Yesterday was Pentecost Sunday: a truly red letter day for the Church universal. Red is the traditional color for that Sunday from the calendar of the church year. I did some holy, celebratory musing as I worshipped with the faithful who gathered at our church. It was my joy to sing in the choir and invite others of the congregants to embrace the Holy Spirit and give themselves to full celebration of their spirits. It was truly a joyous day.
Here is a quote from Irenaeus, one of the early church Fathers from my morning devotionals to help set the scene of what took place the day of Pentecost as reported in Acts chapter 2.
God “had promised through the prophets that in these last days he would pour out his Spirit on his servants and handmaids, and that they would prophesy. So when the Son of God became the son of Man, the Spirit also descended upon him, becoming accustomed in this way to dwelling with the human race, to living in them and to inhabiting God’s creation. The Spirit accomplished the Father’s will in people who had grown old in sin, and gave them new life in Christ. Luke says that the Spirit came down on the disciples at Pentecost, after the Lord’s ascension, with power to open the gates of life to all nations and to make known to them the new covenant. So it was that the people of every language joined in singing one song of praise to God, and scattered tribes, restored to unity by the Spirit, were offered to the Father as the gift of first fruits of all nations.” (Irenaeus, Bishop of Lyons c. 202) (Italics added)
It was at Pentecost when the Spirit came on the disciples to open the way to all nations for life in this new covenant. In reverse action of the sinful act of the people of Genesis 11 who were judged by God for their haughty response. As the result, God created language barriers to destroy their vaunting pride. The Spirit used language the day of Pentecost to unify his universal church. And today all three streams of the church, Eastern, Western and Protestant, respond in celebration of the birthday of the church. It is the Spirit who always brings unity, from then till now. I ask myself this question, “Why do we who are members of his church, engage in so much injurious criticism of our brothers and sisters? If the church is being formed by the Spirit, why do we think we have the right to criticize what he does?” As our ancient brother Irenaeus said, people of every language,…sing one song of praise,…scattered tribes, restored unity,…gift of first fruits of all nations.
When the Spirit unifies he does so in ways that allows us to decide our preferences as to style of worship, polity of governance, etc. Thus the church has a vast array of expressions as demonstrated in the numerous cultural perspectives. To be unified does not mean we all have to be the same. Just as the three persons of the Trinity are distinct yet unified as one, so we may display to the world we are one. For as Paul says to the Ephesians and to us, “There is one body and one Spirit, just as you also were called in one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all who is over all and through all and in all.”
(Eph 4:4-5) To respond as Jesus prayed for us, is to “become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me.” (Jn 17:23b)
Knowing these truths, I had a wonderful sense of gratitude on Pentecost Sunday, that God would allow me to be part of what he is doing in the world. Once a year the church can have a festive birthday party as we bow in worship of the Triune God.