May 23 is Pentecost. This is the day when the church celebrates the coming of the Holy Spirit on the church.
An important link is often overlooked. This link is between the church and the Holy Spirit. When we recite the creeds, we express our belief in the church under the category of the Holy Spirit. This is because the church does not exist without the Holy Spirit.
Pentecost marks this event. The disciples are still huddled together, fearing arrest. The shock of Jesus’ crucifixion is still with them. Even after seeing Jesus after the resurrection, they still live in fear. When Jesus ascended into heaven, he tells them to hang around. He reassures them that they will not be abandoned – that soon the Holy Spirit will come.
At the Jewish Feast of the Weeks (Pentecost), the Holy Spirit not only paid the disciples a visit, but dramatically entered their room and entered each of them. This produced a dramatic change in the disciples. Instead of cowering in a room, they burst open to talk to all the Jews gathered in Jerusalem for the feast. And they told all these people about Jesus, each in their own languages. To recreate that, we have people read the reading from Acts that tells us about this event in different foreign languages.
From that day forward, the disciples carried the story of Jesus from Jerusalem to the entire world. It took generations to do this and it still goes on. The power, the engine, behind this is the Holy Spirit. The church cannot exist without the Holy Spirit. The church cannot exist without communities of people all infused with the Holy Spirit.
The Holy Spirit empowers the church to continue Jesus’ ministry. Jesus did ascend into heaven, but he did not leave us orphans. He gave us the Holy Spirit. God is in us. When we act through the Holy Spirit, we act as Jesus acted in the world.
But no one of us can do what Jesus did. The Holy Spirit gives us gifts for ministry. Every single one of us is given gifts for ministry. No one retires from ministry. The Holy Spirit never retires. It takes all of us together to continue Jesus’ ministry. Through all of us together, with the Holy Spirit, we will change the world.