Following the resurrection, Jesus spent 40 days on Earth among his disciples, further preparing them to share his message. It was during that time that a several key elements of the Gospel take place, ending with Christ’s ascension into heaven.
Described in the book of Acts, Jesus is taken up from his followers and into the clouds, disappearing into heaven with the promise of returning at the end of time. But he did not leave his followers empty handed or empty hearted. Instead, Jesus made the group a promise — a vow to always be with them even though he was leaving this world. This presence was possible through the Holy Spirit.
While different denominations have varying viewpoints on the nature of this force, it is an aspect of God that works in the world and through the faithful. In the Bible, the disciples receive this power from God, allowing them to go and lay the foundation of the early Christian church.
This, too, happens in the Book of Acts, following Christ’s ascension. Jesus’ disciples and followers were gathered for the celebration of Pentecost, a feast day within the Jewish tradition. The scripture says, “and suddenly there came a sound from heaven, as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting. Then there appeared to them divided tongues, as of fire, and one sat upon each of them. And they were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance,” (Acts, 2.4).
Within the room, those gathered there could speak to one another, though they had different native tongues. It became a powerful symbol of the way Christ’s followers would be able to share his with all of mankind.
For the Rev. Chris Noyes, pastor of First Presbyterian Church in Brunswick, this scene in Acts is a moving and powerful testament to the power of the spirit. Today, this miraculous occurrence is celebrated seven weeks after Easter, on Pentecost Sunday.
“Pentecost is historically and traditionally understood to be when the Holy Spirit was given to the early church as described in the book of Acts. It is said that (the Holy Spirit) fell upon the whole crowd that had gathered,” he said.
“So the significance and the importance of Pentecost is really a confirmation of the resurrection of Jesus. It means that the presence of Jesus continues. It will be an ongoing force within his people.”
Noyes also feels Acts touches on something else that is particularly important — the unification of those who were formerly unable to communicate. In Acts, as the spirit descends, the group — whose nationalities and languages varied — were able to speak with one another.
“That is another important part of the story in Acts 2. These folks from different nations could understand one another because the spirit allowed for that,” he said. “This points to a sense of unity of the church ... seemingly different people and cultures could come together at Pentecost.”
The power of the Holy Spirit was able to unite Christ’s followers from various lands in those days. Noyes is quick to note that it is still doing the same today. It has done so for his own congregation and for the greater Presbyterian community in Brunswick.
That is why he and two other churches will come together to celebrate Pentecost Sunday. First Presbyterian Church of Brunswick will host a tri-church Pentecost service with the Second Presbyterian Church and Altama Presbyterian Church at 11 a.m. June 9 at First Presbyterian, 1105 Union St., Brunswick.
While the congregations’ members will be uniting, all in the community are certainly welcome.
The service will focus on the passage in the Book of Acts, as well as draw on older traditions of the church.
“A lot of congregations incorporate the color red, which is the liturgical color of Pentecost. So some people may wear red,” he said. “We will read Acts 2. We will then hold a pot luck luncheon afterward for all of those who stick around.”
For Noyes, bringing the churches together is a way to continue to build a unified Christian front both on Pentecost and beyond.
“We’ve been meeting together for a while, over a year. Basically, we are all small, mainland churches and we are working together to figure out where we go from here,” he said.
“We are all facing falling numbers and we’ve realized we are all in the same boat so instead of rowing separately, we thought maybe we could pull our concerns, hopes and desires together and use that energy to promote a sense of unity.”
The three Presbyterian churches have found other ways to come together as well, joining for book studies and other worship services throughout the year.
“We held Lenten services together and last November, Altama Presbyterian invited us to their Worship in the Park. We’re just trying to find different ways to serve together but not lose our respective identities. We want to grow together,” Noyes said.
“We may be in different buildings with different histories but we want to step out of that for the larger community and become more connected. We want to minister and worship together. Hopefully, that will help provide energy and enthusiasm to revitalize our respective congregations.”