David Brooks in his column “It’s not about you” talks about this generation as the “most supervised generation in American history.” From this close-supervision, they enter into adulthood and a digital world that is incredibly unstructured and unsupervised. In this new environment, Brooks says, the #adulting process takes considerably longer.
The Day of Pentecost was a true #adulting moment. In our culture that favors processes (e.g., “my life’s journey”), the idea of an instantaneous turning point seems counter-intuitive. However, on the Day of Pentecost, everything became different. The curse was reversed (see Malachi 4:6; Galatians 3:13-14). The Promised Holy Spirit came down and filled both a building and people (Acts 2:1-4).
On this momentous day, the Spirit filled anyone that happened to be in that upper room. Ever since the day of Pentecost, the Holy Spirit has been poured on the so-called ‘wrong’ people (read 1 Corinthians 1:26-30) in the ‘wrong’ places (outside the temple in Jerusalem, see 1 Kings 8). Pentecost tells us we can worship God anywhere. As long as the people gather together regularly for the ministry of prayer, the Word, worship music and giving, these elements can be housed in any architectural designs, be it a formal church building or a movie theater, or a high school gym, or whatever. After all, the temple of Solomon was modeled after a North Syrian pagan design and the Christian church was adapted from the Roman Basilica (a public building in pagan Rome). There is no such thing as ‘sacred’ architecture, Pentecost reminds us of that truth. The space becomes sacred because the Spirit is present. In Genesis 1, the entire created realm is portrayed as God’s sanctuary. Pentecost keeps this big picture right in front of us.
Another big shift on the Day of Pentecost is the people who receive the Spirit are no longer just kings, priests and prophets, or some special person (as in the Old Testament), but it could be anyone. The age of the Spirit opens the door of ministry to men, women, slaves, young and old (Acts 2:17-18). All of a sudden, anyone can become an ordained clergy in a parish that has been redefined as the entire world (Acts 1:8). Church is not only to equip ourselves for ministry inside the church (although this happens) but primarily to equip ourselves for ministry in the world. As John Wesley so well said, “I look upon all the world as my parish.” From Pentecost on, we too say, my office is my parish, my construction site is my parish, my hospital, my school, my home (if stay-at-home parent), etc., etc. Pentecost swings wide open the doors of ministry since we are no longer limited to the confines of a religious building one day a week, but the ministry takes place every day in our work place.
Third, the Day of Pentecost is also the day when we ask and we receive. Jesus says to his disciples in the context of the coming Holy Spirit that “until now you have asked nothing in my name. Ask and you will receive, that your joy may be full (John 16:24).” I’ve learned recently that the early church fathers were quite consistent in what they asked of the Lord: the gift of discernment. This makes a lot of sense in our age as well, where the culture is so ethically erratic and unpredictable. As ministers to the world, we need the Spirit of wisdom, knowledge and understanding (Isaiah 11:2) to minister to the neighbor next door, the person next to us on the airplane, or the office next door. May this Pentecost be a game changer for us.
Reflections for the week:
Receiving the gift of the Holy Spirit is the evidence we belong to Jesus, that we no longer live under the curse of our own shortcomings and disobedience to God. Have you received the gift of God’s salvation in Christ? As Keith Green famously said, to go to church doesn’t make you a Christian anymore than going to MacDonald’s makes you a hamburger. The space and the ritual won’t save you, but Jesus will. By believing He has come to save from our sin, we receive the Holy Spirit and His Presence in our hearts. This is a decision every one needs to make and it takes place in one particular moment.
For those who have already made this decision for Jesus, Do you believe the world is your ministry? Do you need a posture shift and see our church building with different eyes? The Presence of the Lord fills the whole earth (Isaiah 6:3) and this is where His ministers minister. David Gill, our former interim pastor, used to commission all the professions to minister in their respective calling. Pentecost Sunday is a great commissioning service for all us in all our respective callings, whether inside the church (such as myself) or outside (the majority of our congregation).
Finally, in this culture that seems so listless and without moral compass, let’s boldly ask God for discernment, according to His Word.