Religion gives life routine. On Sundays we go to church, at Christmas we sing carols, on Easter we dress up. All of these seasons can be beautiful reminders of what God has done, but this repetition from year to year can become stale, sometimes inconvenient, and even boring. The Jewish religion revolved around their calendar of feasts and festivals.
Acts 2 tells about one such occasion, the day of Pentecost. This festival required able-bodied men to make the journey to Jerusalem to offer their first fruits. This would likely be incredibly inconvenient. It would be hard to leave behind work and family to make a long journey to a city that was cramped and dirty. Furthermore, everyone there was from different places, probably creating some uncomfortable interactions. As I read through this passage, I tried to imagine what it would be like to be one of those devout people Acts 2:5 described.
Coming in, I might have thought I knew what to expect, but I imagine I would be shocked by the scene that I found when I arrived. Gathered in the square, these devout men heard a sound like they had never heard before, like a rushing wind. Running to the source, they heard the disciples speaking the wonders of God. Furthermore, even though dozens of languages were represented, everyone could understand each other. If I experienced this, I might feel confused and even a little skeptical. And many were skeptical, saying that the disciples must be drunk. But, as Peter spoke, I think I would have been stopped dead in my tracks. Peter spoke of God’s ancient promises and proclaimed them a true, fulfilled, reality as the Holy Spirit would be poured out on all flesh. The scandal of this truth was that Jesus of Nazareth, who God’s people killed, was the Giver of this Holy Gift.
Could it be that this Holy Spirit, who spoke to prophets and kings, who performed miracles and wonders, could be poured out on an insignificant believer like me? Could we really have been so wrong about the Messiah of our faith? On that day, three thousand people believed and were baptized in Christ’s name. The day of Pentecost brought the fulfillment of a long expected prophecy and with it an unbelievable outpouring of God’s grace.
I think we often imagine ourselves as the disciples on that day. In reality though, we bear a greater resemblance to those religious people, stuck in their ways, devout and yet devoid of God’s spirit. It is my prayer for our church that we become a people who trust God’s promise for the Holy Spirit to work in us. May we not get distracted by routine religion, but be revived by the work of God in us. Just like He did that day in Jerusalem, may the Holy Spirit invade our spaces, disrupt our routine religion, and renew our hearts.