Posted by: Mad Lamb | 03/06/2017

My Pentecost preconceptions up in flames

Reading the story of Pentecost again in Acts 2:1-13 I’m struck that the wonder of this story of flames from heaven may have been overlooked.

We wonder at the image of the tongues of flame flashing down, accompanied by a strong, powerful wind. We wonder at the power of the Holy Spirit flooding down on each person. We wonder at God’s people being able to speak in languages unknown to them.

Often, when we read or hear this story, we pray that God may too fill us with his spirit and enable us to speak in tongues. We want to experience God in a powerful way. We want to know what it is like to speak in tongues.

Today, I saw a new side to this passage. The purpose of this spectacle and experience was not focused on those receiving the Holy Spirit. True, they would have felt God’s power in a strange new way but God did not give them words in tongues just for the warm fuzzy feeling of being in his presence or being filled with his Spirit. God gave those words in that way that could be heard by those outside their group.

The bright lights and cacophony of voices caused people nearby to take notice. Jews from many different nations soon became aware this noise was actually ordinary people extra-ordinarily speaking in each of their own languages.

I don’t know if the ‘wonders of God’ they heard being declared were simply words of worship or the stories of Jesus being shared but I know it made them think. Through this extraordinary event they were prompted to discuss and question what they heard and saw.

I was struck that the wonder of this story lay in that God used his people to speak to others in a way they could understand. True, they did it full of the Holy Spirit but, however powerful that experience was for the disciples, it’s humbling to notice some of those who witnessed it looked for meaning while others dismissed it.

I wonder if I would be ready if the Holy Spirit came when there were others around me and I was so full of God’s power I could not help to speak of God. I wonder if I would be dejected by those dismissing the blessings God has to offer or praise Him for those who seek to join in the discussion and seek meaning from their encounter with God.

I wonder if, when I next pray for an experience of the Holy Spirit, I’ll remember that this is not just for my comfort. It’s not so I can be sure of God’s presence nor so I can join the ranks of those who have spoken in tongues. The purpose of being full of the Holy Spirit is to share the wonders of God with others.  Even if I never experience such a strong, powerful presence of God, I wonder if I will remember the impact of helping people to experience God in a way they understand.

I will certainly never look at the story of Pentecost in the same way again.

 

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