Today we’re keeping up with our investigation of Acts with our BBC leaders… as always, I hope my reflections spur you to push deeper, and of course I welcome questions and comments!
When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place. 2 And suddenly from heaven there came a sound like the rush of a violent wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. 3 Divided tongues, as of fire, appeared among them, and a tongue rested on each of them. 4 All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages, as the Spirit gave them ability.
5 Now there were devout Jews from every nation under heaven living in Jerusalem. 6 And at this sound the crowd gathered and was bewildered, because each one heard them speaking in the native language of each. 7 Amazed and astonished, they asked, “Are not all these who are speaking Galileans? 8 And how is it that we hear, each of us, in our own native language? 9 Parthians, Medes, Elamites, and residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, 10 Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya belonging to Cyrene, and visitors from Rome, both Jews and proselytes, 11 Cretans and Arabs—in our own languages we hear them speaking about God’s deeds of power.” 12 All were amazed and perplexed, saying to one another, “What does this mean?”
Things to Chew On:
1. Did I mention communion?
In our last post we discussed how communion, being in God’s presence, is what empowers mission. Here we see that play out vividly, as the group of faithful disciples waits for God’s presence, and then is empowered by that presence to do the work that Jesus commissioned them to do. And of course, in their waiting in prayer they are following the example Jesus set for them through the many times he withdrew from crowds and activities to pray and be empowered by his Father. The concrete take away from this should be obvious… ministry begins with communion, and not programs, plans or techniques.
2. Think Sinai
The miracle of Pentecost parallels the Exodus story in several ways. If the crucifixion and resurrection of Christ is the Passover/Red Sea event that frees God’s people, then Pentecost corresponds to Mount Sinai, where God’s presence comes to his people and gives them a new identity, a new mission and empowers them (via the law) to fulfill their commission. In each of these instances the presence of God is revealed through fire and elemental violence and leaders are brought into that presence to prepare them for the task God gives them. Note also that as Sinai points towards the Temple that would be built (Moses on top of mountain as high priest, elders halfway up the mountain as priests, people at the base of the mountain), so Pentecost to points towards the new temple: the community of God. Thus, seeking the presence of God primarily means seeking God in community.
If you lived in roughly 33AD and were going to start a movement to spread a particular way of life or philosophy around the Roman world, who would you start with? In our society we generally think about the “best and brightest,” the people with most education, or the people who are the biggest names. Interestingly, God decides to kick off his mission by pulling in marginal people of all different backgrounds (see 2:9-11), who as foreigners, would be largely considered second class citizens in Jerusalem. They are probably not the ones with the best pedigree, best education or best connections. But they are the people who are most capable of sharing the story of Jesus with their own cultural community, since it is their home culture. And of course, their home communities comprise the Roman world… which was the target! The lesson is, God often calls people who are naturally equipped to reach their own people. If we are serious about reaching out to the many growing subcultures in our cities this is a lesson we must learn. We too must first consider who God has already prepared and embedded (like the foreigners in Jerusalem) in the different neighborhoods and subcultures in our city to share his love, and seek to equip, empower and resource them, rather than to take that role because we feel more qualified by the standards of our culture.