God comes to the party
We’ve had the millennium party, Easter, and now we’ve come together for the P2K celebrations (Pentecost 2000). We’ve come together to celebrate Pentecost. Christians have been celebrating Pentecost for 2000 years. The people of Israel continue to celebrate this festival too as they have been for over 3000 years. It was established early in the national life of Israel as the Festival of Weeks and later it became known as Pentecost. It is a festival of harvest thanksgiving. Both Christians and Jews today celebrate Pentecost as a harvest thanksgiving festival, but of course in different ways and for different reasons.
Pentecost is a joyous occasion. Two thousand years ago, Israelites from all over the world came together to partake in this national festival. Fifty days earlier, Israel had come together at another national festival, the Passover. But Pentecost is about the harvest being completed. All the anxiety about planting grain, the weather, watching the crop grow to maturity, and getting the harvest in are all over. The hard labour is finished. The grain houses are full and it’s time to celebrate with family, friends, and work-mates.
That was only part of the happenings at Pentecost. Primarily, it was and still is a spiritual festival with a focus on God. It was a time to worship God, and to give thanks to him for life’s blessings. Through the process of worship people renewed their covenant relationship with God. They in turn expected God to continue to bless them in all things.
From the grain harvest people would make and present to God as a thanksgiving offering two loaves of leaven bread. Unlike the non-leaven bread at the Passover, these loaves were complete, fully risen, baked in ovens, and a delight to God and everyone. These two loaves of bread are indeed a representation and acknowledgement of God’s goodness and hope of continued blessing. They are also a reminder to those who knew Jesus, that he once said, “I am the bread of life; he who comes to me shall not hunger.” (John 6: 35).
The day of Pentecost 2000 years ago was the setting into which God did something extraordinary. He came down from heaven to earth. He did so once before. He was here in the flesh as Jesus of Nazareth, our Lord. This time he came not in the flesh but in spirit, his spirit, his Holy Spirit, and he came into the presence of his disciples. God’s presence to his disciples on Pentecost was as real to them as when he came in the flesh. He made his presence known to them through the divine wind and fire seen above their heads. The miracle continued as the disciples spoke in foreign languages to others about Jesus Christ their Saviour.
God came down from heaven to participate in the joyous festival of harvest thanksgiving. He came to celebrate it with his disciples. What did God have to celebrate?
Did he have a field of wheat somewhere, or a vineyard?
God did have a harvest and he celebrated it with his disciples. God was celebrating the success and completion of salvation for the whole world through Jesus Christ, Son of God. Jesus gave his life helping and caring for people wherever he went and whatever their needs were. He gave his life revealing the loving nature and eternal will of God. He gave his life forgiving and forgetting our sins. He gave his life defeating Satan, the ruler of this world. He gave his life that through him there is no death. Jesus gave his life to show us that he is the truth, the way, and the life. God and all of us have a lot to celebrate on this day and everyday.
There were many celebrations happening at Pentecost, but God only attended one, and it wasn’t at the Temple with all the people. The disciples were truly honoured to have God come to their party and stay. This was the happening place, not at the Temple but here in the upper-room amongst the true followers and servants of Jesus Christ, the true followers of God.
In the presence of God many things happened. The disciples were encouraged and enabled to see that Jesus their Lord is indeed the Son of God. They also understood the crucifixion and death of Jesus as the means to forgive the sins of the world. Through Jesus’ ascension that death had lost its sting and that Satan the ruler of this world was defeated. Through the presence of God, Jesus was once more real to the disciples, alive with them. They continued to believe that Jesus is the truth, the way and the life. Apart from Jesus there is only sin.
All the people who had gathered in Jerusalem to celebrate Pentecost all shared a common and popular belief about life and how to get the best out of it. All the people went to the temple with their loaves of bread and other offerings as they have done for hundreds of years to present them to God. But he wasn’t there.
All of us are very much like those Israelites who gathered at Jerusalem to celebrate Pentecost. Not just you and me, but also our families, friends, neighbours, the whole world, all of us are inclined to follow common and popular beliefs and values of the wider community. For example, we allow children to be given homework because it has always been like that, but never mind the stress it causes to parents, children, and teachers. We allow children to watch the cartoon Pokemon on TV. It’s a cartoon that solves all problems through violence. Surely that can’t be good for children? Although the average Kiwi is gaining a gram of weight everyday we all continue to eat takeaways. Your are number one, look after yourself, you deserve it, that is what we have been told by consumerism through movies and advertisements everywhere. We have been deceived by this idea. One outcome of this self-centred thinking, and it’s becoming popular is hearing people speaking throughout the world about land rights. This is my land they say. There is no consideration given for the well being of the other person who cohabits on the land. Such thinking is unhealthy and can lead to violence. It is not the way of Jesus.
Like the Israelites of 2000 years ago we also share in the common ideas and values of the wider community. We do this because we believe that is the way to life and blessing. We continue this way every day. At the end God is not to be found there. It is only through the presence of God that we can continue to have life and blessing.
Where is God to be found? He can be found with his disciples, with his followers, with all believers of Jesus Christ. He is with them. Through his presence there is continued life and blessing. Through his presence we are enabled to see and believe that Jesus Christ is the one who is in control of life. He gives it and gives eternal life. When we study and meditate on the Word of God in the Bible, and when we look at the life of Jesus, God himself will come into our presence no matter where we are.
Be prepared though to have your life changed as you meditate on the life of Jesus. You will become one of his disciples, a witness of the truth, the way and the life to others. You will have the presence of God with you. With this combination your life will bring God’s comfort, healing, and blessing not just to yourself but also to many people. This is Pentecost, let us continue to celebrate God with us. Amen.