Previous Challenge Entry (Level 4 – Masters)
Topic: NOISE (05/03/18)
- TITLE: Wow – What a Party!
By Noel Mitaxa
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It certainly was. A worship team; having interspersed their practice with breaks, laughs, groans, replays, questions and comments; welcomed me before we prayed for God’s blessing on our worship. Our prayer revealed distinctive accents, as the team comprised five different nationalities.
The church was facing a sudden change, with me arriving as interim pastor after their previous pastor had left. Not under a cloud, but grief was flavouring their mood. Yes, they were a tad depressed – even before I started...
But change was a prominent citizen here; for from a bucolic coastal collection of twenty or thirty houses, the surrounding community had mushroomed in just over a decade to a bustling, cosmopolitan city of almost seventy thousand people.
With no building of their own, a rented school gym was a base for sixty church members to express the harmony of Galatians 3:38 – “There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” With over a dozen different ethnic groups in the church family, anyone who made any connection sensed the respect behind the welcome.
How to affirm this further?
Pentecost Sunday was approaching, offering an opportunity to combine a touch of confusion with clarity within our worship that day. So, without wishing to turn the church into a bunch of Bapti-costals, I personally invited everyone from different nationalities to help me to demonstrate the drama that unfolded on that first Pentecost in Jerusalem.
Pentecost Sunday came.
Starting with Acts chapter two, I paused after verse four – “all of them were filled with the Holy Spirit, and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them” – and quoted John 3:16 – “God loved the world so much that he gave his only Son, so that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”
Passing the microphone around to my volunteers, I invited each one in turn to read or recite this same verse in their own language. A familiar scripture kept coming in unfamiliar sounds: first Cantonese, then Dutch, French, Malawian, Afrikaans, Indian, Turkish, Italian, Indonesian, Malaysian, Tanzanian, Sri Lankan, Taiwanese, Chilean and finally Maltese. Then, after everyone had finished, we all began repeating the verse altogether – loudly and repeatedly.
I would love for you to have seen the wide eyes and gaping faces of everyone who suddenly heard this amazing, deafening noise erupting all around them. And as it got louder and louder, they clearly didn’t know where to look next. But I could see them stepping into the Pentecost story; to enjoy something of the pandemonium that saw God usher the Church into the hungry but unsuspecting world he loves.
We can still only imagine that day’s impact on the thousands of excited pilgrims who had flocked to Jerusalem from across the world for yet another Jewish feast. Though the Greeks called it Pentecost, it was their Feast of Weeks, to celebrate the harvest – fifty days after God had given the Law to Moses. There was so much to anticipate...
From out of nowhere, WHOOOOOSH!!!!
A massive burst of wind hit the city, scattering everything into the air that wasn’t tied down.
Next thing they knew, a one-hundred-and-twenty-strong flash mob was surging out into the streets; shouting out about God’s greatness at the top of their voices. Filling the eardrums - and the hearts – of the crowd because - miracle of miracles - while Greek or Hebrew would have been enough as second languages to get the message across; they heard it all in their native tongues. From Jesus’ disciples no less. Uneducated Galileans that they were!
Suddenly, God was throwing open a far bigger party, with Peter as mine host, offering personal salvation to anyone who called on the Lord’s name.
And by nightfall, over three thousand people had accepted God’s invitation.
Following up with our smaller flash mob, I invited everyone to hear God’s voice speaking into our deepest innermost thoughts, hopes and hurts. So, in accepting his offer of a new relationship with Jesus; life-long and beyond; we might become agents of his grace to anyone in our circles of influence. Especially for those who feel they may not qualify for this grace.
For this party – with all its noise - hasn’t yet stopped. It keeps on happening all around the world…
Author’s note: The response to Peter’s sermon was remarkable – with three thousand suddenly coming to know Jesus as Lord. But while we may not yet see anything like this number responding in our churches; figures of missions indicate daily growth in the world-wide church at seventy-five thousand people – or the equivalent of a Day of Pentecost each hour! Some party!
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