Let me tell you about someone I know. This person is a liar, cheater, and a murderer. This person is ugly, weird, gay, white, black, liberal, conservative, foreign and annoying. I see this person everywhere I go. This person is my neighbor, a classmate, and a co-worker. I see this person at the store, the mall, the bank and sit behind them in the car line at Starbucks. This person has secrets unknown to the world, and has a story that is messy, damaged and raw. This person has been rejected by the church. Do you know this person?
Let me take you back to our roots…
The day of Pentecost in Acts chapter 2 is historically one of three annual Jewish festivals, called Shavuot. Shavuot was celebrated in Israel to observe the beginning of the wheat harvest, and to commemorate the giving of the Law to Moses on Mount Sinai. Christ was crucified at Passover and ascended to heaven forty days later. Ten days after his ascension, the Holy Spirit roared through a gathering of people, prompting them speak in tongues and for Peter to give a sermon of lifetime. Peter’s words pierced the hearts of three-thousand people that day and thus founded the Christian Church.
As the Holy Spirit rolled through, those speaking in tongues were accused of being drunk by the Jews (Acts 2:13). Peter however, knew that this was a sign of the Holy Spirit, which had been predicted by the prophet, Joel.
“In those days I will pour out my Spirit even on my servants—men and women alike—and they will prophesy.” (Acts 2:18) As Peter set the record straight and preached the witness of Christ’s death and resurrection, those listening responded. Acts 2:37a says, “Peter’s words pierced their hearts…”
The word pierced has also been translated from the original Greek to mean cut or pricked, but all are words that we can understand as words causing pain and bloodshed. When skin is punctured, we apply pressure and close up the wound. In this case, their hearts were so deeply wounded by words they were hearing that they knew they would never be the same, so they repented and were baptized. Roughly three-thousand people received the gift of the Holy Spirit that day and went on to build a community of believers.
Before Peter’s sermon, Jews were ridiculing something they did not understand (Acts 2:12-13). I think back to the person I know who has been rejected by the church. The person I do not understand. That person has been placed in each of our paths, and I have to admit that some days it is easier to ignore that person or to allow my lack of understanding or fear to be the wall that stands between us. Acts 2:9-11 names over sixteen nations represented on the day of Pentecost and some scholars believe that over thirty nations were represented in the three-thousand saved that day. These people spoke different languages, there were Jews, gentiles, men, women, liberals, conservatives and those of different skin color and cultural backgrounds. However, the Holy Spirit did not discriminate and a group of believers were created. Our Christian heritage is one of unity poured out by the Spirit.
Christians, come back to this place with me. Come back to a place where the Holy Spirit enters and we cannot help but repent. Come back to a place where fear of the unknown does not control us. Come back to a place where truth is spoken and we listen. Come back to a place where people of different backgrounds can be united because Christ bled, died and rose again, and that is the only truth that truly matters. Come back to the place where our hearts are pierced for truth and for what we do not understand. Come back to our roots. Take this journey with me, because the three-thousand had each other, and those rejected need us, and I need all of you.
“And each day the Lord added to their fellowship those who were being saved.” Acts 2:47b
Lauren Rutland Hightower
University Church of Christ, Shreveport