Since Easter Sunday, we have been making our way toward this feast of Pentecost. We all know the story of the disciples being afraid and hiding. They didn’t want the same thing that happened to Jesus to happen to them. They were sent to be together, and Jesus promised that He would come and be with them.
The outcome of the reception of the Holy Spirit by the disciples in that room was earth-shattering. The disciples found themselves doing things that they couldn’t imagine they could do prior to the gift of the Holy Spirit. As they moved into the crowds that had formed outside for the ongoing Jewish feast, they were able to speak in words that everybody who is there could understand. This Pentecost event becomes for us a real, live picture of what the Church is meant to be. We are showing the power of the Holy Spirit and what could be accomplished if we acted out of that power.
Let’s just take this from the disciples’ point of view. Not only were they spared of what they were afraid might happen to them, but they were able to be in the presence of this large gathering of various kinds of people and experience oneness and unity even though there was such difference among them.
If you’ve ever been empowered by the Holy Spirit, you might understand what the disciples felt at that moment. They were stunned and awestruck by the fruits that came out of their actions with that crowd. Once they got past astonishment, they might have been feeling kind of full of themselves. There is a certain sense of power in being able to communicate that way as well as a power in bringing that many different kinds of people together. What was essential at that moment was that they remembered, even with this new power, what Jesus had told them to do. He had told them to share the Good News of what He had taught them and to make disciples of all nations.
At this point, you can imagine that the old structure of who was worthy of God’s love or who God would speak with are falling apart. They were surprised by the Holy Spirit coming down upon those who hadn’t been circumcised. Now they were seeing people of every race and tongue and region of the world moved by the Good News that they had to share. This Pentecostal power of the Holy Spirit is not just something to remember about the past but is certainly a gift that we have been given for our present age.
When we speak the Good News of Jesus Christ or when we act as He told us to act in the world today, we should experience unification and oneness. That same original Pentecostal power has been shared with us so that we can speak languages to many different people in a way that allows them to hear the Good News. This doesn’t mean that you have to be the master of many languages. It doesn’t mean that you have to be super smart and travel throughout the world. It doesn’t even mean that you have to go outside of your own family or even outside of your own church sometimes.
There is enough divisiveness every place we go. As Jesus taught us, “it cannot be that way with you.” Our job on this earth is to bring about the unification of the people of God, and that means everybody. We have been given our mission, and that mission is clear. We are to invite every single human being that we meet into the grace and glory of life in Jesus. So what does that mean in our daily lives today?
If each of us has been doing our Easter season spiritual work, we have been daily confronting the fears that keep us in locked rooms rather than believing in the power of God. We ought to be able to now rise up as a resurrection people and begin to act as if we believe that what God says is true. To start in the morning, with our first breath, to dedicate every moment of that day to acting with courage and humility. Start with a sense of being guided by the Holy Spirit into areas of brokenness and disunity and to know that our job there is to heal and bring peace. Let us start a fire of love on this earth that can’t be extinguished by hatred or prejudice.
Father Wester is pastor of All Saints Parish in St. Peters.