This week’s eNewsletter Feature
was written by Jim Teague,
FPCE director of communications.
I had been a believer in Jesus for many years, perhaps more than two decades, before I made the connection that Pentecost is directly connected to the Jewish holiday of Shavuot.
This Sunday we celebrate Pentecost at our 10 a.m. worship service (please note the time change), remembering when the Holy Spirit came upon the Disciples and then to others in Jerusalem who were likely there to celebrate Shavuot.
Shavuot takes place 50 days after Passover. The original Shavuot holiday was thought to have been celebrated to mark the giving of the Torah, the first five books in the Hebrew Bible (or the Pentateuch) to Moses at Mount Sinai. It is really two holidays in one, as it coincides with the beginning of the harvest season (“first fruits”) and the celebration of God’s provision.[i]
Shavuot also has a direct connection to the story of Ruth and Naomi.
“After Ruth harvested for about seven weeks in Boaz’s fields—probably corresponding to the time of the Counting of the Omer and Shavuot—Naomi devised a plan of action so that Ruth would not live out the rest of her days as an impoverished widow.”[ii]
Encouraged by Naomi, Ruth visits Boaz on the threshing floor toward the end of the harvest and, through a very respectable and traditional method, expresses her willingness to be married to him. Although Boaz was not obliged to act on behalf of this poor widow, he eventually married Ruth.
This is what blows my mind: Boaz and Ruth, a widowed foreign woman, meet during Shavuot/Pentecost. They marry, and King David and the Messiah come from their lineage. Jesus comes, dies, and is resurrected. He promises to send his followers a “helper,” which we now know to be the Holy Spirit. The disciples gather in Jerusalem for Shavuot, celebrating the giving of the law of Moses. The Holy Spirit comes in power to the disciples and enables foreign travelers who are present to understand what the disciples are saying as they are filled with the Spirit’s power.
In other words, without the original holiday of Shavuot, and the faithfulness of a gentile woman, the story of the Messiah might look completely different. But God has woven together a marvelous tapestry through time: The Law is given to Moses, celebrated for centuries, fulfilled by Jesus, and that fulfilment is announced through the Holy Spirit on the day of that celebration. Wow!
One last thing.
The filling of the disciples by the Holy Spirit is often thought of as a one-time event. But throughout the New Testament, church history, and in the Presbyterian church, the Holy Spirit comes again and again and again, bringing inspiration for ministry, signs and wonders, and evangelistic fervor.
As Peter shared the Gospel with a Roman Centurion in Caesarea (Acts 4:44-48), the Holy Spirit comes upon the Gentiles there. Paul testifies of his calling to bring the Gospel to the Gentiles with the sanctifying power of the Holy Spirit (Romans 15).
Asked once why he continually sought the infilling of the Holy Spirit for himself and others, famed Chicago preacher D.L. Moody replied, “I need a continual infilling because I leak!”[iii]
I can relate — and I suspect most of us can as well.
So, I encourage you to join us Sunday for our worship at 10 a.m. and our International Potluck following the service. Wear red if you like as a sign of the tongues of fire seen on that Shavuot Sunday in Jerusalem.
God’s peace, joy, and Holy Spirit power be with all of us!
FPCE Director of Communications