This week on the western liturgical calendar is Pentecost. The celebration of the birth of the modern Christian Church. The purpose of this is to remember the reception of the Holy Spirit by the Apostles.
“When the day of Pentecost arrived, they were all together in one place. And suddenly there came from heaven a sound like a mighty rushing wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. And divided tongues as of fire appeared to them and rested on each one of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance.” (Acts 2:1–4, ESV)
The image is wonderful, as they were driven out after they were filled to proclaim the Gospel in the streets. How awesome is that! Not only that but as you read further you find that there were people from all over and they heard the disciples speaking in their own language. Each person was hearing the words of the disciples not being spoken in the language that each of apostles spoke but in the different languages of each person in the crowd. That is awe inspiring to me.
I, also, love the fact that they were found “together in one place.” We live in a disconnected world. I don’t know that at this time people were a lot more connected, but it seems that with all the communication tools we have at our disposal we still don’t seem to be that connected. A while back Toyota had an ad that captured it perfectly, in my opinion. The ad featured a young woman criticizing her parents for how few friends they had on Social Media while it shows her parents enjoying life and going out in the world in their vehicle. How often do we live life through a screen instead of in the world and in relationship?
That is the unique power of God. He drives us in his mission through his Holy Spirit. When God calls it is hard if not impossible to ignore as Jeremiah proclaims,
If I say, “I will not mention him, or speak any more in his name,” there is in my heart as it were a burning fire shut up in my bones, and I am weary with holding it in, and I cannot.” (Jeremiah 20:9, ESV)
God’s call is compelling. It is that compulsion that drove the apostles out into the streets and is the calling that is placed on the hearts of all who belong to Christ. Unfortunately, that calling is often ignored and suppressed because of a rational approach that places the expectation on others. We don’t want to offend, so we ignore some of those urgings and comfort our troubled spirits by placing the duty on “people that are more educated.” The apostles were not the highly educated, but simple men and, I would argue, women that were filled with the Holy Spirit that drove them out. They did not appear nor did they strike the hearers as people of high standing or education which the responses given and the surprise described indicate. These were simple folk that did manual labor, they were, for the most part, uneducated yet they are the heroes of our Christian faith. Peter was a fisherman. We could argue that he had a business, but he caught fish and he slung fish. He earned his wages by the sweat of his brow not the ideas in his mind. The proclamation was given by the faith that he held to the depth of his being. The same is true for each and every one of us.
The Gospel is not spread through a fancy church and big flashy programs, but the sharing of the Word by those whose lives have been changed by it. That is the great gift we all have as followers of Christ. That is the power of our faith. The calling is given to us in the waters of Baptism and in that we have not only the right and privilege, but, if surrounded by those that do not know Christ, we also have the duty that we proclaim Christ and Christ crucified that none should perish outside of Christ. That is the power of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. There are those that try and make it much more complicated than that, but the simple truth is that we are, as witnessed in Acts, given the same power and calling by God as followers of Christ. For proper order, it is important for Christians to call and ordain preachers and teachers within the community so that they would have leaders that are trustworthy, faithful, and knowledgeable to guide the community in faith. Not self-appointed, but established by the community is the main reason since we are all given a calling in our baptism.
The Holy Spirit fills us with the words when we fully are reliant upon him and not upon our own flawed reason. The Word emboldens us this way as we are fed through it and given the true knowledge that is revealed to us in the Word. That is the glorious gift of the faith. That is the glorious blessing of our calling. The true Church is found in regular worship, though not always visible since it is not the act of going to church but in the movement of the Holy Spirit. The Church that we see is full of sinners and saints alike and not all belong to God, yet for those of us who do belong to God, we are called to proclaim his truth wherever we are in actions and words. Let the witness of his light shine out in your life.