by Rev. David Gregg
… suddenly from heaven there came a sound like the rush of a violent wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. Divided tongues, as of fire, appeared among them, and a tongue rested on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages, as the Spirit gave them ability.
There is a certain kind of Christianity that gets labeled “pentecostal.” This branch of Christianity focuses on the presence of God’s Spirit at work in the church, and often features worship practices like speaking in tongues, faith healing, lively contemporary worship music, and even being slain in the spirt. Some of the members of North Shore have experienced this style of Christianity, and others haven’t. For some, it might seem foreign and unknown; for others, it is familiar and spiritually enriching. There are lots of different kinds of spiritual backgrounds here at North Shore — it’s one of our strengths!
But there are two ways in which everyone at North Shore can feel comfortable in claiming the term “pentecostal.” The first is the fact that we are a church at all! Sociologists like to think of the church as a human phenomenon — an “interest group” or a social club. But for followers of Jesus, the church is also a spiritual reality, and we are together because God’s Spirit has gathered us together. God’s Spirit brings us into community with our talents and spiritual gifts for a purpose. We are gathered together to be a community of the Heavenly Reign, a foothold of God’s Beloved Community in this particular place, at this particular time, in the lives of this diverse group of people.
The holiday of Pentecost celebrates that gathering, when God’s Spirit blew among the first followers like a wind and burned in their hearts like a fire. Pentecost celebrates the birthday of the Church, when the Spirit gathered the followers of Jesus for the transformation of their lives and for the transformation of the world. So in that sense, everyone at North Shore is pentecostal — we belong together to a church created, gathered, and inspired by God’s Spirit.
The second way in which North Shore is truly pentecostal a place is seen so clearly in the Pentecost story: everyone began to speak and understand other languages. The church of the Spirit’s creation transcends human boundaries of race, nationality, and even language. Together as followers of Jesus, we learn to understand each other, as Jesus understands us all. We learn to hear each other’s needs, fears, joys, celebrations, illnesses, failures, and successes. We learn to understand each other’s testimony, the story of God at work across the globe and in all kinds of people. Every Sunday at North Shore, we re-create Pentecost, the miracle of people understanding and speaking in different tongues. So in that way, too, we are Pentecostal.
We will experience the depth of Pentecost on May 21, in a joint worship service and in our annual meeting. In worship (at 10:30 am in the Sanctuary), we will praise One God from Many Perspectives, speaking One Word in Many Languages, as One Church with Many Cultures. We will remember those who have gone on before and commission our envoys and missionaries for the summer. Then we move to Howel Hall for our annual meeting luncheon, where the theme will be CHANGES. We will celebrate our Daily Disciple and our Faithful Servant, receive our annual report, and elect our leaders for the coming year. All members are urged to attend the day — we need your input and your vote! And most importantly, we need all our voices to praise God together as one Church, gathered by God’s Spirit, speaking in many tongues, a double Pentecost. Please join us and experience God’s Spirit at work!