May 21, 2013

Pentecost: The Rushing, Visible, Transforming Power and Presence of God

“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 (NIV)

Many doubters of God’s existence have said, or written, “If there is a God, why isn’t the existence of such a Being obvious to everyone? Why isn’t God’s existence and presence completely obvious and beyond question or dispute? Why is there so much mystery and uncertainly about whether or not there is a God? Why does God make humanity struggle in order to know Him?”

One day, many, many years ago in a temple in Jerusalem (a temple visited by people of different languages from throughout that region), God’s presence was visible and obvious to everyone present. Those who witness this “happening” had different views of what went on that day. Some said those impacted by the Undisputed Presence were simply drunks, even though it was only 9 am. After all, there is nothing to stop someone from getting drunk at 9 am if that is what is wanted. Others were amazed, beyond words, and had no explanation of what they witnessed. Still others proclaimed they’d witnessed a unique appearance of God.

No one today need struggle to know of God’s existence and presence. A simple prayer of “God, I want to know you and I want to experience you as the Creator and Sustainer of my life. Show me your presence, tell me what you want me to know, speak to my heart and I will listen” will bring an immediate response to anyone who honestly prays this prayer.

Because something happened a long time ago does not diminish that event’s significance.

Most amazing about the events of Pentecost is the permanent change which occurred in those who experienced God’s presence resting on them on that day. This (somewhat) motley crew of individuals  were transformed from former fugitives into bold spokespersons who challenged the powers of their day by teaching and telling of God’s closeness, God’s love, and God’s call to repentance and righteousness.

The “old selves” died, new selves were born, and they changed their world. The followers (later called apostles) encountered and overcame strong opposition, constant persecution, ostracism, and outright rejection. Their impact was positive and permanent. They gave up much of what they had to follow a path unmarked, unplanned (by them), and unpredictable. They were honored of and loved by God. The contradictions in their experiences are endless.

Are we certain we want to experience God in this way? Encountering God close up and in-person leaves no room for backing out or backing away. Is this what we truly seek?

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