The fellowship of the Holy Spirit. In the days following his death, Jesus is reported to have appeared to the disciples many times. On one occasion, just before his last appearance, when they were together, Jesus reminded them of a gift his Father (God) had promised and instructed them to be ready for that promise to be fulfilled. And it happened at what has become known as Pentecost, when the Holy Spirit descended on the demoralized disciples and life was never to be the same for them. We read all about it in the Acts of the Apostles. And there Pentecost is many things: fire, wind, ecstasy, renewal and more. I cannot think of many scenes quite like it in the Bible. Artists in mediaeval times painted pictures of it, strange pictures. They show great gusts of wind sweeping through large cathedral-like buildings, flames of fire hovering above the heads of the apostles like gas jets, one description of them. Pentecost was nothing like that. At Pentecost a new kind of community or fellowship among Christians sprang to life – the work of the Holy Spirit. At Pentecost the church was born. I prefer to date the birth of the Church to Pentecost rather than to the occasion when Jesus informed Peter, the rock, that on him He was going to build the Church. Believers were drawn together in close fellowship for the breaking of bread, sharing blessings with one another according to one another’s need. The work of the Holy Spirit – fellowship in the Holy Spirit. We are reminded of it and promised it each time the Benediction is pronounced to bring our act of worship or devotions to a close. Fellowship – Koinonia – a beautiful word. A word that does not always translate into English, because in the original New Testament it has a depth of meaning our word fellowship does not provide. The original text could mean “a common participation in the Holy Spirit”. We might translate it as Pentecost transformed the lives of those first disciples.
One further and final comment . . . . I was present at a lecture given in one of our churches, the guest speaker a former Moderator of the Assembly of the Church of Scotland. At the close of the gathering he was invited to dismiss us with the benediction. When he came to the third phrase, he prayed, “The companionship of the Holy Spirit be with you.” I do not think he was being politically correct, avoiding giving offence to those who might be sensitive about the use of the masculine to the exclusion of the feminine. I believe he was of the opinion that companionship was a better word to describe the blessing in the gift of Pentecost. Koinonia – in classical Greek it was used of marriage, a partnership between two people, a relationship in which everything is shared, love, care, support, friendship, companionship. Share in the fellowship of the Holy Spirit and life can be enabled and enriched with Jesus our constant Companion on the way. Sharing in our joys and our grey days; sharing in our grief and our pain; sharing in our disappointments and our headaches: sharing himself with us. Koinonia – the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you.