Summary: The day of Pentecost signified the birth of the Church.
The Village atheist was not a bad man, he just didn’t believe. He was not interested in church…and there was only one in the village. It was cold and dead—a social club, with nothing really going on, no impact on the community at all. One day the church building caught on fire, and the whole town ran toward it to help extinguish the flames…including the village atheist! Someone hollered out: “Hey, this is something new for you, the first time we’ve ever seen you running to church!” He replied, “This is the first time I’ve ever seen the church on fire!”
This is Pentecost Sunday, the day the church was born. On that first Pentecost, there was fire a plenty.
Let’s read our passage today: Acts 2:1-21
Now by that first Pentecost of the church, critical things had already happened, all of which find a place in our annual celebrations. The incarnation had occurred.
At Christmas we celebrate that God became human in Jesus Christ. Jesus had grown and taught all about the Kingdom of God. // He had been arrested, tried, convicted, beaten, scourged and murdered on the cross. That’s Good Friday, or Holy Friday. Jesus rose from the dead. That’s resurrection Sunday or Easter. He dwelled on earth and was seen by hundreds after His resurrection. He ascended to the Father. That’s Ascension Sunday.
But before He returned to God the Father, Jesus made a promise. A promise that He had hinted at throughout His 3 years of public ministry. He promised that He would send power from on high. That He would send to the disciples the Holy Spirit.
And so in our passage today we find the disciples together. They’ve been told by the resurrected to Jesus to wait in Jerusalem to receive power from on high. So they’ve been waiting, together.
Today when you picture people waiting together you might imagine each one in their own little world, talking to someone who’s not there on their cell phone, texting or playing on their smartphone. Doing anything but ‘being together’ in one place.
Mercifully the disciples had no such distractions. So they were together doing what followers of Jesus do when they get together. Encouraging one another. Listening. Praying. Worshipping.
2:1 When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place. 2 Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. 3 They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. 4 All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them.
This is a powerful passage, all the more when we realize that this is the moment in time when the church was born. Notice all the ‘they’ and ‘them’ words in this passage. The church has been, since this moment in history, the organism through which God seeks to bless the world and to bring the light of the gospel of Jesus Christ to a lost world.
Whether it’s Carny loving people at work or Agnes sharing her faith in the foyer of her apartment building or Ruth encouraging folks in the community or when she works at the reception desk here at the mission, all those individual acts are ‘the church’ at work in the world.
When God speaks and acts, it’s for the benefit of many. It is for the ‘they’ and the ‘them’, never just for us. There’s something in our culture that encourages a nearly radical independence, a ‘me focus’.
I’ve told the story of the YSM staff member who returned to Toronto and the mission recently after being in Mozambique for just three weeks. Her struggle returning was with how disconnected life is here compared to how everything that happens in Africa which is all based on relationships.
We’re in a bubble here, so we don’t realize how isolated we normally are.
For many going to church on Sunday or throughout the week is one of the only times we connect meaningfully with other people, the only time they’re with others who are doing the same thing with similar interests. That’s not the way we’re intended to live.
The house gathering that we do that meets every other Thursday at either Lee and Helen’s or Maryellen’s home is a place and time of blessing.
Since we gather just for the purpose of being together, we don’t meet with a structure in mind for the evening. So the conversation goes all over the place and lately always comes to rest on the Scriptures.
We hear testimonies of God’s gentle but really impressive miracles. We share our struggles. We ask our questions of one another. So we listen and learn and grow and experience God together. We pray. New people come.