Shortly after Jesus bodily left this earth, the Jewish feast of Pentecost arrived. The church (what there was of it) was cowered in a room, praying, and waiting for something to happen. They weren’t sure what that something would be, and they may have gotten more than they expected.
With Jesus gone, they were more than a bit nervous. How were they to survive a hostile world? How were they going to carry on the cause of Christ? What tactics could they use? All they had left were his words.
He did tell them he was going to send the Comforter and that they would receive power to be his witnesses. Until it happened, however, those were mere words. For all they knew, these were empty promises. Even if they weren’t, who knew how long it would take before something occurred? What form would it take? Would it even be something they’d find acceptable?
Up to now, Jesus had never let them down. But he was gone. Plus, he hadn’t always done what they wanted. They sure didn’t want him to exit via crucifixion (or even ascension). They wanted him to stick around.
Then it happened. Wild and crazy things occurred. Tongues of fire appeared and the sound of rushing wind was heard. As the Spirit of God filled them, they were so excited they forgot their fear. They ran out into the streets, ignored the Roman soldiers, and shouted out the Good News to all who would listen. The miracle was, not everyone who heard that news was hearing it in the same language. People from all over the known world were hearing it in their own language from these uneducated Galileans. How could this be?
“It’s a fantastic piece of history.”
Peter got up to preach and three thousand souls were added to the tiny church that day. They were baptized, and the Gathering was never the same. We’ve all heard that story.
It’s a fantastic piece of history, but the Bible doesn’t cover everything. How did these people (about 120 of them) add and baptize three thousand more? The logistics must have been a bit daunting. They had never done much baptizing before. Where did they do it? How did they do it?
We don’t know, exactly. What we do know is they pulled it off. When the church was faced with something new, she did what she had to do.
God is doing a new thing…why not us?
That part of Pentecost has never changed. The church is constantly faced with new stuff—new tasks and new challenges. Our problem is we often try to tackle them with old ways, habits, and traditions. We are constantly trying to put new wine into old wineskins. It doesn’t work but we keep trying and the skins keep bursting.
What say we start finding new ways of doing things. The logistics of baptizing 3000 were never set in stone. Maybe we should quit recycling the same old formulas. If we actually follow the Spirit, we might find ourselves doing a new thing. Exciting…
[Dave Zuchelli is a graduate of Pittsburgh Theological Seminary and is currently the pastor of Smith Chapel, in Great Falls, VA.]