Pentecost: Breathe On Me Breath Of God ~ The Very Rev. Lady Sherwood, OPI

Reading 1: ACTS 2:1-11
Responsorial Psalm: PS 104:1, 24, 29-30, 31, 34
Reading 2: 1 COR 12:3B-7, 12-13
Gospel: JN 20:19-23
Liturgical colour: Red.

Today we celebrate Pentecost Sunday, the birthday of the church. Pentecost Sunday is the Sunday is the
final Sunday before we return to Ordinary time.
Today, the Liturgical colour in the church is red. Now many may see red as being the colour of
Martyrdom since this is the colour we use for martyr feast days, so as this is not a feast of Martyrdom,
why do we wear the Liturgical colour of red today? It is because red has another meaning as well as for
Martyrdom, an extremely important meaning:
We are wearing red today because red is the church liturgical colour of the Holy Spirit. Red is the colour
of fire and symbolizes the presence of God. Just as Moses saw the burning bush as a symbol of God’s
presence, so we wear red today as a symbol of God’s presence with us, but also as a reminder of the
coming of the Spirit on that Pentecost after the resurrection and ascension of Christ.

Most Christians could not imagine having a year go by without celebrating the holidays of Christmas and
Easter. It is understood by all Christians, no matter how long or short their relationship with God and the
church has been that no Christian calendar is complete without the observance of these two events.

However, there is a third observance, a third sacred event that is just as central to our understanding of
what it means to be a Christian and what it means to belong to the church; though most Christians do
not celebrate this event, and many never have heard of it or know little or nothing about it.

That third event is today, Pentecost Sunday. This third great day in the Christian calendar is rooted in the
story in Acts 2 and celebrates the day when the Holy Spirit descended on the apostles who were
gathered in a room in Jerusalem. Before Pentecost, those men were hiding from the public for fear that
what had happened to Jesus might also happen to them. After Pentecost, those frightened men had
become suddenly and miraculously equipped and empowered to carry on the ministry Jesus had
begun—in the very city of Jerusalem where Jesus recently had been put to death.

Some people mistakenly believe the observance of Pentecost has meaning only for those members of
the Christian family who call themselves Pentecostals. The truth is the history of the Christian church
stretches back more than 2,000 years, while the Pentecostal movement did not emerge in its fullness
until the Azusa Street revival in Los Angeles, California., at the turn of the 20th century.

Pentecost began as and remains one of the major holidays on the Jewish calendar that occurs 50 days
after Passover. The word Pentecost literally means “50th or 50th day.” For Jews, Pentecost was the time
when they celebrated the first harvest of the agricultural year. It was a time when they gave thanks to
God for what the land had produced and for what their labor had yielded.

For Christians, Pentecost marks the birthday of the Christian church, the day when Peter preached and
in response to that sermon there was also a harvest of 3,000 souls converted.

Remember I said Peter preached the first sermon about Jesus as recorded in Acts 2. This is the same
Peter who 53 days earlier had said about Jesus; “I never knew Him.” This is the same Peter who had
nothing to say about Jesus when someone asked him directly if he was one of the followers of Jesus.
Peter, on the Day of Pentecost, stood before a crowd of the same people he once feared, yet he boldly
declared the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Going further, Peter stood before many of the same people who had shouted, “Crucify Him,” on the day
Jesus stood trial before Pontius Pilate in the city of Jerusalem. Now Peter declared in no uncertain terms
the Man they had ordered to be crucified was, in fact, the Son of God. How did Peter go from being
frightened to being fearless? How did Peter go from being cowardly to being courageous? How did Peter
go from denying Jesus to defending Jesus before the very same people in the very same place?

Peter did not simply change his mind; Peter himself was changed. Something happened to Peter and to
the other 10 apostles, as well to set them on fire for Jesus Christ to such a degree that it was soon said
about them, “Here are those who are turning the world upside down” (Acts 17:6). What happened to
them, and what needs to happen to everyone who calls him or herself a disciple of Jesus Christ is what
Pentecost is all about.

Pentecost marks the outpouring of the Holy Spirit by which human beings are equipped to do the work
of God. We are not by our own natural resources going to save the world, establish God’s kingdom or
usher in what Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. often referred to as “the beloved community.” If any of these
things does happen, it will be because we have acknowledged, embraced and moved under the power
and conviction of Pentecost and the work of the Holy Spirit.

Consider these three events this way: If Christmas marks the birth of Jesus, Pentecost marks the birth of
the church; if Easter marks the day when Jesus was raised from the dead, Pentecost marks the day when
that message about Jesus began to make its way to people and places all over the world. Of course, the
church and the world do not treat Pentecost as they do Christmas and Easter. For instance, there are no
Pentecost sales, no Pentecost tree, no Pentecost pageant; and I have never heard of the Pentecost
Bunny.

The fact that we have failed to understand or observe this day on the calendar does not change the
basic truth this day holds for every believer. Unless you make room for Pentecost in your understanding
of what it means to be a Christian, you never will understand your faith fully. Remember that in Acts 1:6-
8 Jesus tells the apostles to remain in the city of Jerusalem until the power of the Holy Spirit came upon
them. He was not sending them out to evangelize on the basis of their life experiences or their
understanding of religious laws and teachings. He was not suggesting that spending three years in His
presence had resulted in them being equipped for the work that lay ahead. Instead, He told them to
wait for the power, wait for the anointing, wait for the Holy Spirit to come upon them. Once they had
that power, they would be ready to go. Until that happened—wait!

Pentecost Sunday is the day we remember when and how that anointing took place. While they all were
huddled in a room in Jerusalem behind locked doors and shuttered windows, they heard the sound of a
rushing wind. What appeared to be tongues of fire seemed to settle over the head of each person. They
began to speak in other languages, but what they were saying was understood clearly in the native
language of each person gathered in Jerusalem that day. You see, the power of Pentecost was not the
unknown tongues in which the apostles were speaking. The miracle was that people from every known
region of the world were able to understand what was being said in his or her language.

It was immediately after the miracle of understanding that something else of equal importance took
place: The work of the church in the world as an agent of reconciliation and evangelism began. I invite
you to think about Easter and Christmas as events that involve Jesus as the primary actor. On Christmas,
Jesus was born into the world and laid in a manger. There were no disciples present for that event. What
do you and I do on Christmas that is central to the story? Nothing! On Easter, Jesus was raised from the
dead with all power in His hands. Once again, there were no disciples involved in bringing that event to
pass. There is nothing for us to do on Easter except celebrate and give thanks for the work Christ has
done on our behalf.

On Pentecost, though, all of that changes—you and I are called away from our roles as spectators into
the role of central characters in God’s work of redemption and salvation. As a result of Pentecost, we do
not watch what somebody else is doing for God, but are being equipped by the power of the Holy Spirit
so we can become actively involved in the work of salvation and redemption. That is what Pentecost is
all about; it is the day Jesus officially transfers to His disciples the responsibility of spreading the
message of salvation.

Pentecost is the day when God begins the process of converting the world to faith in the gospel of Jesus
Christ. Most important of all, Pentecost is the day when God decided the way the world would be
evangelized was not by the singular ministry of His Son, Jesus Christ, but by the anointed and
empowered efforts of every single person who calls him or herself a Christian. The time for following
Jesus as a disciple or learner is over, and the time to carry His message forth as apostles has come.
Those disciples were no longer spectators; the time had come for them to do the work themselves.

Think about any event in your life when you began by watching what somebody else was doing, then
suddenly the responsibility to work was passed to you. I can remember how easy it looked to slice the
turkey on Thanksgiving Day when my Uncle James had the carving knife in his hands. He would explain
to us younger fellows what he was doing, but all we were doing was watching. Then the day finally came
when somebody made the wrong assumption that because I had watched somebody carve a turkey that
I must know how to do it, as well. I just tore that poor bird up, and finally somebody else came along
and did the job right. It is one thing to watch while somebody else does all the work. It is another matter
to do the job yourself. However, that is what God called those disciples to do on the day of Pentecost.

We need to receive the Holy Spirit so we can do the work of discipleship that awaits each one of us. We
cannot preach correctly unless we have received and depend on the Holy Spirit. We cannot pray, sing,
serve or live correctly as a Christian unless and until we have been empowered and enlightened by the
Holy Spirit, which first fell on the Lord’s apostles in Jerusalem on Pentecost!

Do you remember when God made Adam from the dust of the earth in Genesis 2:7? Although God had
the body of Adam, nothing happened with that body until God breathed His Spirit into the nostrils of
Adam, who then became a living soul.

Do you remember the dry bones in the valley in Ezekiel 37? Although Ezekiel spoke to the bones and
they came together to form a body, the body could not and did not move until the Spirit of God blew
over those bones. The same thing is true with the church and with every Christian; no matter what our
spiritual gifts might be, they never will function to their full capacity until we allow the Holy Spirit to
blow over us, fill us and equip us for God’s service.

I love the Pentecost hymn that says:
“Breathe on me, breath of God,
“Fill me with life anew,
“That I may live as You did live,
“And do what You would do.”

The same message is found in the more familiar hymn that says:
“Spirit of the living God, fall afresh on me,
“Spirit of the living God, fall afresh on me.
“Melt me, mold me, fill me, and use me.
“Spirit of the living God, fall afresh on me.”

In both cases, we cannot do our work, employ our gifts or exercise our ministry areas until God has filled
us and transformed us by the power of the Holy Spirit. However, once the Holy Spirit has come, we can
have the same boldness, conviction and possibly the same results Peter had on the Day of Pentecost
when 3,000 souls were added to the church at the end of his sermon. We need the power of Pentecost!

Pentecost is the day when gender walls seem to come down. Peter said Pentecost is the fulfillment of
the prophecy of Joel who said, “God will pour out His Spirit on all flesh, and your sons and your
daughters will prophesy…Even upon the menservants and maidservants in those days will I pour out My
Spirit” (Joel 2:28). Pentecost is the day when God tears down all the walls of division in the world and
the church.

We need to move beyond the idea that God cannot use both men and women in the ministry of the
gospel. Paul would go on to say, “In Christ there is neither male nor female, neither slave nor free,
neither Jew nor Gentile” (Galatians 3:28). The same Paul who commended Timothy in 2 Timothy 1:1-6
also commended Phoebe in Romans 16:1. These times in which we live are another embodiment of the
Spirit of Pentecost, as God is once again pouring out His Spirit upon our sons and daughters. We need to
embrace this aspect of the power and purpose of Pentecost!

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