My first Pentecost as a Catholic, and there I was, an altar server. I had also served the week before and had done the reading out of the Acts of the Apostles all the Month of May. The weeks between Easter and Pentecost have always been important to me, primarily during my years as a Pentecostal Pastor. For during the weeks between Easter and Pentecost, I would often preach on the rewards of expectancy and faith in and for the indwelling Third Person of the Trinity; the Holy Spirit. I too would work toward reflecting on my openness and flexibility to the Holy Spirit’s Promptings.
Leading up to Pentecost as a Pentecostal Pastor meant for me, preparing sermons and teachings surrounding the events leading up to during, and directly following the Azusa Street Revival of 1906. Though this last two years I had not done that. This last two years I had began to realize that there was more history (and mystery) to our Christianity that goes back much farther than 100 or so years.
Nearly three years ago, I had begun an in-depth study of the Great Awakenings in America; the Revivals, and the Methodist-Holiness Movement(s). I had gone back to the Wesley Brothers, seeking a time of ‘purity’, a time when Protestants, specifically those from methodist holiness backgrounds agreed. I wondered when we might have been ‘one’ in the way Our Lord had intended. In my quest, I studied great men and women that accomplished great things this past couple hundred years. But I also discovered that there never was a unity among the many branches shooting off the Methodist tree. In fact, there is more diversity among Wesley’s ‘children’ than maybe any other movement. I don’t say this to denigrate, but to make a point, I could not find a time of purism, or agreement. While there were charismatic and inspirational preachers, teachers and leaders, none had enough cult of personality to unite the fragments of Protestants. I was a little disappointed. Even at what seemed to me the high points of the Methodist-Holiness-Pentecostal movement of the past, the folks of those times were worlds away from us modern (protestant) christians in doctrinal and practical ways too numerous to list.
So many a Pentecostal Minister in an effort to be true to the past, point to the Azusa Street Revivals and Topeka, and others, as movements inspired by the Holy Spirit in an effort to unify Christians with an ultimate goal of a great end-time harvest. And without going into all the nuances of the revivals of an hundred years ago, we could easily say that there never was any unity at those times or directly following them. Though most people attached to those revivals did share a common experience in praying in tongues. Apart from that experience the various groups had no agreement on major doctrinal or dogmatic issues (more could be expounded about that last sentence).
So what were they wanting? What were they reaching for? An experience? Yes. And I don’t believe it is explicitly wrong to desire an experience with God. Did they want unity? From most evidence we could say yes. Did they want solidarity with other believers? Yes. Did they want preaching and teaching that called a nation to live Holy before a Holy God? It seems they did. Were they looking back to that first Pentecost in Jerusalem, 33A.D.?
On the first day of Pentecost, 9 days after the Ascension of Our Lord, The Holy Spirit was sent among and in, the believers gathered there. They all began to speak in tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance. There were jews from all over the Roman Empire that day in Jerusalem and they heard these believers speaking the great works of God in their respective native languages. And without typing out the whole Bible narrative, we know that 3,000 people were added to the church that day!
The same God who scattered the people at the tower of Babel and confused the languages of man had came down and unified a very diverse crowd of people in Baptism. How many became fluent in the various languages after that day? Who could know. But presumably, as the early church grew so quickly, it was clear that national and language of origin did not unify them, neither did cultural practices, dress, or food. What unified them was The Salvation and Unity with God and with one another they hoped for through Faith in Christ our Lord.
And the Church grew……fast!
And so I was so privileged to serve Pentecost Sunday, I watched our beloved priest call down the Holy Spirit upon the bread and wine, changing them. I thought about how many millions, so different than me, are gathered at the same table of blessing. How unified we are! How beautiful Our Lord Jesus Christ and His Body! How beautiful the communion of the Saints! Unified at this same table of Blessing all around the globe.
And there was nothing I could do to ‘make it happen’, I needed not ‘work up’, or ‘concur up’ anything. Here it was; a long line of mothers and daughters, fathers and sons, husbands and wives, grandmas and grandpas, and singles, there to receive this Bread from Heaven; our Lord Jesus Christ. I gazed out over the faithful as they waited to receive our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament on this Pentecost Sunday, unified in a way only our God can do. And this happens all around the world and has happened for hundreds and thousands of years now.
And again, like every Divine Liturgy, I was filled with awe, and filled with the Holy Spirit, in wonder at this beautiful Body of Our Lord Jesus Christ.
So what about Azusa and Topeka, and all the revivals and Pentecostals?
Come home dear brothers and sisters! You believe in miracles, you believe God, believe in Jesus also! You believe God wants to fill you and touch you. You’ve wanted to ‘taste and see’ that the Lord is good, well, here He is! You’ve reached for Him in experience and in charismatic leaders, but Here He is, humble, meek and lowly as always, yet High and Lifted Up! Food for us. He is our bread from Heaven.