fire distributing themselves, and they rested on each one of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit was giving them utterance. (Acts 2:2-4)
This outpouring was originally promised several centuries earlier by the prophet Joel. In fact, St. Peter quotes Joel’s prophecy in the second chapter of Acts when he declares: “And it shall be in the last days,’ God says, that I will pour forth of My Spirit on all mankind; And your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions,
And your old men shall dream dreams; Even on My bondslaves, both men and women, I will in those days pour forth of My Spirit and they shall prophesy.” (Acts 2:17-18)
So, what does all that history have to do with you and me on June 5, 2022? Well, I’m glad you asked that question.
“Can a woman forget her nursing child and have no compassion on the son of her womb? Even these may forget, but I will not forget you. Behold, I have inscribed you on the palms of My hands; Your walls are continually before Me.” (Isaiah 49:15-16)
As I was preparing this message, reflecting on some of the reasons Scripture gives us for the Holy Spirit’s descent, I thought of Jesus’ words in John’s gospel: “I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may be with you forever; that is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it does not see Him or know Him, but you know Him because He abides with you and will be in you. “I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you.” (John 14:16-18)
“I will not leave you as orphans.”
I know what it is like to not have a father in my life. When my father – and I hate even using that term when referencing him – when Albert left me, mom, and my sister for another woman, I was four years old. I’m now 72, and I still remember where I was and what I was doing when Mom told me he had left us.
And I know from personal experience how joyous – that is the correct word – joyous I became when I discovered my REAL Father – my REAL Daddy, my Abba, as St Paul calls Him in Romans 8 and Galatians 4 – my real Dad had never left me alone. I speak, of course, of my Father who art in heaven.
I could speak more about those experiences, but as I was preparing this message, something happened that illustrates – at least, it illustrated somewhat for me – my experience of being abandoned by someone you thought cared about you.
It was quite warm where I was sitting and preparing my message. So, I decided to take a quick break and walk into the kitchen where I gobbled a few chunks of watermelon.
Frenchie, our year-old Bichon followed me from the porch into the air-conditioned kitchen. A few moments later I went back outside, but Frenchie was by this time lying on the carpet enjoying the cool air.
I went back outside, but left the door open, in case he wanted to follow. But a few minutes later I heard him crying from the living room. Obviously, he’d forgotten where I was, and he was frightened, or lonely, or confused, or . . . well, who knows what dogs think? But the point is this: Frenchie was whimpering because he was alone and didn’t know where I was.
I called his name: “Frenchie! Frenchie, I’m out here, buddy,” and a moment later he was at my side. He jumped up onto the lounge and settled between my feet. Quiet. Happy. Snug, because he was with me again.
I have always loved that text in John where Jesus PROMISED, “I will not leave you as orphans.” Most times, when I read that text, I think of my childhood without a father (I quickly add that Andrea and I had a wonderful, saintly mother, for whom I thank God again and again).
Whenever my thoughts slip back to that day in 1954 when Albert left us, I remember Jesus’ promise: I will not leave you as an orphan. I will come to you.
But what does all that have to do with YOU? It is this: On this Pentecost Sunday, you can remember – you MUST remember – the Comforter is at your side, holding you tightly. When YOUR tears flow because you’re frightened, or lonely, or lost – you have Jesus’ Pentecost promise to never leave you or forsake you. He is with you by His Holy Spirit.
Frenchie was lying quietly at my feet, and that is what the Holy Spirit invites you and me to do: Sit at the feet of Jesus.
Listen! Jesus PROMISED to not leave us alone. He would not leave us as orphans in a very dark and dangerous world. Peter knew that to be true. Hear him quote the psalmist: God is “[A]lways in my presence; For He is at my right hand, so that I will not be shaken. Therefore my heart was glad and my tongue exulted; Moreover my flesh also will live in hope.” (Acts 2:25-26)
No wonder Holy Spirit moved St. Paul to write these words of hope and encouragement to you and to me “Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? Just as it is written, “For Your sake we are being put to death all day long; We were considered as sheep to be slaughtered.” But in all these things we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 8:35-39
So, that’s one reason the Holy Spirit came to the Church on Pentecost: To assure every true follower of Christ that we are NOT alone. Ever.
But there are other reasons for His presence. Not only does He never leave us alone, but He also emboldens us to proclaim Jesus to a world not only lost in sin and on its way along the broad road that leads to destruction, but He emboldens us to bring Christ to a world HURTING and frightened. Here is St. Peter in his first epistle:
“But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God’s own possession, so that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light.” (1 Peter 2:9)
It should not surprise any biblically literate Christian that what is happening in our world is, at its root, supernatural. We only need to go back in our memories two weeks to see the images of the Buffalo and Texas massacres. And just a few days ago the White House devoted the month of June to unspeakable sexual perversions – perversions that resulted in the obliteration of Sodom and Gomorrah.
Yes, that supernatural evil is the ROOT of our profound societal problems. And the only viable and effective weapons in this deadly warfare are supernatural. When we address our problems – and they are quite significant in their evil – when we address them simply from political, social, economic, or educational postures, we are doomed to failure because we deal with the fruit and not the root.
The only answer to the evil flooding our homes and our nation is the Lord Jesus Christ. Period. End of sentence. We do not need to know any more than that. If we do not accept that Jesus is the only answer to evil, we CAN NEVER find a lasting solution.
Many, yes most will scoff at the answer. Even some in our families will reject that solution. But that does not change the truth of the message.
One plus one is always two – even if there are those who do not like that answer.
And just as the Holy Spirit gave the apostles boldness on the Day of Pentecost to speak to those in power – even at the risk of their lives – so also has the Holy Spirit already given US the power and boldness to speak to those in our social spheres.
Listen! This is not anything that we can do in and of ourselves. This power and authority only come through the Holy Spirit who LIVES in each believer by virtue of our baptismal faith in Christ as our true Lord and Savior.
Jesus is returning for His true Church. And we had better stop hiding our heads in the proverbial sand, hoping His return is still a long way off. Certainly, it could be yet another 100 years. But from the signs of the times all around us, we MUST recognize the SEASON in which we live.
So, how then MUST we live in this darkening time? How must we live to ensure the culture, deluded by Satanic influence, does not slowly and by degrees also dilute and distort our faith and our faithfulness to His commandments? The answer to those questions is not so-called ‘rocket science.” Here are some time-tested strategies that the Holy Spirit places in our quiver.
1. Study your Bible. Don’t just read it – study it. There are SO MANY false teachers cropping up in so many pulpits – Catholic and Protestant – we run a serious risk of being deceived if we are not fluent with the WHOLE Bible, not just the New Testament. If you don’t have what is called a Study Bible, I urge you to get one. I can make recommendations of good study bibles. And remember, I hold a Bible study every Friday. I’d love to have to move our study downstairs because we run out of room in the chapel.
2. Commit yourself to memorize portions of scripture. It is a satanic lie when he gets us to thinking we are too old to memorize anything. Unless you have advanced dementia, you CAN memorize a verse here and there as the Holy Spirit guides you.
3. PRAY! Pray for yourself that you will grow deeper in your love for Jesus. Pray for others by name. Pray for those you sit with during meals. Pray for those you play bingo with, or other activities. Make a prayer list to help you stay focused on prayer.
4. Seek the Holy Spirit’s assistance to LIVE like a Christian and to better live a life of holiness. What does holiness look like? God tells us from one end of the book to the other. Here are some examples: Psalm 15; Romans 12:1-21; Galatians 5:13-25; and 2 Peter 1:4-7.
Christian, Jesus is returning for His own. And judging from the state of the world and the state of Christianity itself, I anticipate it could happen today – and certainly in my lifetime – and I’m already in my 70s.
And never think that you are too old for Satan to bother trying to destroy, dilute, or pollute your faith and your faithfulness. He will be after you until you take your last breath. That is why the Holy Spirit inspired Peter to write these words: “Be of sober spirit, be on the alert. Your adversary, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. But resist him, firm in your faith . . ..” (1 Peter 5:8-9)
The Lord will return, whether in our lifetime, or in 100 years from today. But any one of us can meet the Lord before the sun sets this evening. That is why we must ALWAYS be alert, as Peter wrote. And we must always be in a state of resistance against the devil’s delusions and lies.
Pentecost commemorates the birth of the Church. But more than that, Pentecost reminds us that the Holy Spirit came to the individuals in the Church to assure us we are not orphans in this life. He came to give us supernatural boldness and supernatural weapons to successfully engage the supernatural enemy of our souls and the souls of those around us. He came to guide us toward true daily holiness, living in obedience to Christ’s commandments.
And so, my brothers and sisters, “Be steadfast, immovable. Always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your labor is not in vain in the Lord.” (1 Corinthians 15:58)