But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.-Acts 1:8
Not all churches commemorated Pentecost Sunday in Brazil. There is a strong anti-catholic sentiment among the evangelical Christians and they avoid anything that bears any resemblance to the Catholic Church. This, unfortunately, means that traditional feast days are mostly ignored in the evangelical churches. Consequently, it has impoverished them. We need to reflect on the important events of our spirituality. It reminds us of our spiritual vocation. Our team is made up of mainly evangelical Christians but we did not allow this day to past without reflecting on its meaning in our ministry. The presence of the Holy Spirit is crucial in our ministry. It gives our ministry a purpose and most important of all, it is a reminder of what it means to work in the power of the Holy Spirit.
In São Paulo, most people have grown accustomed to the presence of the homeless children and teens. A good Christian man who was not afraid to be honest and politically incorrect told me that most people in São Paulo are more disturbed to see stray dogs in the streets than to see children. He said that homeless children have always been there whereas stray dogs are something new.
None of us, including the only Brazilian in our team, are from the city of São Paulo. We are sent and supported by churches outside the city and country. Sometimes we feel like we need to justify ( this is perhaps a feeling just in our hearts) why we are serving in a place that has nothing to do with the reality of our sending churches. Why invest time and money in a Catholic nation where there are ample churches both Protestant and Catholic? Sometimes we feel like we need to justify our presence here and then it hits us. We are here because of Pentecost Sunday.
“And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance.And there were dwelling in Jerusalem Jews, devout men, from every nation under heaven. And when this sound occurred, the multitude came together, and were confused, because everyone heard them speak in his own language.”-Acts 2: 4-6
We cannot separate the speaking of different languages from the coming of the Holy Spirit. In some churches, the gospel is read in many different languages on this day. It is an important symbolic act to show that the Holy Spirit changed the way the first disciples understood the message of the gospel. God’s favor was no longer restricted to one people, but His Spirit is upon all peoples. The presence of the Holy Spirit has been with the Jewish people always, but now it is poured out to the world. The word for “Spirit” in Hebrew could mean “breath” or “wind” with which Jesus symbolically describes the movement of the Spirit in His conversation with Nicodemus. It is an appropriate symbol. We cannot domesticate or control the wind or air. It is free to go where it pleases. The church is only truly a church when it is willing to allow the wind of the Spirit to carry it to places and people to testify to the power of the gospel.
We cannot understand the reason for missionary work if we do not understand the power that comes from the Hoy Spirit. The Holy Spirit has only one purpose according to Jesus. The power of the Holy Spirit lies in this role. Our power comes from recognizing the work of the Holy Spirit.
He will glorify Me, for He will take of what is Mine and declare it to you. All things that the Father has are Mine. Therefore I said that He will take of Mine and declare it to you.- John 16:14-15
Our power comes from recognizing the presence of Jesus in our midst. This is the only thing that makes the church relevant. If we allow ourselves to be distracted with other tasks, then we lose our authority and power in this world. If we make power our goal, then we lose all authority. Our goal is to testify to the work of the Holy Spirit.
The feast of Pentecost reminds us of this. The New Testament writings after the gospels are about recognizing the presence of Jesus in this world through the Holy Spirit. The apostles never wrote about doctrines; they just testified to the living presence of Jesus. The doctrines become alive and living testimony of the gospel’s power when we use them to recognize the presence of Jesus. They become dull and lifeless if they are end unto themselves.
The feast of Pentecost reminds us that it was the Holy Spirit who brought us to the red light district of São Paulo. None of us ever imagined spending the prime of our adult life walking through trash and filth to find homeless children and teens who might be too drugged out to talk to us. However, we wouldn’t be anywhere but here because the Holy Spirit brought us. This is the only reason we need to be here. We need to celebrate the Feast of Pentecost to remind ourselves of this Truth.
We are here for the sole purpose of testifying to the transformative presence of Jesus. Every encounter with the living presence of Jesus is transformative. This is why our power lies in recognizing His presence in this world.