We’ve just had Pentecost, a day when the Holy Spirit came with power upon the early church. What a moment! I can only imagine what those disciples felt when they saw fire on each other. They must have surely been scared but excited.
One time I had an experience in a church that left me scared-but-excited. It was a memorable moment. Here's what happened:
It was an evening in Auckland and I'd gone to hear a visiting missionary speak at a little-known church. I arrived alone and settled into the worship. So far, so good. The gentle presence of God was lovely and the worship went late. Eventually, the host stood up to close the meeting.
“Most of you will want to go home now to your families, and we say goodbye. I hope you’ve enjoyed this evening --”
“It is late,” I thought to myself. “I’d better get home to Bryce --”
But the host continued –
“And there are some here who will want to stay. Because you’re hungry. And if that’s you, you can come to the front and we’ll continue …”
Now, I fully intended to walk out the door but for some strange reason I found myself instead drifting to the front with the ‘hungry ones’. There they gathered to continue worshipping. I stood about ten rows back, watching. I was no longer worshipping but something held me there.
Well blow me down, I was not ready for what happened next. My friends, what I describe may or may not be new to you, but it was to me. Like a mighty rush, the power of the Holy Spirit hit the room and the row of people at the front fell to the ground in one swoop as if they’d been hit by volts of power.
SMASH! The power hit the second row. People began to fall to their knees like dominoes: crying, worshipping, utterly wrecked by his love.
WHAM! The Spirit of God hit the third row. Wave upon wave of love, crashing down.
At this point my face took on a deer-in-the-headlights look. Never had I seen this before.
The fourth row, the fifth row, it was nearing me. It was like a tidal wave heading straight for me. An internal whimper bubbled up.
I looked left and right as those beside me began to fall, and I took a step back. I looked again and took another as people were moving chairs to make way for the power. Soon my feet were stepping back very quickly. Then I paused: Should I? before I turned and ran. Here's what was top of my mind:
“I don't want to do this without Bryce.”
And so I left. I ran to my car, flung myself into the driver's seat, then sat in the dark with a beating heart and shaking hands. After a while I started the ignition and decided that if ever there was a time to gorge myself on a McDonald's super-sized meal this was it. So I pulled into a drive-through, bought up large and sat in the carpark shoving handfuls of salty fries into my mouth while digesting what I'd just seen.
Glug glug went the sucking of my straw as I gulped down the sugary coke. Glug glug.
Oh God, it was You.
Oh God, I wish I’d stayed.
I’ve since come to understand what happens to people when they are the ones getting hit by the power. It is beautiful, life-changing, and it's something to which I now say a huge yes. Further, this is the very thing that happened very personally to our leader, Lynn, in October 2012. She has written honestly about it in the book Marching Around Jericho, and it was a turning-point for this ministry.
So today I celebrate those disciples and that radical Pentecost.
“When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place. Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them.” (Acts 2:1-4, NIV)
Lord, we ask for more. Give us the ability to receive your love, your power, your character, your heart, your wisdom, your majesty, your signs and your wonders. In Jesus' Name, Amen.