This Sunday, on the Christian calendar, the church marks Pentecost Sunday. Celebrated fifty days after Easter, Pentecost commemorates the gift of the Holy Spirit to the earliest believers, really marking the birthday of the church.
Whenever your local church celebrates its anniversary, the universal church celebrates its birthday on Pentecost Sunday.
What happened when the Holy Spirit was sent upon those first Christ-followers? Miraculous things occurred! The Spirit came, with tongues of fire, and the believers began speaking in other languages, talking about the wonderful things God had done among the Jewish people who had gathered in Jerusalem from all over the known world. The purpose of these tongues in which people were speaking was evangelism: they were sharing their faith with people whose languages they did not ordinarily speak.
Imagine if you were sitting on a park bench, and someone sat down at the other end of the bench – someone you didn’t know. All of a sudden, you spoke aloud, in a language you didn’t understand. Once you were finished speaking, and had caught your breath realizing what you had done, you asked the person at the other end of the bench, “Did you understand what I just said?”
Imagine, then, if the person at the other end of the bench responded by saying, “Yes. You told me how much God loves me, and that Jesus died for me. And you said it in the language of my heart, which I grew up speaking.”
Remarkable, isn’t it? And yet that very thing has happened. God has equipped people with a gift of speaking in tongues, just like at Pentecost, for his glory.
A lot of people wonder why the gift of tongues doesn’t show up in every church. I suspect this has something to do with the fact that people tend to congregate with others who think and act the way they do. We’ve institutionalized this and called it “denominationalism”. Yet how often, I wonder, are spiritual gifts like tongues lost in the church because of fear?
Is what happened at that first Christian Pentecost supposed to be normative? Some say yes, others say no. Either way, we can’t deny that when the Lord sent his Holy Spirit, amazing things happened, and people came to faith in Jesus Christ.
Even if tongues aren’t normative in your church or mine, one thing that should be normative is people coming to faith in Jesus Christ. For, as Luke records at the end of the Pentecost story in Acts 2, “each day the Lord added to their fellowship those who were being saved” (Acts 2.47b, NLT).
Why not celebrate Pentecost this weekend by inviting a friend to church with you? (If you’re part of St. Paul’s Church, Nobleton, you can invite your friends by telling them the preacher is going to talk about sex in marriage! You, and they, won’t want to miss it!)