“On the day of Pentecost all the believers were meeting together in one place. Suddenly, there was a sound from heaven like the roaring of a mighty windstorm, and it filled the house where they were sitting. Then, what looked like flames or tongues of fire appeared and settled on each of them. And everyone present was filled with the Holy Spirit…” -Acts 2:1-4
Today is Pentecost Sunday, marking 50 days after Easter. The recount in Acts 2 of the Holy Spirit coming into our midst like roaring winds and tongues of fire illuminates truth we need today. Outcries blazed through our cities this weekend. Hear me: all voices matter and should be heard. But hearts and homes across cities woke up still hurting and confused and craving justice.
I had a conversation with a friend this morning about recognizing perspectives, calling out sin, seeking hope in the face of evil, and pressing into God’s promises found in Pentecost. Our talk convicted me to share some thoughts with you. Pull up a seat and lean in. I am still learning and invite you to come along. I am confident there are many things I can learn from you too.
As I see faces on the news, my eyes see the child we sponsor here at Winnefred Austin with deep compassion and empathy. My heart hurts and prays for grace and reconciliation to extend across borders to Haiti. Injustice is not bound by location. But there is still hope in every location. We have the Spirit of God living inside us — we are fueled by holy fire to stand up to injustices as we stand on God’s Word. By His Spirit, every tongue, tribe, and nation speaks. His light shines through Christ in us.
Yesterday in a park in a quiet corner of downtown Birmingham — a city marred by past injustice — peace gathered. Tongues of fire sang out a new song in unison. They used their voices and spoke up for change. But hours later in another area — not 30 minutes down the road — storefronts were vandalized. How is it that the same county can take such vastly different stances in the face of injustice? How can some "love your neighbor” and "pray for those you persecute you” while others cause more damage? How can we be the city on the hill when we draw up violence from the valley?
I believe the difference is found today in Pentecost. In the tongues of fire from the Holy Spirit — not the flames of violence. In darkness we can be so comforted knowing God hears our cries and remembers us in our struggles. God keeps our tears in a jar, keeping record of each one (Psalm 56:8). Jesus knows our sorrows because He was a man of sorrows, familiar with pain (Isaiah 53:3). And He sent The Holy Spirit to be with us — to help us in our weakness and pray for us on our behalf (Romans 8:26-27). But we still yearn for Jesus to return. No one can come home to the Father without Jesus (John 14:6). The desire for Him to return is fueled by the Holy Spirit because the Spirit strengthens us while we wait, but He cannot replace Jesus in our hearts. If the Spirit alone gave us every fulfillment in life we needed, there would be no need for Christ to return. On this side of heaven we are desperate for things to be made right — for reconciliation and peace to pour over us. But only Jesus can come and make things right again. By the Holy Spirit living in us today, we can have hope, faith, and patience until that day comes.
So on this Pentecost Sunday, may we gather collectively in spirit. May we be filled with the flames of fire fueled by the Holy Spirit — filled to the brim with all His fruits of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self control. With the Holy Spirit’s tongue of fire may we speak truth and life and peace. By God’s grace and His promises fulfilled in sending the Holy Spirit as our Advocate, Comforter, Counselor, Helper, Redeemer (John 14:16) — may it be so.