“Then everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.” Acts 2:21 NRSV
The Holy Day of Pentecost has been often overlooked or ignored as not that important, but it is important in that it recognized and signifies the birth of the church and issues a challenge to the church in all time.
We most often associate the powerful wind that roared into town and tongues resembling fire resting on the heads of the apostles. In our churches we wear red, maybe bring in geraniums (for the red), have fans blowing to remind us of the wind, and retell the story with an emphasis on the first 13 verses of Acts 2.
Interestingly, the scripture readers for the day (sometimes including clergy) are terrified about all the names that are listed in those first 13 verses, so they miss emphasizing the remainder of the passage which contains Peter’s sermon and invitation to the assembly.
Just to back up a little, the apostles were given the ability to speak in different languages so that the ethnically diverse group of people in Jerusalem could understand the good news of the gospel in their own tongue. This wasn’t a moment of what is known as glossolalia where people are filled with the Holy Spirit and speak in an entirely unknown language that has to be interpreted. This is a gift of speaking in another language so that those who didn’t speak Aramaic would be able to hear the message in their own language.
Peter’s sermon reminded the listeners that the prophet Joel had envisioned this day when everyone – EVERYONE – would be able to praise and glorify God in Jesus Christ. Peter’s boldness was nothing but a gift of the Spirit since he had denied Jesus after Jesus was arrested. Peter’s newfound send of courage came from God and the church was born.
In our celebrations of Pentecost, we often concentrate on the church and the gift of the church. Somehow it becomes all about us again, but the purpose of Pentecost and the birth of the church has to do with how the church points to God. In the last verse of this section of Acts 2, which is written above, we are reminded that we are called to move outwardly – toward others, to invite others to know Jesus, to welcome him into their hearts and believe in him.
The United Methodist Church states that our work is to “go make disciples.” So the church is not only called to nurture, teach, and grow together, but also to send each other forth in the name of Jesus, the Christ, in order to make disciples. We open doors and plant seeds so that others can come to know Christ. That is the purpose of the church.
Pentecost is a continuing event in the life of the church and in the world. The Spirit is at work, and we are invited to partners with God through the Spirit’s work in the world. May it be so!