“On the evening of that first day of the week, when the doors were locked where the disciples were, for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood in their midst and said to them, “Peace be with you.” When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side. The disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord. [Jesus] said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit (John 20:19-22).
I remember well a time in my life when I was heartbroken and scared of what the future held. It was the hot, mid-summer my father had died. His death was tragic, and grief was the overwhelming air of my home. I was three and a half years old. My father had named me “Jolly,” but I was not so. It was in the heat of that summer that I visited a church for the first time. God revealed himself to me on that first encounter by way of the Holy Spirit. I was not baptized, I was not born into the faith of the Holy Trinity, nor did I have any sacramental or theological knowledge. What happened as I sat at my mother’s feet was the miraculous work of the Holy Spirit. I saw a bright light fill the room as the music commenced. I knew deeply that a deposit of authentic faith was happening—for me and for my mother. I was pulled into an inner realm of heavenly reality. The music, the voices, and the prayers filled the room. I was overwhelmed with a sweetness, a hope, and a vibrant joy that was transformative. I know now that I was experiencing the love of the Holy Spirit healing my grief and filling me with new life. This breath of the Holy Spirit pulled me into the very core and presence of the true and living God.
There, as a young child, I tasted of Pentecost and was never the same. In the midst of the most trying of circumstances, the Spirit came to me. This was, in a sense, the birth-place of my life-long quest to follow God and find truth. It would be decades before I was baptized, confirmed, and received fully into the arms of the Church. And yet, the breath of the Holy Spirit came that day, and though in infancy, he began a powerful work. The Spirit created in me a hunger for truth, for identity, for family, and ultimately, for mission to the world.
This celebration of Pentecost is the birthday of the Church. Acts chapter two provides ripe details concerning the promise Jesus made to his disciples—the unfolding of the promises they had longed for. God poured the Holy Spirit directly into their hearts as they gathered in “one accord.” He had sent the Paraclete, the Advocate. The long-awaited, miraculous transformation took place. The Holy Spirit dispelled fear and timidity, bringing about a boldness of faith, a genuine humility, and a clarity of mission for the birth of the Church.
Is God working in the midst of your fear and uncertainty? He longs to work in the very center of your being, even where you hold the most pain. Could it be that you have the opportunity to experience a personal Pentecost, a birthplace of renewal in the longings of your heart? I am with you today, pressing in and expecting the promise of new birth this Pentecost.