He commanded them, “Do not leave Jerusalem until the Father sends you the gift he promised, as I told you before…in just a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.”
From the back of the chapel I looked down a long aisle of pews. Left and right the walls spoke gospel glory, colorful glass panes telling God’s story. The alter draped red, the color of His blood, the color given to the Holy Spirit like fire.
Pastor recited the apostles creed and little ones mimed back hand motions. My heart cheered at child-like faith, such mighty declarations of belief.
Shepherd’s voice called out while tiny voices echoed all sweetness in refrain:
“The Holy Spirit
will glorify me.
He will take
what is mine
and give it to you.”
Then taking the cross from the alter, “What was given on the cross is given to you.”
One little guy, clothed in robe of righteousness red, walked about to hand the cross to the next small saint, and she in turn came up to receive a gift from the cross. Pulling a paper note off the erected symbol she held her gift and read it: “grace.”
And one-by-one little priests of the gospel came to receive a gift and declare it: faith, hope, love…
It went like this until the gifts were too many to name and short attention spans wiggled in their pew. But each recipient kept their gift and took it with them.
I didn’t expect to receive it today. The gift of grace. Why?
When these past forty-plus days I have exercised a little faith in choosing to believe, choosing to practice giving thanks. There were days when I felt far from victorious, when it was a stretch to thank Him for the gifts, the daily graces. Some days my eyes were turned inward instead of looking upward.
Some days I have forgotten the sound of his voice.
And yet? He keeps speaking. Revealing himself the risen Lord, walking with me and telling those parables only I could relate, just as he did with the disciples. Didn’t they marvel? When he walked with them along the road did they see him? When he appeared among them with the holes in his hands and in his side didn’t they doubt?
I thought about the fifty days after Easter before the day of Pentecost. Typically we see in the Bible how God uses the number 40 to represent his holiness, a number of significance, of purification, of mercy, of completion. I thought of the forty weeks when I carried my daughter in the womb, the process of finding rest, strengthening, preparation, and growth needed before life bursts forth from within.
Whatever is good and perfect is a gift coming down to us from God our Father…He chose to give birth to us by giving us his true word (James 1:17-18).
When love bares down and delivers grace I am reborn. My identity as a mother renewed my faith in God’s sovereignty and allowed me to identify with the Father who bore His only son unto us and birthed new life from the womb of the earth, how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things? (Romans 8:32).
My gaze swept the chapel at those stained glass story tellers and I pondered. The Pentecost didn’t occur until fifty days after the resurrection of Christ on what we celebrate as Easter. So from the date of Christ’s assent into heaven, the disciples then waited tenmore days before receiving the promised Holy Spirit.
For by that one offering he forever made perfect those who are being made holy. And the Holy Spirit also testifies that this is so (Hebrews 10:14-15).
They had said goodbye to their Lord and were on their own now, so it would seem. What happened while they waited? Did they sit idly twiddling their thumbs? Were they feeling, maybe, a little alone? Did they question how they were ever going to fulfill this great commission they were given? Acts 1:24 tells, they all met together and were constantly united in prayer.
How have I responded to the days when I have felt the dark drape around me and the waiting was more like being out at sea completely aware of my vulnerability? I had stepped out on the waters of faith in obedience, but then it was like, now what?
Forty-eight mighty mini voices reverberate the gospel truth: Jesus said, “The Holy Spirit will glorify me. He will take what is mine and give it to you” (John 16:14).
I heard it loud this time. The word illuminated within! The Holy Spirit was given the authority of Christ to take the work accomplished on the cross and freely give it to me declaring truth into my heart so that I can declare it to the world. “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you. And you will be my witnesses, telling people about me everywhere…to the ends of the earth” (Acts 1:8).
All that is needed now – that I have ever needed to do – is to ask. Open the grateful hand to receive. So if [you] know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him. (Luke 11:13)
Cease striving and take up grace that never runs out. In counting the graces every day I have seen how God multiplies–From his abundance we have all received one gracious blessing after another (John 1:16)!
So we do not receive this gift in the fist, hoarding the truth for ourselves, but splay the palm and unfurl fingers to give away that which was freely given to us. The best gifts are those we give away.
And God is able to make all grace abound toward you, that you, always having all sufficiency in all things, may have an abundance for every good work.
–2 Corinthians 9:8