"Then Peter stood up with the other 11 apostles, and in a loud voice began to speak to the crowd: ‘Fellow Jews and all of you who live in Jerusalem, listen to me and let me tell you what this means. These men are not drunk, as you suppose; it is only 9 o’clock in the morning. Rather, this is what the prophet Joel spoke about: This is what I will do in the last days, God says, I will pour out my Spirit upon all people. Your sons and your daughters will prophesy; your young men will see visions, and your old men will dream dreams … And then, whoever calls on the name of the Lord will be saved."
By Bishop Robert Hayes Jr.
The scene is Jerusalem; the year, approximately 30 A.D. Fifty days have passed since the death and resurrection of Jesus. The disciples who followed our Lord for three years gather in the morning with a fellowship of believers who have been commanded to wait in the Holy City for a "gift from God."
Not knowing what to expect, they wait. And then it happens.
Without warning, unexpected noise, like the sound of a strong wind blowing, fills the house where they sit. They see what looks like ribbons of fire spreading through their ranks. The fire touches, takes holds of each person, and they began to talk in many languages. Even more astounding, everyone understands what is being said even though they are foreigners.
No doubt they sounded like drunken men babbling with one another.
This was the Day of Pentecost (taken from the Greek word pentekoste, which means 50th). It was the day God fulfilled the promise that Jesus had given his followers and introduced something special to the world: the gift of the Holy Spirit. Because of what happened, everything was changed!
The Church began that day. Jews and Gentiles came together with a united purpose. On that day people from Mesopotamia, Judea, Egypt, Asia, Crete, and Arabia forgot their differences and became the first organized Christian community, receiving 3,000 people into the fellowship.
No longer were they concerned about race or color, customs or rituals, allegiance or patriotism. Now, because of the Holy Spirit, they became one Body. Acts 2:44 sums it up best: "All the believers were together and had everything in common."
This week you and I began the 2012 season of Pentecost. It also has been the week when the people called United Methodists in the Oklahoma Conference met in our yearly gathering known as Annual Conference. Is there a connection between these two calendar moments? Is there a message God is sharing with us as we celebrate both Pentecost and the journey of our Conference during the year?
Yes, I believe there is a connection, and I believe it has everything to do with the Holy Spirit.
I often wonder what The United Methodist Church in Oklahoma would look like if we fully embrace the power of the Holy Spirit in our common ministry, as Christ’s followers did on that day in Jerusalem. What would change? What notable differences would we see?
First, I believe, change would appear in the lives of those who accept and receive the power of the Holy Spirit.
Just look at how it changed the disciples! Knowing little more than the rhythm of the sea tides, merely followers, they became apostles after the outpouring of the Holy Spirit. They were transformed into men of courage, men of faith, men of action!
And others caught up with them in the Spirit’s fire became bonded with those early leaders. They became friends and associates in the routine of their new life, "devoting themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer" (Acts 2:42). They were united and like-minded in their zeal and love for God. Their testimony was powerful and transformational. This bond presents a beautiful picture of what the Church should look like.
How awesome if our Conference clergy and laity came together and "had everything in common"!
It would mean that, as followers of the risen Lord, we would agree our most important purpose is to tell others what Christ has done for us. That’s what the Holy Spirit compels a person to do.
The most noticeable change would occur in our churches, I believe. We would open our doors and invite into our sanctuaries people who don’t look like us. We would open our hearts to the communities around us, creating bonds between the church and the world. We would open our minds to the ever-evolving dynamics of what it means to be the hands of Jesus in a hurting society!
Christ’s promise of power has never been withdrawn—it is as much our right as it was for those who first heard it.
Our strong witness for Christ is too crucial in this hazardous time for us to be harshly critical of the universal Christian church. We must ask ourselves if the Holy Spirit means more to us than personal agendas, customs, rituals, traditions, and the color or race of a person. When we answer that affirmatively, Pentecost has come again.