Mount of Olives panorama

Mount of Olives panorama
A panoramic view of the Mount of Olives

Sunday, May 27, 2012


The altar and front of the chapel festooned with red, the color of Pentecost
"And when the day of Pentecost was fully come, they were all with one accord in one place.  And suddenly there came a sound from heaven as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting.  And there appeared unto them cloven tongues like as of fire, and it sat upon each of them.  And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance." (Acts 2:1-4)

Fifty days after Easter, the disciples, the mother of Jesus, and other of "his brethren" had gathered in the upper room, waiting for the promised gift of the spirit.  Jerusalem was full of pilgrims who had come for the Jewish feast of Shavuot (Festival of Weeks or the Feast of the Ingathering).  The power of the Holy Ghost descended upon them, and the Church, in great measure, and they experienced the gift of tongues, that allowed them to preach Jesus crucified and resurrected in all the languages of the people who had come to the feast.

Ever since, many, of not most, Christian churches mark the Sunday that falls on the fiftieth day after Easter as Pentecost Sunday.  Many decorate their altars, churches, and often their vestments in red, reminiscent of the "flames of fire."  Readings come from Joel, from John 20 (where Jesus appears to the ten of the Eleven and "breathes the Holy Ghost on them), and of course from Acts 2, while sermons often treat the gifts of the spirit and themes such as unity in diversity.

The St. John chapel at the Lutheran Church of the Redeemer
In the LDS Church, that does not have a strong liturgical tradition, at least as far as the calendar and most public worship goes, Pentecost is not usually marked (though when I was a bishop, we always had sacrament meeting talks on subjects such as the Gift of the Holy Ghost, the gifts of the spirit, and the fruits of the spirit on that Sunday, and we tried to sing hymns such as "Thy Spirit Lord Has Filled Our Souls").  So today I was anxious to go down to one of the English-speaking congregations that I sometimes visit in the Old City to enjoy a Pentecost service (not necessarily a Pentecostal service, though I sometimes find those interesting, too).

Many of our students wanted to go, so I took a large group to the English-speaking congregation of the Lutheran Church of the Redeemer while another group of students went with the Ludlows to the evangelical Anglican congregation at Christ Church.

Children joining Gloria Strickert at the end of the service
My friend Fred Stickert is the pastor of the English-speaking congregation, and I enjoyed the service and his sermon, as did the students.  I particularly enjoyed the good Lutheran hymns that fit the day, such as Holy Spirit, Ever Dwelling," "Spirit of Gentleness," and "Spirit of God, Descend upon My Heart."  Several of us participated with verses of Acts 2:1-21, and when the congregation was invited to join in the Prayers of the People, I rose and prayed for my mother and others facing serious illness,  ending with the traditional, and comforting, "Lord, in thy mercy...hear our prayer."

The students who joined me this morning for the Pentecost service at the Lutheran Church of the Redeemer
As much as I enjoyed worshiping with fellow Christians today, my strongest experiences this Pentecost have been as I reflect on the Gift of the Holy Ghost that I strive to enjoy each day and as I recognize the gifts of the spirit in my own life and faith community.  It is a wonderful thing to have God and his spirit in our lives.

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