Today is Pentecost: birthday of the Church. The followers of Jesus became supernaturally unified into a body, a community, a family once the promised Spirit was poured out upon them. Perhaps the roots of Pentecost run deep within the biblical story… Think about Abraham’s call in Genesis 12:1-4. God calls him and promises him that he will be blessed into order to be a blessing. God’s promise and presence will be with Abraham and his descendants and all the nations of the earth will be blessed through him. Blessed to be a Blessing. This was the vocation of Israel.
Then in Acts 2, the Spirit descends with bizarre power upon the reinvigorated Jesus-followers huddled in the upper room in Jerusalem. They pour out into the streets speaking languages they’ve never studied because the Spirit was working through them (contrast with “speaking in tongues” referred to elsewhere in the NT, which is speaking languages unknown on earth). The amazed bystanders can hardly believe that these backwoods country folk from Galilee are speaking in a way they (people gathered from all over the Roman world) can understand. Joyfully perplexed, they ask an excellent question given the events they are witnessing: “What does this mean?” (vs 12)
Abraham was “blessed to be a blessing.” The Church is “gifted to be a gift.” The first Pentecost demonstrates that the Church’s birthday was marked by the Church itself becoming God’s Spirit-filled gift to the world, speaking about what God has done in Jesus Christ in a language people can understand. And who doesn’t speak the language of love, kindness, service–a listening ear, a gracious heart, a thoughtful mind? Authenic faith lived out in the power of the Spirit. Gifted to be a Gift. This is the vocation of the Church.