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This Sunday, May 20, is Pentecost Sunday, the day in which the church celebrates the coming of the Holy Spirit upon the disciples (Acts 2:1-13), making it the birthday of the church. Its name derives from the fact that it falls 50 days after, and including, Easter Sunday. Church altars, pulpits, lecterns, and banners will be adorned in red to symbolize the fire of the Holy Spirit. Readings will recount the events of that first Pentecost and hymns will invite the Holy Spirit to come into our lives. Among our congregations, some worshippers will be celebrating the occasion by wearing the color red, others will be donating red geraniums to adorn the worship space, some may read the lessons in other languages as a reminder that at Pentecost the disciples spoke in other languages, and coffee hour may even feature a birthday cake for the church.

Pentecost Sunday begins the season of Pentecost in our liturgical year. From now until Advent, the focus of the church will be on our Christian calling as the followers of Christ. Just as the coming summer and fall months are a season in which we nurture growth for a plentiful harvest, so we in the church are commissioned to reach out to others in our church, in our communities, and in the world and bear fruit that reflects our calling to make Christ known to a world in spiritual, emotional, and physical need. At his Ascension, Jesus promised the Holy Spirit and called his disciples, and us, to “be (his) witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth” (Acts 1:8).

A verse from a Pentecost hymn of Martin Luther calls upon the Holy Spirit to give us the brightness of the Spirit’s light, to give us the right faith, to teach us to know Jesus Christ, to console us in all suffering, to keep us from despair, and to look upon us with favor, that we might feel the fire of love, love one another from our hearts, and remain together of one mind in peace. [Similarly, compare ELW 395.]

As we embark on this season of Pentecost, may God’s Holy Spirit fill you with the fire of love for Christ and others, sustain you throughout the challenges of life, and work through you that you may produce good fruit and be Christ’s witnesses “to the ends of the earth.”