From the Pastor May 2024

The Gift of Pentecost

“All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages, as the Spirit gave them ability.” Acts 2:4 (New Revised Standard Version)

Happy Birthday! Come on, let’s celebrate! Okay, so maybe it’s not your birthday month, but there’s a pretty good chance that someone who’s reading will have a birthday in May. If that’s you, I sincerely wish you the best of birthdays, but my opening’s not exactly aimed at an individual’s birthday. No, I’m thinking about the birthday of the Church. And, this year, I’m thinking of it in a twofold sense due to Sunday, May 19. In 2024, Little Rock’s 153rd birthday coincides with “Pentecost Sunday.” While each of these events is significant in its own right, the former wouldn’t have taken place if not for the latter.

Through the centuries of Christian history, men and women, scholars, leaders, and laity, have referenced the “Day of Pentecost” as the beginning of the Church. Falling fifty days after Passover, it originally commemorated the first fruits from the Jewish wheat harvest, and, with time, came to remember the giving of the law to Moses. However, within the realm of Christianity, it retells the story of God’s Spirit being poured out upon all flesh in fulfillment of the prophetic words of Joel 2. Although it’s not until Acts 5 that the actual word “church” is used to refer to the new community, the Spirit was indeed the movement’s catalyst and the events of Acts 2 brought about the solidarity found amongst the early believers.

If we’re honest, the Spirit’s the “person” of the Trinity with whom we are perhaps the least comfortable. I say “least comfortable” because it can be slightly easier to relate to God as “Father” and Jesus as “Son,” but, when it comes to the Spirit, we aren’t so sure what to make of him. A few years ago, one of the Cragmont summer camp weeks had the theme “Chase the Goose.” It was based upon a book by the same name which describes the impossibility of trying to figure out or control the Spirit. Appropriately, any attempt at doing so results in a “wild goose chase.” However, this chase isn’t necessarily discouraged, but rather is to be undertaken knowing the Spirit will always remain one step (at least) ahead of us.

Think for a moment about all of the things which we chase in life: financial security, the perfect spouse, genuine friendships, etc. In many cases, people will invest a great amount of time and energy into the pursuit of such things. How about as the Church? Do we pursue being relevant, gaining popularity, protecting what we have, etc.? So often, it’s such pursuits which receive much of our attention to the detriment of other/more significant matters (i.e. being filled with the Spirit). As the Christian community, the Spirit mustn’t be someone peripheral to our existence. Instead, the Spirit must be our supplier of life. Nothing less will give us the life of which we have need.

A few years ago, I was gifted a new battery-powered drill with more voltage. I decided to keep the old one since there wasn’t really anything wrong with it other than having slightly less power. Recently, I was sorting and organizing my toolbox in the garage, and decided to check the charge on the older battery. It had been a while since I had used it, so, naturally, the drill did nothing when I pulled the trigger. I didn’t think much about it and promptly placed the battery into its charger. After several minutes, I returned to the charger only to find the red light flashing rapidly. Usually, as the battery charges, the light flashes slowly, but the rapid nature of the light was an indication the battery was no longer any good. Not only was it without a charge, there was also no chance that it was going to charge. That’s how the Christian life is without the Spirit. It simply doesn’t work. I would like to challenge you during the month of May to make being filled with the Spirit one of your prayer foci. Don’t settle for believing there is a Spirit; be tuned into and activated by this precious gift of Pentecost.

Serving Together,

The Reverend Kelley Smart