Groffdale Mennonite Church
By Nelson Okanya
Pentecost was an important Festival for Ancient Jewish community. It both celebrated the end of Passover (the great liberating event of Exodus) and later the giving of the Torah, which became the defining identity as the people of God. This celebration featured the first fruits of the harvest, which in my reading was an indication of a great harvest to follow. As the first fruits were celebrated, God broke in and presented the first fruits of world missions. It was an earth-shattering event in Jerusalem, which continues to shutter many people’s worlds as they hear the story of this particular visitation of God.
The author of Acts describes the event thus: When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place. Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them (Acts 2:1-4).
The way this event is described invites no debate, no explanation and simply leaves us in wonder and awe! The event shook things up; complacency could not be the mood of the moment, things were stirred up because God showed up spectacularly to present the first fruit of God’s kingdom. The waiting was over and work had begun led by a surge of a dangerous power. It was only described as “like” wind, “like” fire. It was both a disruptive and creative happening. What was all this about?
Jesus promised his disciples power (Acts 1:8) but gave no schedule (1:7). I wonder how we would have responded to such un-scheduled promise today since we are so schedule minded! The apostles took it in strides and waited as they prayed (1:14). But suddenly the promise was fulfilled! The Pentecost event led to the greatest movement or to the creation of the community we now call the church. At Pentecost, God broke into the world and nothing was lost in translation; as someone once said, “Pentecost was the greatest leveling event.” This is because at Pentecost, no one spoke over others, the person with the PhD and the one with mastery of a difficult foreign language so to speak all were brought to the same level, they babbled but in their babbling they understood each other. All kinds of barriers were broken and all communication expressed one single speech, “the mighty works of God” (v. 11).
Because the event was so unusual, there were dismissive voices and Peter reminded those skeptics that it was only 9am and that what happened was simply a fulfillment of what Joel had talked about before. I am still confounded by why Peter referred back to Joel rather than the most recent speech that Jesus had given! But back to the story, Pentecost broke barriers; barriers between the wealthy and the poor, natives and strangers between the schooled and the unschooled etc. When God’s Spirit visits God’s people, their realities are redefined and new life and new possibilities happens.
God has chosen to recruit us for kingdom work. We are recruited to collaborate with God’s Spirit in kingdom work. God calls us to love all people, particularly our enemies and pray for those who persecute us, to clothe the naked and the heal the broken hearted and also to confront the powers and structures of the kingdom of darkness as we are empowered by the Holy Spirit.