June 16, 2019

Sermon – Feast of Pentecost 2019

Pastor’s Sermon
The Sunday of Pentecost
By V. Rev. Timothy Baclig
June 16, 2019

On this day, the eighth Sunday after Easter, we celebrate the Feast of Holy
Pentecost. The descent of the Holy Spirit occurred ten days after the Ascension
following a period of time when the Disciples, in obedience to the instructions of
our Lord, waited for Him while praying and fasting. As the fiftieth day after
Pascha, the Feast of Pentecost is a remembrance of the Old Law. The Israelites
received the Ten Commandments after a period of fifty days from the time of the
crossing of the Red Sea (the Jewish feast of Passover). And so, we also celebrate
fifty days after Pascha, receiving the One who gives us the Law, the All-Holy
Spirit; He who guides us in all truth and teaches us what is pleasing to God.

The Holy Spirit’s descent in the form of tongues of fire upon the Apostles is
a demonstration that He is not separate from the living Word; also to empower the
Holy Apostles with the use of words in teaching the multitudes as they brought
them to Christ. The descent of the Holy Spirit in the form of fiery tongues was
to show, on the one hand, that God is a consuming fire, while on the other
hand, our need of purification. His grace rested upon the Apostles in tongues so
that they could gather those of different languages who were scattered throughout
the world. This all took place on the Day of Pentecost because it was fitting that
the grace of the Spirit be poured out at the same time that the Old Law had been
received, just as Christ was the new and true Pascha in place of the old Passover.

In festal hymn of the Kontakion we hear: When the High One descended,
confusing tongues, He divided the nations. And when He distributed the fiery
tongues He called all to one unity. Wherefore, in unison we glorify the most Holy
Spirit.

The image of this hymn presents us with is the event of the building of the
Tower of Babel by a people who were of one mind and one language; a people
whose aim was “making a name for themselves” (Genesis 11:4). In verses 6-9 of
Genesis 11 it is recorded: The Lord said, “If as one people speaking the same
language they have begun to do this, then nothing they plan to do will be
impossible to them. Come, let us [Note: God is spoken of in the plural] go down
and confuse their language so that they will not understand each other.” So the
Lord scattered them from there over all the earth, and they stopped building the
city. That is why it was called Babel—because there the Lord confused the
language of the whole world…[scattering] them over the face of the whole earth.

In last night’s Vespers service we also heard a commentary on this passage
with a verse from the Aposticha: Of old there was confusion of tongues because of
the boldness of the tower-builders. But those tongues have not uttered wisdom for
the glory of divine knowledge. There God condemned the infidels to punishment,
and here with the Spirit Christ illuminated the fishermen. At that time, the
confusion of tongues was designed for vengeance, and now the unison of tongues
hath been renewed for the salvation of our souls.

You may recall that at the “Vespers of Love” on Holy Pascha the Gospel is
intentionally read in many languages to also signify how the message of the
forgiveness of sins is to be proclaimed to all nations. Similarly, on Holy
Pentecost, we hear the account in today’s Epistle that all who gathered in the
international city of Jerusalem heard the good news in their own language as the
Apostles were given utterance by the Holy Spirit.

Pentecost is the Feast that is the culmination of Holy Pascha (Easter).
It is the completion of God’s plan of salvation. For you and me, the working of
the Holy Spirit in our life brings about many things. First and foremost, the Spirit
reveals Christ, deepens and renews our commitment to Christ and his
teachings. The Spirit of God also illumines and brings back to one’s
remembrance the teaching of Christ and His Apostles. The descent of the Holy
Spirit brought illumination. The Spirit of Truth aided the Apostles in their
reflection and remembrance our Lord’s teaching. Moreover, the Spirit enabled
them to perceive things differently. Their lives not only took on a new sense of
purpose, death itself acquired a new meaning.

Second, the Holy Spirit is a sanctifying power. He enables a Christian to
remain steadfast in truth and to earnestly desire purification of sins, by a living a
repentant life. It is what empowers one to remain faithful. The Spirit’s coming
also motivated and empowered the believers to do many things that they otherwise
would not thought of doing by themselves or of their own strength. However, the
Holy Spirit that came upon them was not a force that was imposing or intrusive.
He empowered them to demonstrate initiative with humility. The All Holy Spirit
transcended, transformed, and even dissolved any might that was opposed to love,
bringing an end to any animosity and contention. There was unity among the
Apostles with a bond of peace. And the power that was manifested through them
was the power of forgiveness; a forgiveness that they experienced and began to
proclaim.

Third, life in the Spirit manifests the fruits of the Spirit, namely, love,
joy, peace, long-suffering, patience, kindness, goodness, meekness, and selfcontrol. The Spirit enables a Christian to practice forgiveness from the heart, as
one having experienced the forgiveness of sins. It is the central message of the
Gospel at Easter, the message that Christ proclaims to the Apostles at the
Ascension, and today, it is the message that is heard by the Disciples by the many
who heard it in their own language. In the words of the Holy Apostle Peter in
verse 38 of chapter 2 in the Book of Acts, he proclaims to all who curiously
gathered in Jerusalem having heard the noise in the upper room: Repent and be
baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ so that your sins may be
forgiven. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. And so, finally, the Holy
Spirit whose work is to glorify Christ empowers a Christian to be a strong
witness to Jesus as Lord, as a living example by word and deed.


Prayer

May the All-Holy Spirit, Christ’s own Spirit, sent from the Father illumine
us with the light of piety and understanding that we may all remain steadfast in
His love.

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