Pentecost: An unstoppable force of love is sparked to life in our world
May 23, 2021 is Pentecost Sunday. Find out why this momentous day matters more than ever.
Pentecost Sunday is the day the Church became the Church. It is the impetus of mission and the source of courage to actually bring the Kingdom of God to earth. Fifty days after the resounding high note of our faith — He is risen! — we encounter another crescendo in God’s great plan: Pentecost Sunday. We invite you to consider this significant day with fresh eyes and allow the reverberation of that first Pentecost to invigorate your heart once more.
It may be difficult to see amidst the daily realities of lockdowns, fatigue, isolation and division battering our world today, but we are a part of a vibrant, dynamic and intrinsically resilient faith community. If you have put your faith in Jesus, you have been born into His family. And what a family it is! An enduring, powerful source of God’s goodness to the world around us. There is a reason to celebrate Pentecost Sunday and to wrap your hands around the story that has set in motion more than 2,000 years of God’s forward-moving mission through history.
In Uganda, Yesu Akwagala Masulita Worship Church has been an example of the persistent and zealous nature of what began at Pentecost. Despite the doors of the church building being closed in this season, this community in Uganda has seen the power and passion of the church to meet their needs and show the love of Christ. This local church has provided food parcels for 90 vulnerable families and a food security program for the rest of the community to ensure every family could plant vegetable gardens to sustain them through the challenges of the pandemic. But they didn’t stop there. Pastor Cyrus, his wife and his ministry team are also passionate about ministering to hearts, encouraging people with phone calls, visits, prayer and counselling. And they’re finding that these challenging times have opened doors to reach those that seemed unreachable.
Pastor Cyrus reminds us, “The building has been closed during this COVID-19 pandemic but the church ministry isn’t. I have seen God at work all my life, but even more during this pandemic. He has opened doors for ministry. This is not the first time the church doors have been closed. We have seen worse in history, but the church will stand. God will hold us together.”
Across an ocean, nestled in the shadows of the Peruvian Andes of South America, another church is living out a Pentecost reality. Divine Healing Church in Huancayo, Peru, has been a beacon of light in its community, bringing hope and transforming lives with the good news of Jesus.
Pastor Vidal shares, “It’s never been easy for the church, but it is during difficult times that the church has grown the most. The church is still here, and the work is not over. We are praying for people, caring for and feeding people, counselling people, setting up our usual youth camps, retreats for women and training ministers. Virtually, we’re going to do it all. The ministry God has given us and His call on our lives are irrevocable. There’s no quitting or giving up. The work must go on. We keep on preaching God’s Word and meeting people’s needs. We’re not going to stop.”
If we spin the globe further we will find the unmistakable mark of Pentecost in Asia. Raymark, a 14-year-old from the Philippines, knew that the church was vital to his community and so, when COVID-19 closed the doors to his local church, he took it upon himself to run Sunday services from his home. His whole community hears his voice echo throughout the neighbourhood as he reminds them that God is watching over them and that they should put their trust in Him.
When asked about his inspiration to bring hope to his community, Raymark says, “Let us just trust in the Lord and never lose hope. Do not forget Him and do not stop serving Him even in these trying times.”
These are just a few glimpses into the global impact of the Church. Just three stories woven into the greater story of God’s mission unfolding on earth. Let them be three knocks on the door of your heart. Open it wide to how Pentecost is still reverberating around the world thousands of years after it happened. How it instigated a movement that continues to build momentum into every corner of the globe, every chapter of history and through oppression, persecution and darkness.
Pentecost Sunday is why the Church is essential to the mission of God — and the reason Compassion chooses to work through the local church. It is also the wellspring from which you can do good, right now, in the world around you.
How? Let’s turn to Acts 2:1–41, where we find the account of that first Pentecost and consider what it tells us.
• Every culture included
• Every heart invited
• Every life transformed
The first Pentecost gives us a very clear picture of the composition of the Church and what it should look like to us today. Acts 2:5 tells us that there were people “from every nation under heaven” present. This means when God initiated His Church, He did it when there was a gathering of a distinctly multicultural crowd. He poured His Spirit out on his disciples in the upper room and the result was the immediate inclusion of every nation, tribe and tongue. How beautiful that at the moment the Church became the Church, people from every corner of the earth could say “we hear them declaring the wonders of God in our own tongues!” (Acts 2:11, NIV).
And to ensure the clarion call of inclusion, the Holy Spirit inspires Peter to deliver an invitation to all. Peter draws from the prophet Joel to emphasize this lavish welcome into the mission of God giving both genders active participation in bringing His Kingdom to earth. Not only that, but the invitation extends to all ages — young and old. It is explicit and unmistakable in its language: All people, sons and daughters, young men and old men, both men and women. Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved (Acts 2:17–21, NIV). This is profound. The Church is intended to reach every soul with no barriers.
• Holy Spirit empowerment
• An individual and collective calling
• The glorification of Jesus
With gale-force impact, Pentecost was the Holy Spirit’s entrance into the narrative of the Church. This is the single most consequential detail of the day the Church was born and is the reason the Church remains as potent today as it was in the pages of Acts. Make no mistake, the Holy Spirit has always been an absolute necessity for the Church to not only endure through history, but to thrive in her mission. In fact, Pentecost was not only promised by Jesus (Acts 1:4; Luke 24:49), but also emphasized to be the best possible thing for His followers (John 16:7).
It was the coming of the Holy Spirit that made the Church what she is, but we must not miss the detail that tongues of fire rested on each of the disciples that day. The Holy Spirit enabled the gathered disciples to become a unified collective, but doesn’t negate the calling of the individual. No, the whole room was filled with a mighty wind and each received a tongue of fire that rested on them individually. They were a collective of individuals who had been filled and called by the Holy Spirit — each to contribute their individuality to this “body” that was formed on that day. We are all individuals called and equipped to carry the mission of God forward. We are also corporately called to do it together, and that sweet tension of responsibility is what makes the Church so unique.
It is this collective call and individual onus that drives us towards the solitary goal of bringing glory to Jesus in this world. After Peter shares the inclusive invitation to join the Church, he transitions to a message of who the person of Jesus Christ is. This is always the message of Pentecost. “God has raised this Jesus to life, and we are all witnesses of it. Exalted to the right hand of God, he has received from the Father the promised Holy Spirit and has poured out what you now see and hear” (Acts 2:32–33, NIV).
• The promise delivered
• Our witness emboldened
• The mission activated
Pentecost needed to happen. The Church would not exist without it. Pentecost happened because the disciples listened to Jesus’ instructions: “I am going to send you what my Father has promised; but stay in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high” (Luke 24:49, NIV). They gathered together to pray and wait for what Jesus had promised and that obedience was rewarded. Jesus did, indeed, clothe them with power on that day. As He always does, He fulfilled His promise through the events of Pentecost.
Jesus went on to tell them why they needed Pentecost: to be witnesses to the world (Acts 1:8). The events of Pentecost empowered the Church to be witnesses of the love of Jesus. It took the greatest message of all time and infused it with the strength of God.
Pentecost is all about mission. It filled every man, woman, girl and boy who put their faith in Jesus with the power to show God’s love to the world. It gave the Church a megaphone to deliver the good news. This — this — is why the Church is not only alive today but transforming lives all around the world.
Pentecost Sunday was the spark that ignited the movement of the Church — a movement that is still transforming lives with the good news of Jesus and His love in action today. It is why a church in Uganda is providing physical and spiritual food regardless of a pandemic’s limitations. It is why a church in Peru will not stop meeting its community’s needs even when the world feels like it is at its darkest. It is why Raymark’s voice echoes through his community in the Philippines every Sunday to remind his neighbours that there is a God who brings hope in the most desperate situations.
All over the world, the Church is still living out its mission to do good now. Pentecost Sunday is worth celebrating this year because it is still happening.
Rebekah Malbrecht is a Content Specialist at Compassion Canada. She loves to wrestle with words, shape stories and document happiness. You’re bound to find her where there are books, people and birthday cake.
Photography and field reporting by Piyamary Shinoda (Thailand), Caroline A. Mwinemwesigwa (Uganda), Fernando Sinacay (Peru), Edwin Estioko (Philippines), Tonny Tunya (Indonesia), Ian Johnson (Bolivia), Sean Sheridan (Ethiopia), Javier Elis (Guatemala).