THOUGHT FOR THE WEEK – Pentecost? 31st May 2020


What is Pentecost and how did it start? There’s only limited space here, so a truncated version. The original Day of Pentecost is a Jewish festival, coming fifty days after Passover (when the Jews made their great escape from Pharaoh in Egypt). Jews in Jesus’ time would flock to Jerusalem and celebrate in a style akin to our Harvest Festival. They’d bring the first sheaves of corn harvested, give thanks and pray for the remaining harvest to be brought in safely. They also looked back to their great escape from Egypt and how, fifty days into their wanderings in the desert, they reached Mount Sinai where Moses received the law. This was a time when God gave the Jewish People a new direction, clear guidance on how he wanted them to think and behave as His people, moving forward to a promised land. Ultimately this festival became centred on the temple in Jerusalem. It’s here, at one such festival, that we hear of the incredible events recorded in Acts that became what Christians now regard as ‘Pentecost.’ The account is in ‘Acts’ chapter 2.


Crowds from all over the known world had gathered in Jerusalem, many, but perhaps not all, would have been aware of the events that had taken place some seven weeks before. A charismatic man had created a real stir in Galilee and Jerusalem making, it seemed, messiahship and kingly claims. He’d been put to death by the authorities on the request of the crowd, goaded on by the religious hierarchy. This man was Jesus. His followers had dispersed and although some had remained together they’d gone into hiding, or at least gone strangely quiet. Danny reminded us last week that Jesus’ followers were now in their own kind of lockdown following his crucifixion, and that the Holy Spirit he’d promised would have to be something special to get them kick started again. Well it was! Pentecost was to take on a new meaning, a new significance.


The Holy Spirit came on the disciples who were gathered together. They described it as being like a violent wind, tongues of fire – something extraordinary was happening. The people gathered in Jerusalem were now hearing the message about Jesus, what he said and what he did and they heard it in their own languages, from people who were clearly Galilean. This was the start of something new.


There is much that could be said here, but what I want to consider now is what – among many other things – the Holy Spirit can mean to us today. Let’s start by being honest and say that for many it’s a very hard concept to take in. For some it’s a scary thought, especially the thoughts of violent winds, tongues of fire and such drama. But remember, the Holy Spirit is a gift from God, it’s a source of strength, it can be our guide and prompter if we would but allow it. Let me remind you of another story you may or may not be familiar with. The great prophet Elijah had been in quite a scuffle with Jezebel and the prophets of Baal, had fled for his life and ended up hiding in a cave….


…. Then the word of the Lord came to him, saying, “What are you doing here, Elijah?” 10 He answered, “I have been very zealous for the Lord, the God of hosts; for the Israelites have forsaken your covenant, thrown down your altars, and killed your prophets with the sword. I alone am left, and they are seeking my life, to take it away.”

 Elijah Meets God at Horeb


11 He said, “Go out and stand on the mountain before the Lord, for the Lord is about to pass by.” Now there was a great wind, so strong that it was splitting mountains and breaking rocks in pieces before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind; and after the wind an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake; 12 and after the earthquake a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire; and after the fire a sound of sheer silence. 13 When Elijah heard it, he wrapped his face in his mantle and went out and stood at the entrance of the cave. Then there came a voice to him that said, “What are you doing here, Elijah?”       (1Kings 19: 9-14)


It was in the calm silence that Elijah heard God’s voice cutting through all the noise and commotion. Elijah, strengthened and with confidence went back to carry on God’s work. He’d been alone and afraid, but through the presence and guidance of God’s spirit, his life became meaningful again.


The same thing happened to the disciples, they felt alone and afraid. Then the Spirit of God intervened – life changed. Energy, strength, confidence in what Jesus had said and done became an urgent message to deliver. Here we are, over 2000 years later still speaking about it. So I guess we can say when it came, the Holy Spirit was in deed something special, it still is today and it can be in our own lives too, Young, old, male, female, rich or poor.


It doesn’t have to be like a great violent wind, or tongues of fire, it can be in the still small voice of calm. If we stop, stay quiet and listen we can often feel, even hear that comforting voice, prompting, guiding, strengthening. If we embrace the stillness, especially if we’re feeling alone or afraid, God can and will see us through, but we have to open our hearts and ears and eyes to hear – and let him speak.


A Prayer from Nick Fawcett

Almighty and loving God,

We gather together today

As those joined by your Holy Spirit.


We come remembering your ancient promise

To send your Spirit upon all people,

Young and old

Male and female

Jew and Gentile

Move within us we pray.


We come remembering that first Pentecost

When your Spirit was given to the apostles,

Renewing their faith and transforming their lives.

Move within us we pray.


We come, on this Pentecost Sunday,

Reminded of the constant work of your Spirit,





Move within us we pray.


Almighty God, Spirit of truth,

Come as you promised

And reveal to us more of the way of Christ.

Come and fill us with deeper faith and greater love.

Give us the gifts we need to work for your kingdom,

Inspire us with new vision and purpose,

And breathe your power into our lives.

Move within us we pray.


Almighty and loving God,

Open our hearts and minds and souls to our Spirit,

Whoever we may be,

And so equip us to live as your people,

Not just this but every day,

Our lives reflecting your glory

And proclaiming your love.

Move within us we pray.

To the glory of your name.



Nick Fawcett (1998) Prayers for All Seasons. 1500210 edition ed. Bury St Edmunds, Kevin Mayhew Ltd.