Each Sunday the Sunday School children begin worship with us in the sanctuary. After the Gathering rite and before the scripture readings I sit down with them on the chancel steps and talk to them, usually about the scripture reading they'll be focusing on in their Sunday School lesson, then I say a prayer with them and send them off to Sunday School. Here's my Children's Chat for this Sunday, the Day of Pentecost
Who paid attention and knows what day it is today? It’s Pentecost.
Pentecost means 50, and today it’s 50 days after Easter. Easter doesn’t seem that long ago to me. The Jewish people celebrated Pentecost long before Jesus, long before there were Christian churches. For them it wasn’t 50 days after Easter, but 50 days after Passover, another festival when the Jews remembered and gave thanks to God for setting their ancestors free from slavery. The Pentecost celebration had two meanings for them. It was a celebration of the harvest, kind of like our thanksgiving. It was also a celebration of the gift of the laws and teachings that God gave the people through Moses, like the Ten Commandments, the laws that teach us how to live together with God and with each other.
Well, at the Pentecost festival in Jerusalem there were people gathered and celebrating who had come from far away, from Jewish communities all over the world. On that day, Jesus’ disciples were gathered together, probably to worship and pray, when all of a sudden something strange and wonderful happened. There was a sound, a noise from heaven like the sound of a mighty wind! It filled the house where they were meeting. Then they saw what looked like flames of fire moving in all directions, and a flame settled on each person there. This was God’s Holy Spirit coming to the people, just like Jesus had promised. He said he’d send them the Spirit to be with them always after he was gone.
It’s interesting that the Holy Spirit came like wind and fire. At the very beginning of the Bible where we read about God creating the world, it says "the Spirit of God moved over the water." But some Bibles say "a wind from God swept over the waters." Still others say, "the breath of God moved over the water." Why the different words? Spirit, wind, breath? Well, in both of the original languages of the Bible, the Hebrew and the Greek, the word for Spirit, wind, and breath are the same. And in the Pentecost story we read about the sound of a mighty wind, and it’s the Holy Spirit coming.
What about the fire? Well, in the story of the Exodus, of God’s people being set free from slavery, we read that they traveled and camped in the wilderness for 40 years before the arrived in the land God promised them. And while they traveled and camped God showed them that he was with them by appearing as a pillar of cloud during the day and a pillar of fire during the night. That’s what the Holy Spirit is for us, the presence of God with us always. So in the Pentecost story we read about flames of fire settling on each person, that’s the Holy Spirit coming to them.
There was something else that happened on that Pentecost day. All of a sudden, the disciples had courage and received the ability to share the news of God’s love with all who were there. And there were people from all over the world there for the celebration and they all heard the message in their own languages. The Holy Spirit might not make us speak other languages, but the Holy Spirit does give us the power to share God’s love with others.
We believe that the Holy Spirit comes to us in baptism. When I baptize someone, besides pouring water on them do you remember what else I do? I put my hands on their head and pray for the Holy Spirit to be with them, then I dip my thumb in oil and mark a cross on their forehead as a sign that God is with them.
So, instead of us saying a prayer together, I’m going to have you line up on your way down to Sunday School and I’ll place my hand on your head, say a prayer of blessing, and mark a cross on your forehead as a reminder and sign that God is always with you, just like God’s word promises in baptism.
Child of God, you have been marked with the cross + of Christ forever, and sealed by the Holy Spirit, you have the power to share God’s love with the rest of the world. Amen