The Festival of Pentecost

I thought I knew Australian history growing up. I knew a
version of it – not incorrect as such – but definitely not
nuanced or the ‘full story’. The ‘skeletons were in the
closet’ about some things – particularly in relation to
the indigenous people of Australia – and it wasn’t until I
was in my 30s that I encountered more stories, more
history, and I realised that there was more – a lot more

– to the story – many things unsavoury, unjust, preju-
diced, cruel, wrong – that meant I reassessed the his-
tory of the land of my birth. I mention this because this

week I listened to a podcast about Australia and the
Pacific Region and felt I was ignorant all over again
and as I was learning many new things – some of
which I wish hadn’t happened. I suppose part of getting older is always learning more about the
past because, if nothing else, you have more past (! ;-)) but also perhaps because increased
age gives you more of a ‘vantage point’ to see where you’ve come from!
Today western Christendom celebrates the Festival of Pentecost. Whenever it is celebrated,

Pentecost recalls the coming of the Holy Spirit upon those public witnesses and Peter’s mes-
sage in Jerusalem about what was happening – how the crowd could hear messages in their

own native languages about the mighty works of God – and who Jesus is and what he has
done for all people. Often Pentecost is associated with the Christian Church. The accounts we
hear are exciting, dramatic, powerful – with 3,000 being baptised in response.

Pentecost has two messages – about Jesus – and also about us. You see, the context of talk-
ing about Jesus and what he did was that humanity was separated from God, alienated from

God, dead to God and Jesus came to give people life with God. There are always two messag-
es when speaking about God because God is never something abstract or remote in relation to

us. To talk about God means to talk about – or imply – things about humanity. If God is
knowledge or enlightenment, then humanity is described as ignorant or unenlightened and this
shapes the relationship with God as people become enlightened. If God is linked to a place
then people should behave in particular ways in relation to that place.
It is not often read in the Pentecost story but after Peter had preached, Luke records, Now
when they heard this they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles,
“Brothers, what shall we do?” (Acts 3:37 ESV). The story of a gracious and faithful God, the
story of Jesus’ life, death, resurrection, and ascension is a story that reveals that people sin,
are afraid, are cruel, are guilty, are anxious, and one day will die. This mightn’t be new
knowledge as such but often these sorts of things we like to minimise or push away or even
deny but to come face to face with Jesus and his cross means coming face to face with why.
Because we – you – me – all people – need rescuing and a new life!

This is part of the story – the history – the truth of Pentecost. The Holy Spirit wants each gener-
ation, each century to meet Jesus and part of that story is the diagnosis of the human spiritual

condition – which can be the history we’d rather not see or know. But see it and know it we
must – which is why the Divine Service begins with confession and absolution – and Pentecost
continues – and the followers of Jesus can still talk about God’s mighty works through words,
water, bread and wine – and also live with God each day. GS