Recently, I heard a reference being made that we are living in Genesis days. This statement was meant to point out that because we have been living in a time of multiple crises (such as Covid-19, economic pressures, racial and social discrimination, war, and political differences to name a few), we have needed to create anew how we do things.
While it is true that we, and our world, has had to adapt to the changing landscape of our life, it occurred to me that, as Christians, a new creation is something that we’ve already experienced and been called to be a part of since the resurrection of Jesus and the day of Pentecost.
The story of Pentecost is found in the book of Acts, chapter 2. It tells of the day when the Holy Spirit descended on the apostles gathered together in Jerusalem. As a result of what happened on that day, things changed: the disciples changed, the followers of Jesus changed, the lives of people changed.
Remember the disciples hiding after the crucifixion because they were afraid that they might also be crucified like Jesus? Remember Peter who, on Good Friday, denied that he was a follower of Jesus or that he even knew him?
Well, Pentecost changed things. Those disciples, who fifty days before, were hiding in Jerusalem out of fear for their lives, were now suddenly given the power to continue what Jesus had begun, even beginning in Jerusalem. And Peter, who had previously been afraid to admit that he was a follower of Jesus, on that day of Pentecost stood up alongside the other disciples and boldly preached a sermon defending Jesus to the crowd of people that had gathered. Peter preached about what they were witnessing on that day, as he proclaimed Jesus’ death and resurrection and the Holy Spirit which Jesus had promised and was being poured out upon them in front of their very eyes.
Pentecost, on which Israel celebrated the giving of the law at Mount Sinai, may have been originally connected to the observance of the year’s harvest, but for us Christians, we can celebrate the harvest of people that occurred on that day. After Peter’s moving sermon, 3,000 people were baptized and added to the church, which is why Pentecost is also known as the birthday of the church.
Peter and the disciples were changed. The day of Pentecost is a testimony of how the Holy Spirit can change fear into confidence and cowardice into courage. It celebrates the coming of the Holy Spirit which empowers people to boldly do God’s work. It is a day that reaches far beyond those disciples gathered in Jerusalem. Pentecost is part of the heritage of every one of us who calls themselves a Christian.
Just as Pentecost changed people on that day long ago, Pentecost changes us, for we too are empowered and equipped to continue the work of Jesus. We, too, are called upon as the followers of Jesus to do the work of the church in our broken and hurting world: to be active in seeking justice and proclaiming forgiveness, reconciliation, and the love of Christ to all who are torn apart by fear, injustice, social isolation, and conflict, whether found in our families, our church, our communities, or in the world.
So, while it may be true that we have been involved in recreating our lives in response to the challenges of the past two years, let us remember that we have a greater call to be a new creation (2 Cor. 5:17) which began for Christians long ago with the death and resurrection of Jesus, the coming of the Holy Spirit, and your baptism into Christ. And as members of God’s new creation, we are called by Jesus to live as changed people who make a difference in Christ’s name.
During this Pentecost season, let us celebrate the work of the Holy Spirit which “calls, gathers, enlightens, and sanctifies (us and) the whole Christian church on earth” (Luther’s Small Catechism, 3rd Article of the Creed). Let us celebrate that Pentecost is about the coming of the Holy Spirit not only to the disciples, but to all of us as well. And let us celebrate that in Christ we are a new creation and can now look outwardly toward Christ and the work he would have us do, instead of inwardly at ourselves.
May you heed God’s call to carry on the work of Jesus and, equipped by the Holy Spirit, be the hands, feet and voice of Jesus in the world!
+Bishop Wilma S. Kucharek