Recently my family had an 85th birthday celebration for my Dad. It included affirmation letters, pictures, gifts and of course – cake. We had fun celebrating the day Dad was born!
The actual moment of a child’s birth is of great importance. But in reality the development and maturing that follows is what sets the tone for the rest of that child’s life.
Today, June 4, 2017, we are celebrating Pentecost Sunday, the birth day of the church. Though we do not have pictures or videos of the church’s initial birthday, Acts 2 gives us a marvelous written account of the day that includes sights like tongues of fire, sounds like violent winds, loud conversation and more.
The moment of the church’s birth was monumental in importance as God’s Holy Spirit was set loose in the world in an unprecedented way. Immediately thereafter, the newborn church’s developmental process began with its talking and walking.
First, the talking: When the Holy Spirit came to those persons who had prayed in the Upper Room for 50 days, the charter members of the first century church immediately began to talk. They were not limited to their native tongue either, as they began to share the Good News of Jesus Christ in languages they did not know.
These centuries later God’s Holy Spirit equips us to “talk” about the Good News of Jesus Christ also. We do so through talking to others about what Christ is doing in our lives, by sharing stories of God’s forgiveness and love, by inviting others to church and in so many other ways. Our development as Christ-followers and as a church is marked by what we say and the tone with which we speak. The founder of Methodism, John Wesley, described it beautifully, “I look on all the world as my parish; thus far I mean, that, in whatever part of it I am, I judge it meet, right, and my bounden duty, to declare unto all that are willing to hear, the glad tidings of salvation.”
Next, the walking: The early church’s talking led to walking. Those early disciples rose to their feet, walked into the streets of Jerusalem and beyond to witness in word and deed of God’s action in their lives. We, too, are to walk out of our prayer closets and church buildings into the world to offer hope, Good News and Jesus to others. We are to do as well as say. Ben Franklin had it right when he wrote, “Well done is better than well said.”
Here is the part that I love best about the day that the church was born. The Holy Spirit came to Christ-followers in full force on Pentecost Sunday, unleashing God’s power in their lives. The Holy Spirit comes to us as well, empowering us to talk about the church in new ways and to walk a deepened life in Christ.
Happy birthday church! What a wonderful day the first Pentecost was! The maturing of Christ-followers and the church is even more wonderful than the first Pentecost, though. And that maturity is marked by how we talk and walk. When we walk to other persons in order to talk about Christ and his transformative and redemptive power in our lives, we are talking and walking in ways that surely honor God.
As always, it is a privilege to serve as your bishop.
North Alabama Conference