Genesis 11: 1 – 9
Acts 2: 1 – 21
John 14: 8 – 17, 25 – 27
We are this year, guided by the sentiments expressed by us all in the Parish Review, going to have an increased focus on sharing our faith.
Pentecost is really encouraging here, because every Christian under the sun finds the idea of sharing our beliefs with other people a bit daunting. The reason for this is because we are selling something, and as they say in sales, you need to learn not to be discouraged by people who say “No”.
We don’t like rejection, and this has led over the years to that almost heretical view that “faith is a private matter.” Faith is in fact a very public matter.
We have two stark pictures of this in the Book of Acts:
- The first illustrates the private: fear-filled disciples locked away in the Upper Room; thankfully praying.
- The second illustrates the public: what happened when God showed up in the form of the Holy Spirit. A very bold and public display of faith as the disciples emerged from hiding, speaking in tongues. It was an event that caught the attention of the festival crowds and resulted in Peter stepping forward and preaching his Pentecost sermon which in turn resulted in 3000 people being added to the church.
This is heart-warming stuff. It gives us hope because it means if we are open to the Holy Spirit, we too will be motivated and emboldened to carry out that wonderful thing Jesus commissioned each of us to do: go into all the world preaching the Gospel and making disciples of all.
But there is another encouraging aspect to being open to the Holy Spirit and it has to do with language as it comes out of our mouths.
You’ll notice that those who built the Tower of Babel, in order to make a name for themselves, had their languages diversified by God and all was confusion. It brought the building project to an end and they moved off in different directions to do something else.
Self-centredness never builds conviction or confidence. It’s a bit like telling a lie. The authenticity goes out the window and the speech betrays just that. In other words, you’re not very convincing while you’re telling a lie.
Ironically the disciples burst forth from their closeted prayer meeting in the Upper Room with diversified language that had a very different result. What we saw was the beginnings of the building of the church, a ‘structure’ centred in God, unlike the Tower of Babel.
The babble turned out to be different languages, understood by the various nationalities gathered for the Feast. The disciples spoke with a new authenticity and conviction because their openness to God had put their own interests on the back-burner. Their renewal in God motivated and emboldened them to share the Good News to great effect.
So one encouraging thing we can all hold onto is this: an openness to God’s Spirit will engender within us a conviction and boldness that not only enables us to speak courageously, but to produce a message that comes across as authentic, as something we really do believe. As a result people will be more inclined to take the message on board.
It’s worth remembering that by allowing as much of the Holy Spirit into our lives as we can possibly accommodate, we are in effect allowing Jesus into our lives. And when Jesus has a firm foothold in us we can project him from us, powerfully and lovingly.
So what are you going to take away with you this Pentecost? What is going to strike you and stay with you as we edge towards Trinity Sunday?
May it be a determination to be open to receive more of the Holy Spirit, so that our words can be authentic and convincing as we hold out Jesus, the Word made flesh to a hungry humankind. Amen.