When the day of Pentecost had come, the disciples were all together in one place. And suddenly from heaven there came a sound like the rush of a violent wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. Divided tongues, as of fire, appeared among them, and a tongue rested on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages, as the Spirit gave them ability. Acts 2:1-11
The word Pentecost in Greek means Fifty Days, and is the translation of the Hebrew word Shavout, meaning “weeks,” specifically, the seven weeks since Passover. Shavout, or “The Feast of Weeks” commemorates the giving of the Law, the Torah, to Moses at Mt. Sinai. The Christian feast of Pentecost Sunday commemorates the giving of the Holy Spirit to the Apostles. The color of this feast is Red, which reminds us of the blood of the Passover Lamb.
The Acts of the Apostles was written by St. Luke, and near the end of that Gospel, Luke quotes Jesus, saying, “I am going to send you what my Father has promised; but stay in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high.” (Luke 24:49) Here, in the Book of the Acts, that day has come.
The ability to speak in other languages started a controversy in the Corinthian Church. This gift of the Spirit was given to the Apostles so they could announce the Good News to all of the people in the world. The Corinthians were famous for their diversity and inclusivity, which allowed them to be influenced by all of the culture around them, and not all for the good. Corinth was a wealthy city in the Roman Empire, which brought in many people and industry. St. Paul found them to be a hedonistic people, famouis for their immorality. Even after he founded the church, word came to him that the new Christians were misbehaving. In 1st Corinthians, Chapter 3, he wrote to them, “you are still of the flesh. For while there is jealousy and strife among you, are you not of the flesh, and behaving like ordinary men?”
In chapter 6 he warned them again to flee from sexual immorality as a sin against their own bodies. He reminded them, “you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God” (1st Cor 6:11) The sin of pride was strong among them, and the ability to speak in other languages, or tongues, from the Latin word for language, became another source of pride, and they looked down on those who were not so gifted.
For some it became a badge of honor, and the true proof that one has the Holy Spirit. This belief is very active today, in what is called Pentecostalism, the belief that the Gifts of the Holy Spirit given at Pentecost, especially speaking in tongues, and faith healing, are the necessary evidence that one has been baptized by the Holy Spirit. Pentecostalism began in the early 20th century, so the belief is not very old, and it has split into some 700 denominations and a large number of independent churches, so it has done little to promote the unity of the Church. Some Pentecostals even look down on those of us who are not so gifted.
St. Paul had to teach the Corinthians that there were other gifts that were of equal importance, and he listed them in the epistle we read from today; the utterance or speaking of wisdom, the utterance of knowledge according to the same Spirit, faith by the same Spirit, gifts of healing by the one Spirit, to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another the ability to distinguish between spirits, to another various kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues. All these are inspired by one and the same Spirit, who apportions to each one individually as he wills.
So he is saying that not every Christian has the same gifts! If you don’t speak in other languages, you can still be a born again, Spirit filled Christian! In fact I am most grateful for the gift of Faith, as it allows me to be a Priest, serving the Most High God, while being completely unworthy to do so. Any wisdom I might speak is certainly a gift of the Holy Spirit. Any healing done at this altar rail is not my doing, but the work of The Great High Priest, even Jesus Christ our Lord.
The Holy Spirit wants to give you a gift, too. You were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.” You can claim the gifts of the Holy Spirit. I urge you to pray about this, and listen for the answer. It does not always come as a loud voice, so listen carefully. The Spirit of God is speaking to you.