If you’ve been following along with Faithroots over the past few months, you’ll have got used to reading quite a few articles linked to Mark’s Gospel. That’s because I’ve been linking in the day to day articles with the teaching programme that our church are currently following. However, once a month, we take a break from Mark and come together for an all-age service. At these services we are looking at the big story line of the Bible.
It was Sarah’s and my turn to take the church family through the theme this last Sunday and the theme was “The birth of the church.” So, we focused in on Acts 2. The Bible passage tells us about what happened 50 days after the Passover festival at which Jesus had been handed over to be crucified. Jesus’ disciples had been instructed by him on his ascension to wait in Jerusalem and he would send The Holy Spirit, the other counsellor promised in John 14.
We often talk about Pentecost as being the birthday of the church and in one sense it is. However, have a closer look with me because there’s something I want you to spot.
In Acts 2:17-21, Peter responds to the confused and the cynical by explaining that the rushing wind, tongues of fire and praise in many languages is fulfilling this specific prophecy from Joel 2.
In the last days, God says,
I will pour out my Spirit on all people.
Your sons and daughters will prophesy,
your young men will see visions,
your old men will dream dreams.
18 Even on my servants, both men and women,
I will pour out my Spirit in those days,
and they will prophesy.
19 I will show wonders in the heavens above
and signs on the earth below,
blood and fire and billows of smoke.
20 The sun will be turned to darkness
and the moon to blood
before the coming of the great and glorious day of the Lord.
21 And everyone who calls
on the name of the Lord will be saved.’
Why am I drawing your attention to this? Well, because I want to highlight that the events on Pentecost Sunday were not just a completely new and novel thing, without roots, disconnected from previous history.
Rather, Pentecost was the fulfilment of promises made long ago to God’s people, Israel. The promise of the Holy Spirit was made to Israel, though notice that it was made for all people. All nations would benefit but Israel and the Jews would be at the centre of it. That’s why in Romans 11, Paul emphasises that God would save all Israel and that the Gentiles were being grafted in. The Church was not God’s plan B.
What this means is that, as Matthew Sleeman, my NT tutor at Oak Hill would point out in his Acts classes, Pentecost may be seen as the birth of the church but it may be better described as the 2st birthday of God’s people. This was when Israel came of age.
What it means is that everything God did with Israel through the Old Testament was building up to this point. God had promised Abraham that all nations would be blessed in and through him/his descendant.
What’s the take home from this? Well, I think it does two things. First it reminds us that we can trust God to keep his promises. Second, it shifts our gaze outwards. We can become introverted and that includes when we think about the work and gifts of the Spirit. It’s helpful to remember then that Israel and the Jews had also become introverted. They acted as though God’s promises were not only made to them but were made for them and them alone.
We need to remember that God’s promises were made to us but not just for us. As Peter says:
The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off—for all whom the Lord our God will call.”
 So this week’s focus will include articles around the theme of the Holy Spirit.