“Hey girls, what is Pentecost?” Both of my daughters looked at me with a blank stare and said they had no idea. I looked at them as if they had grown two heads and asked, “What do you mean you don’t know what Pentecost is?” This made no sense to me. “How can you learn anything about the church in confirmation if you don’t know how the whole process started?” Sara, my oldest, would be getting confirmed in a few months and she had no knowledge of what this very important Christian day was about? How could that be? Well, at that moment the mom in me took over and made the decision to change that mistake right then and there. My girls were going to learn about Pentecost and much, much more if it took the rest of their lives. I bought notebooks, pens and each week gave them a scripture text to read and dissect with notes about what they were reading. My girls were going to know the Bible and the importance of Pentecost if it killed me. You can imagine how well that went over and how long it lasted. We laugh and joke about it now but I was dead serious at the time. I felt I had failed as a mother and as a Christian!
So what is Pentecost and why is it so important to me? Most people are familiar with pictures of people standing with flames of fire sitting on the heads as a symbol of the Spirit at Pentecost. In the book of Acts, the Spirit experience is described as the sound of wind and “divided tongues, as of fire,” which swept into the room where the apostles were waiting. (Acts 2:2-3) While that is a cool description, what is important is that the apostles were all gathered and waiting together for the promise of God to be fulfilled. According to Jesus’ instructions, they were to wait on the Spirit of God to come and provide them with the power to be “witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” They were a community of faith waiting together trusting in the promise of Jesus. When the Spirit arrived, the whole group was empowered by the Spirit, which enabled them to speak in many languages so that people, from every country that was represented in Jerusalem, could understand their message. They were filled with the Spirit of God in order to witness to the love of Christ just as Jesus had promised.
This is why it matters to me that our confirmands understand the importance of Pentecost. The promise Jesus made to his apostles, all of those years ago, remains true today. The apostles started a movement of fire! Just as a flame expands and consumes everything around it, their message of love spread into the world around them in “Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, Europe, North American, Africa, China, and to the ends of the earth. We as Christians, who make up the “church,” are filled with that same Spirit and are called to be witnesses to all nations throughout the world. The Apostle Paul says it so completely, “Repent and be baptized everyone of you in the name of the Jesus Christ so that your sins may be forgiven; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is for you, for your children, and for all who are far away, every one who the Lord our God calls to him” (Acts 2:38-39). There is hope in the gift of the Holy Spirit for all believers and maybe there is hope for me to teach my grand girls about the importance of Pentecost. Maybe I need to buy them a Bible and some notebooks and pencils, just sayin..