The word Pentecost comes from the Greek pentēkostós—“fifitieth”, referring to the fifty days (seven weeks) between the start of the grain harvest and the “harvest festival” at the end of grain harvest period (both barley and wheat) observed by Jews (Leviticus 23:15:21). Over time the festival at the start of the grain harvest had combined with the Passover, so that Pentecost always was seven weeks after the Passover, no matter when the harvest actually began. Pentecost was one of the Jewish festivals that had a solemn assembly associated with it, which over time was generally observed in Jerusalem. That’s why so many Jews from all over the world were in Jerusalem that day of Pentecost when the Spirit came upon the disciples.
The Holy Spirit is not just a spiritual awakening of the individual, but is at work in the gathered community. The Greek word ekklesia means assembly and was used in the New Testament letters to refer to the church as a whole and the geographically separate church congregations. It is often in the assembly where Christians receive strength and in the assembly that the Spirit moves. We’re grateful therefore that many of us can assemble again this Pentecost. There are still many who cannot attend church services, but I hope that they can also feel included as churches throughout the world hesitantly begin to gather again.
While future developments are unknown, we hope that this Sunday marks the return of regular Church services. It will not be fully normal yet: we have to observe distancing at the moment; we will not celebrate Communion; we will not have morning tea. Some of our groups also cannot meet yet. Some of our members still cannot come to gatherings. But let us rejoice for the good things that we can experience again.