The Venerable Gershinen Paul Dajur, PhD,
General Secretary, Church of Nigeria, Anglican Communion
The Christian faith is captivatingly outstanding because of Jesus Christ the Saviour and LORD, who is the basis for the faith. Jesus, who according to the Holy Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments is the same with the Father, came to fulfill God’s plan for man’s salvation (Gen. 1:1ff; John 1:1-5; Gal. 4:4). In fulfilling God’s plans, Jesus incarnated, died and rose again, thereby declaring man totally free from the power of sin and death. When He had accomplished God’s purpose for the salvation of man, He ascended into heaven (Acts 1:11). The different key aspects of the timeline of the life of Christ have been liturgically commemorated within the church year as: Christmas, Epiphany, Lent (Maundy Thursday and Good Friday are highlighted specially within the season), Easter, and Ascension. There are other major parts of the liturgical year like Advent, Pentecost and Trinity which are focused on the life and ministry of Christ in another light. Although all the different seasons and special days within the church year are important and in their distinctiveness important to the church. Pentecost, which is also known as Whitsunday carries same and more to the church.
It is pertinent to note that Pentecost had been an annual occasion in the life of the Jews right from the Old Testament time. Pentecost is known as the “Feast of Harvest or the Feast of Weeks” (Exod. 23, 24; Lev. 16; Num. 28; Deut. 16). It is a harvest festival time. It is preceded by the feast of firstfruits. The feast of Pentecost comes 50 days after the feast of firstfruits. This is the number of days between Easter Sunday and Pentecost Sunday also known as Whitsunday in the liturgical calendar. In other understanding, Pentecost takes place on the seventh Sunday after Easter. Since the 2020 Easter day took place on Sunday April 12 it became indisputable that Pentecost day should be on Sunday May 31, 2020. This is how the liturgical calendar is structured annually.
The feast of harvest or the feast of weeks took on another meaning with the coming of the promised Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost. This is what Acts 2 says on the experience that changed Pentecost for ever.
1“When the Day of Pentecost had fully come, they were all with one accord in one place. 2 And suddenly there came a sound from heaven, as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting. 3 Then there appeared to them divided tongues, as of fire, and one sat upon each of them. 4 And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance” (Acts 2:1-4).
It was on the day of Pentecost that the Holy Spirit came in accordance with the promise of Jesus to His disciples descended upon the Apostles, who were waiting in anticipation. Jesus had declared to them prior to his ascension into heaven thus:
5 “But now I go away to Him who sent Me, and none of you asks Me, ‘Where are You going?’ 6 But because I have said these things to you, sorrow has filled your heart. 7 Nevertheless I tell you the truth. It is to your advantage that I go away; for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you; but if I depart, I will send Him to you. 8 And when He has come, He will convict the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment: 9 of sin, because they do not believe in Me; 10 of righteousness, because I go to My Father and you see Me no more; 11 of judgment, because the ruler of this world is judged. 12 “I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. 13 However, when He, the Spirit of truth, has come, He will guide you into all truth; for He will not speak on His own authority, but whatever He hears He will speak; and He will tell you things to come. 14 He will glorify Me, for He will take of what is Mine and declare it to you. 15 All things that the Father has are Mine. Therefore I said that He will take of Mine and declare it to you (John 16:5-15).
The Holy Spirit came and indeed empowered the Apostles and through their preaching 3,000 persons were harvested unto Christ. Jesus had said earlier that if He is lifted up He will draw people unto Himself and that was what happened when through the power of the Holy Spirit, Peter, the Apostle lifted Jesus to the hearing of everyone who had gathered for Pentecost (Acts 2:41; see John 12:32). The Holy Spirit, whom Jesus called the Helper, the Spirit of truth, the Counselor, came upon the Apostles on Pentecost day to perform the work of convicting the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment. He will guide the Apostles into all truth to the glory of God Almighty (John 16:8, 13-14 see also 14:15-31). Through the Holy Spirit the church was established, the Gospel of Jesus Christ preached and God glorified (Acts 2:1ff). This is why mission must remain the number one mandate of the church that is filled with the Holy Spirit. Any glamourous claim of being filled with the Holy Spirit that does not move the church or the individuals into mission is a suspect. Henry Martyn the missionary to India and Persia was right in saying “The spirit of Christ is the spirit of missions. The nearer we get to Him, the more intensely missionary we become.”
The experience of Pentecost gave the church the empowerment to continue to march forward inspite of “dungeon, fire and sword” because Jesus is the builder of His church, which the gates of hades cannot prevail against. The unstoppable grace of the church comes from the power of the Holy Spirit which cannot be confined by principalities and powers of darkness (Matt. 18:16). The fact that the Holy Spirit cannot be locked down is obvious as the church empowered by the Holy Spirit went on praying and distributing palliatives to the people through the government and churches even during this coronavirus also known as COVID-19 pandemic. The spirit of God that came upon the church first on the day of Pentecost and subsequently on the church has continued to move through the church, inspite of any form of lock down, quarantine, or isolation. Of course, the Holy Spirit does not indwell some of the market places that operate as miracle centres, healing centres, prayer houses, or even churches; because the Spirit of God is Holy. He operates where the people are willing to accept His help for them to live holy lives. The church couldn’t have existed without the fulfilment of the promise of Jesus in the coming of the Holy Spirit.
There are many lessons the church and individuals can derive from Pentecost day. The collect, which is a short prayer said on the day of Pentecost according to the Church of Nigeria (Anglican Communion) Book of Common Prayer (BCP) encourages us to pray them into our lives thus: “Almighty God, who at this time taught the hearts of your faithful people, by sending to them the light of your Holy Spirit: grant us by the same Spirit to have a right judgement in all things, and evermore to rejoice in His holy comfort; through the merits of Christ Jesus our Saviour, one God, now and for ever. Amen”
Have a blessed Pentecost Day!
1. Come Holy Ghost our souls inspire
And lighten with celestial fire
Thou, the anointing Spirit art,
Who doth Thy sevenfold gifts impart.
2. Thy blessèd Unction from above,
Is comfort, life and fire of love;
Enable with perpetual light
The dullness of our blinded sight.
3. Anoint and cheer our soilèd face,
With the abundance of Thy grace,
Keep far our foes give peace at home
Where Thou art guide no ill can come.
4. Teach us to know the Father, Son
And Thee, of both to be but One,
That through the ages all along
This may be our endless song:
Praise to Thy eternal merit
Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Amen