When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place. And 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. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages, as the Spirit gave them ability.
Some years ago, I discovered and learned three favorite quotations from theologians of a generation ago (Brooks, Fosdick and Spurgeon), and these three quotations penetrate the heart of Pentecost.
- The first quotation is this: “Nothing but fire kindles fire.”
- The second is: “If you want to set someone on fire, you have to burn a little bit yourself.”
- The third is: “A burning heart will soon find for itself a flaming tongue.” This what the Holy Spirit can do to us and through us if we do not squelch it.
That first Pentecost one hundred and twenty people were gathered together in a large upper room, waiting for something very special to happen to them, and they weren’t quite sure what they were waiting for.
They were praying and waiting for the Holy Spirit to come because Jesus had promised it to them, but they didn’t know what that would mean. Then suddenly it was like a rush of wind filled the room. It was like tongues of fire inside of them. They felt the power of God flowing through them, and they rushed out of that building into the streets. They went from street to street, home to home, neighbor to neighbor and family to family and ultimately from nation to nation.
It was like a forest fire moving from tree to bush to tree across a vast forest. It was flaming across the middle-east being driven by the wind of the Holy Spirit. It was like a fire on an oil slick on the ocean, flames leaping across the water.
That’s the way it was in that first century of Christian expansion. It was like the flame of the power of Jesus’ love spreading across the whole world.
Why did that happen? As Brooks, Fosdick and Spurgeon would say, “Nothing but fire kindles a fire.”
“If YOU want to set someone on fire, YOU have to burn a little bit yourself.”
“A burning heart will soon find for itself a flaming tongue.”
What happened is that those Apostles first went to a village or town and planted a church, and then went to a second village or town, and planted a church and to a third village or town and planted another church.
Whoa. We have to go back to that first village or town and look more carefully, because before they went to the second village, they left a group of people in that village who were committed to Jesus Christ with fire on their tongues.
They were the “laos”, the Greek word for “the laity,” “the people of God.”
The Apostles always left some folks in each village they went to whose hearts and tongues were on fire, who hadn’t gone to the seminary, but who had been set on fire with the Holy Spirit. These were the people of God in each village who spread the Gospel from house to house, neighbor to neighbor and friend to friend, and family to family.
That’s the way the Good News of Jesus Christ is spread
It is a fundamental principle that has been true since the day of Pentecost. It is the laity, the people of God, who become inspired by the Holy Spirit.
We are the ones, not the twelve, not the Apostles, not the pastors. It is the laity, the people of God, who go about winning souls to Jesus Christ and nurturing those souls into maturity. It is one on one, person-to-person ministry of you and me as Christ’s brothers and sisters who have a flame of his love in us that wants to spread to others.
So how did they do this? By their own enthusiasm? By their own intelligence?
No…“Nothing but fire kindles fire.” “If you want to set someone on fire, you have to burn a little bit yourself.” “A burning heart will soon find for itself a flaming tongue. ”.
It is we who have in our souls that fire that God kindled in us to spread like a forest fire.
- Is it possible that the flame of Jesus Christ that was spreading during the time of Pentecost is going out in our lives?
- How are we squelching the fire of the Holy Spirit that God kindled in us at baptism?
- Are you on fire with God’s love and gospel message in your words and deeds?
- Will you allow the flame of God’s Spirit to burn in you to set another person on fire with God’s love?
Sue is NLS Spiritual Director, since 2019 and is a retired Lutheran Pastor (ELCA). Active in VdC since 1995, she has served two terms on the Board of the Texas VdC Secretariat, and also on the Texas Gulf Coast VdC Board as Spiritual Director since its start-up in 2017.