My brother’s birthday is June 5, just a few days away. Growing up I remember that he never got to celebrate his birthday at school, because school had already finished by the time his birthday arrived.
I never thought about it much because my birthday is April 6, but many teachers celebrate all the summer birthdays together during the last week of school so every student got a “birthday day” during the school year. My brother probably wishes our elementary school did that.
I want to describe another summer birthday of sorts, one you might not normally think of...
Every summer there is a birthday related to the Church that we celebrate on a Sunday, some years in May and other years in June. This year it is June 9th. You may have guessed by now I am talking about Pentecost, which some refer to as the “birthday of the Church”.
Birthdays celebrate and give thanks for the day a person was born. Pentecost is a similar day for the Church, because in many ways it is the start of the Church.
Pentecost is described in Acts 2 and it is 50 days after Easter, 50 days after Jesus rose from the dead (this is also why its date moves every year). Jesus had previously promised a helper or advocate who would come after Him, the Holy Spirit (John 14:26, 15:26 and 16:7). And so after Jesus ascended to Heaven, His work on earth did not cease, but it was continued through us as the Church. Have you ever thought that with the Holy Spirit, together we actually carry on the work of Jesus in our world?
Is it not true that where the Holy Spirit is there is healing, forgiveness, hope, new life, and deliverance from sin and evil even today? We continue to see the Kingdom of God unfolding in our world because of the Holy Spirit at work in us! Pentecost is far more than a birthday celebration, it is a realization of the power of God in our midst.
The Church cannot and will not exist apart from the power of the Holy Spirit, and so Pentecost marks the outpouring of the Holy Spirit in such a way that brings us together as the Church. Thus the “birthday of the Church”.
If you are one of the lucky ones who has a summer birthday, maybe you got to celebrate your birthday twice a year as a kid: once with your classmates at the end of the school year and then again when your actual birthday rolled around. Every time we gather as the Church should be just like that: another celebration of what makes us the Church and a witness to the Holy Spirit.
And so let us celebrate not just on Pentecost, but everyday as a Holy Spirit-filled day.
– Ian Conerly is the pastor of New Oregon United Methodist Church