Jesus Christ, having been crucified at the end of the Passover celebration, appeared to the disciples, sometimes individually and sometimes collectively, 11 times after the Resurrection.
On the 40th day after Passover, Christ appeared to His disciples for the 11th, and final, time. On that day Jesus promised that the disciples would receive the Holy Spirit (Acts 1:8).
Ten days later was to begin the Feast of Weeks, a celebration that honored the first harvest and its fruits. The disciples were gathered as the Holy Spirit descended upon them "from heaven, as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting." (Acts 2:2) Miraculously the Holy Spirit appeared on each one of them as a flickering tongue of flame atop their heads as they each began to speak in a language foreign to them. The disciples, with their new gift of being able to speak in another language, began to share the glory of the Gospel with Jews from other nations. Many witnesses mocked the disciples, accusing them of being drunk and babbling incessantly. St. Peter addressed these people by quoting the Prophet Joel, "And it shall come to pass in the last days, says God, that I will pour out of My Spirit in all flesh" (Joel 2:28).
The same Spirit: As we participate in the celebration of Pentecost we are reminded that we are recipients of that very same Holy Spirit! It is not a weaker one, it is not a watered-down version of that which the disciples received, and so must our actions begin to reflect that gift!
St. Paul exhorted the church in 1 Corinthians: "For we are God's fellow workers; you are God's field, you are God's building ... But let each one take heed how he builds on it. For no other foundation can anyone lay than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. Now if anyone builds on this foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw, each one's work will become manifest; for the day will declare it, because it will be revealed by fire and the fire will test each one's work, of what sort it is."
Responsibility and choices, those are the challenges that face us as Pentecost comes and goes. St. Paul tells us in verse 11 what the foundation of ALL our actions must be. The foundation is Christ. In verse 12, St. Paul then turns the impetus on us to choose what we will use to build upon that foundation. St. Paul is very much aware we are going to face these choices daily.
Our gift of free will, our ability to choose, is our greatest challenge. Knowing that can be half the battle. Return to the building analogy of St. Paul, look at our building materials of choice and liken it to how we live our lives.
Posing a threat: Coming to church only makes one a minor threat to Satan. Often we go to church to judge whether or not the fashion sense of our pew-neighbor is on track. If that's the case, we're content to build with straw. We can go ahead and build our house out of straw and cause no threat to Satan, yet when we do this we offer nothing of worth to God. If we are truly concerned with our daily spiritual battle, and we take each day as an opportunity to show those around us that God has created a new life in us by the sending of His Son and Holy Spirit which lives in us, then we need gold.
Not only does God tell us we are worth it but Satan is threatened only by those that are actively pursuing that relationship with Him and Christ through the assistance of the Holy Spirit. The trials and tests come hard and fast when committing oneself to improving one's relationship with God.
We allow the Lord through his Holy Spirit to influence our daily choices; whether it is rearing our children in the fear of God or making ethical business decisions.
When we allow the Lord to work through these facets of our lives, that is when we choose to take part in a spiritual warfare. Let us not be motivated by the sheer terror of the threat of hell. Do not let the desire to become a willing servant of God be as a result of some twisted "eternal" life-insurance policy. Let it be your love for your God.
"Our Father" is what most of us feel comfortable calling him each Sunday as we gather to worship Him. That should be the inspiration to build a house with gold or silver. Because later in verse 13 we find out that our "construction skills" as it were, are going to be "tested by fire." Look at each choice not as simply a means to earn a reward but as a small part of a life-long process of character building.
Build the foundation of your inner being on Jesus Christ with the assistance of the Holy Spirit in an effort to create something that your Father would be proud of -- for on this Day of Pentecost the Holy Spirit came down for that very purpose.
XSubdeacon David Moretti works at St. Mark Orthodox Church in Liberty.