The Glory of Whitsun

I’ve been away at May Council all week and, although I managed to line up a few posts automatically for while I was away, I wasn’t organised enough to have a Wednesday Word ready in advance. But if I had been, it would have been linked to Whitsun (which is this Sunday by the way). Come to think of it, I’ll probably have a Whitsun linked Wednesday Word next week, but now before we actually get to Whitsun I want to write about what makes it so glorious.

Near the end of Council I briefly remarked on the significance of Whitsun, and immediately regretted my choice of words. (It’s a lot easier to say what you want to say in writing than in a spontaneous remark on the floor of May Council!) You see, I had intended to highlight the glory of it, but on the spur of the moment fell into a few tired clichés. Now, there’s nothing wrong with our typical Whitsun clichés, they do express something of the truth, but the thing is, we’re so used to them that perhaps we miss the glory behind them. And Whitsun truly is glorious.

Why is Whitsun glorious? Because of Jesus. Whitsun is the day we celebrate Christ’s outpouring of the Holy Spirit upon His people to form His Church. Whitsun is a day about Christ, the Trinity, and the Church, and that makes Whitsun a significant day indeed, for it’s a day that points us to the Triune God’s Eternal Purpose concerning Christ and His Church.

I can so easily fall into talking in tired clichés about Whitsun as ‘the birthday of the Church’ (and in a sense it is), yet when I talk in that way I mask something of the glory of what happened on that first Whit Sunday. For, the ‘birthday of the church’ isn’t simply some sort of anniversary; it’s not like a beginning of a company or a club. What we’re celebrating is not the decision of some people to get together for fellowship, mutual support, or joint mission. No. What we’re celebrating is the exalted Lord Jesus Christ being made ‘head over all things to the church, which is His body, the fullness of Him who fills all in all’ (Eph. 1:22-23). We’re celebrating Christ the Head pouring out His Spirit to form and fill His Body (Acts 2:33). We’re celebrating the Holy Spirit drawing us as individuals together as One Body and lifting us up into God’s Eternal Purpose and out into God’s mission in the world. The Father gives the Spirit to the Son (Acts 2:33) and the Son pours out the Spirit on His people catching them up into the outflowing love of the Triune God in mission.

So, Whitsun isn’t a day for candles, cake and comfort. It’s a day that points us to the great love of the Triune God which flows from the Cross and is poured out in our hearts by the Spirit. And that love catches us up into the loving fellowship of the Triune God and propels us out into the world to make His love known.

Pentecost is a day of love, a day of communion, a day of unity, and a day of mission, for Pentecost is a day about the Triune God’s Eternal Purpose in Christ. Pentecost is glorious because Pentecost is a day about Jesus – about Jesus highly exalted, about Jesus pouring out the Spirit, about Jesus filling and forming His Church, about Jesus being proclaimed in saving power as His Church is caught up by His Spirit in the mission of God.