“When the day of Pentecost came, all of them were together in one place. Suddenly, a sound like the roaring of a mighty windstorm came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. They saw tongues like flames of fire that separated, and one rested on each of them https://ipsnews.net/business/2021/12/21/miracle-sheets-reviews-urgent-update-dont-buy-until-you-read-this-report/. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance.”
Yes, it’s the Feast of Pentecost again, the birthday of the church – the day we remember that very significant event that took place in Jerusalem that started with wind and fire and so much chaos, and concluded with the Apostle Peter standing up and explaining, “No, we are not drunk. It’s only 9am in the morning” (the implication being, of course, that had it been a little later in the day, well…).
I appreciate that this puts me out of step with the commercial world that has managed to find in Christmas and Easter major marketing opportunities for the sale and distribution of useless gifts and unhealthy foodstuffs respectively, and yet has failed thus far to get a foothold in the Feast of Pentecost (as far as I know).
And I appreciate that this might equally put me out of step with many of the faithful, for whereas Christmas and Easter focus on Christ – on his birth, death and resurrection respectively – the Feast of Pentecost is all about us, the church – who we are and where we came from – and hence an emphasis on Pentecost may seem relatively impious.
And yet my feeling is that we, the church, tend to be less confused about who Christ is – ‘Son of God and Son of Man, with reasonable soul and human flesh subsisting’ (that’s for those of us who are fans of the Athanasian Creed) – than we are about who we are.
I read an excellent article this week, written by someone who I see as one of this world’s greatest living saints – the former Archbishop of Cape Town, Desmond Tutu – who has just published a new book with the provocative title, “God is not a Christian!” And in this book he talks about the sad history of the church:
“We are supposed to proclaim the God of love, but we have been guilty as Christians of sowing hatred and suspicion; we commend the one whom we call the Prince of Peace, and yet as Christians we have fought more wars than we care to remember. We have claimed to be a fellowship of compassion and caring and sharing, but as Christians we often sanctify socio-political systems that belie this, where the rich grow ever richer and the poor grow ever poorer,…”
And his point, I believe, is not simply that we are so regularly hypocritical, but more so that we are often confused – confused about who we are and about what our role in our community is supposed to be! Indeed, if you look at the history of the church over the last 2000 years, so much of it seems to be about empire building! We’ve been the religious end of imperialist expansionism – inspiring the soldiers of the empire and forgiving the atrocities of colonialism!
Look at the history of the church in this country. Christian clergy came on board the first fleet with a specific purpose – to keep the convicts in line! Our identity from the first was as moral policemen to the community and we’ve continued to play that role ever since.
Many of you might have noticed yesterday the article in the Sydney Morning Herald where our Archbishop forthrightly put his foot down on gay marriage, which is exactly what you’d expect from the moral policemen of our community! Is that really the sort of thing that the church should be doing? The answer may well be here in Pentecost – in the wind and the fire of Pentecost.
Now admittedly, if you didn’t look beyond the phenomena of fire and wind, you could be forgiven for thinking that the role of the church is to blow hot air, but in fact the crux of the Pentecostal experience came after the wind and fire seemed to have died down:
“Now devout Jews from every nation under heaven were living in Jerusalem. When that sound came, the crowd rushed together and was startled because each one heard the disciples speaking in his own language. Stunned and amazed, they asked, “All of these people who are speaking are Galileans, aren’t they? So how is it that each one of us hears them speaking in his own native language? We are Parthians, Medes, Elamites, people from Mesopotamia, Judea, Cappadocia, Pontus, Asia, Phrygia, Pamphylia, Egypt, the district of Libya near Cyrene, and visitors from Rome. We are Jews, proselytes, Cretans, and Arabs. Yet we hear them telling in our own tongues the great deeds of God!” All of them continued to be stunned and puzzled, and they kept asking one another, “What can this mean?” (Acts 2:5-12)
What we see taking place here is a miracle, and it’s a miracle of communication, and it’s a miracle that functions to bring people of different races and language groups together. And the list of those different races and language groups is extensive to the point of tedium: Parthians, Medes, Elamites, Mespotamians, Judeans, Cappadocians,… (and so the list goes on) concluding with ‘Cretans’ (for whom I think the more politically correct term was ‘Phoenicians’) and Arabs! Everybody was there. “Yet we hear them telling in our own tongues the great deeds of God!” the crowd wondrously proclaims!