Dean Phelps, Transitional Regional Minister
The celebration of Pentecost brings a climax to the season of Easter. During the weeks following Easter Sunday, readings from Acts form the first readings in the Revised Common Lectionary. For seven weeks we have remembered not only the resurrection of the Lord, but we have also heard what his disciples did in the days after his ascension.
The Easter celebration begins with the resurrection and ascension, and it continues, culminating with the descent of the Holy Spirit on the disciples. On Pentecost Sunday we will hear the dramatic story again: the sound of a violent, rushing wind, divided tongues as of fire, the disciples speaking so that all could hear and understand. We will hear the cynical voices deriding the disciples, “Obviously they’re drunk.”
The drama captures our attention, but it can distract us from the softer Pentecost that Paul describes in Romans 8:26, “Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but that very Spirit intercedes with sighs too deep for words” (NRSV). Paul characterizes Pentecost, not as an isolated event or a single day but as an ongoing presence of the Spirit.
For Paul, Pentecost is open-ended. Every time we do not know how to pray as we ought, the Spirit from God descends again, interceding on our behalf. Whenever we can’t find the words to express what’s on our hearts, the Holy Spirit speaks for us in sighs too deep for words.
Although we may not hear a rushing wind or experience divided tongues like fire, God’s Holy Spirit still rests on us. In the sacred place of prayer, Paul reminds us, God’s Holy Spirit is with us, intervening and speaking for us, especially in those times that we don’t know what to say.