On June 12 most Christians will celebrate and remember Pentecost as a day about 2,000 years ago when a movement, which eventually became the Christian church, was born. But it was more than that. It was a day of hope fulfilled. Hope that human beings stuck in a world of self-centeredness could experience a world of love. Let’s be honest with ourselves. We all tend to be somewhat self-centered. There’s nothing new about that. It seems to be at least part of the message of the Biblical creation story in Genesis, chapters 2-3. God tells Adam and Eve they can eat the fruit from any of the trees in the garden which he has given them as their home. But if they do eat the fruit from that tree, they will be kicked out of the garden. Then along comes a snake, who tells Eve that God didn’t really mean that. In fact, it would be a good thing if they ate the fruit from that tree. Because they would then be on an equal level with God. They themselves would be gods.
Whether you see this as a factual story, or as a poetic way of getting at truth, one implication is that human beings, right from the beginning, were self-centered. They hoped to be self-sufficient. Then they wouldn’t need God. They would save God the trouble of caring for them. They would also be able to have everything their way, without any interference from God. But that’s not what God had in mind when he created them. God created them out of love, to love and be loved. God knew that when everybody does whatever they want, there is chaos. Things don’t go so well. There is little room for love. All through the Hebrew Scriptures (what Christians call the Old Testament of the Bible), the story is the same, God says do this (or don’t do this), but people want things their way. And when they do want God around, it’s usually because they are expecting God to do what they want – when, how and where they want it.
Down through the ages, that’s the way it has been with human beings. It was that way when Jesus appeared on the scene about 2,000 years ago. For three years, with his words and deeds, he taught that it would be better for everyone if they would let God transform them from being self-centered to becoming God and neighbor centered. The one word bottom line that he taught was – love. Love God and love your neighbor – by which he meant everyone else – even your enemies. He was teaching a radical new way of life. In the model prayer he taught his followers, he asked us to pray “… thy kingdom come, they will be done, on earth as it is in heaven…”. So when the people who are the church recite this prayer every Sunday, they are expressing the hope that this life of love that Jesus lived and taught will result in a world of love for all people.
The problem back then was that those who supported Jesus really didn’t understand what he was teaching. When he used the word “kingdom”, they had the idea he was talking about a revolution. They were sure he would cause the downfall of the Roman rulers and the legalistic religious leaders. He would establish a new nation, with himself as king. He would appoint them to positions of status, power and control. They were hoping for a nation where they could have things their way. At the same time, those who opposed Jesus were those who did have those positions of status, power, and control, and they hoped to keep it that way. They hoped Jesus would just go away. But after three years he was still at it. So they killed him. His followers then lost all hope for what they wanted. However, a few days later Jesus turned up again, very much alive. Now their hopes were renewed.
About six weeks later Jesus called his followers together for a meeting (see the Book of Acts Chapters 1-2). They thought finally he was going to reveal his plans to start a revolution. But instead, he gives them his farewell address. He’s leaving. He also says he’ll always be with them. How can that be? Now they’re really confused. Again, they lose hope. So what are they supposed to do? Jesus tells them to wait and pray for God to fill them with the Holy Spirit – the Spirit of Jesus. That’s how he will still be with them even though he will physically be gone. Then the Holy Spirit will tell them what to do. They did what Jesus said, probably still holding on to their old self-centered hope. But as they waited and prayed during the next ten days they began to experience the transformation Jesus had been talking about all along. Their self-centered hope for a new nation where things would go their way began to die. A new hope was born and began to grow. Hope for a world of love. Love of God and love of all people.The kind of world Jesus had been hoping for and teaching about all along. On Pentecost they finally got the message and began to proclaim it out in the streets, despite the possibility that those who killed Jesus might now do the same to them. Jesus’ hope became their hope. In the days that followed others joined them. The transformation of the world from self-centeredness to love continued to spread.
Eventually, the church was described as the body of Christ, because its purpose, on the day it was born about 2,000 years ago, right up to the present day, and into the future, was and is to live the life of Jesus in the present. Just as Jesus hoped for and taught that way of life through his words and deeds, the church was born to do the same. To the extent that the church continues to do that it keeps alive the hope for a world of love. As the people who are the church celebrate Pentecost, and every day, need to remember that’s what they are here for. At the same time, this hope for a world of love isn’t just a church thing. Holding on to and sharing this hope for a world of love is something anyone and everyone can take on as their responsibility.
Thanks for your attention. We look forward to hearing your comments about our our web-site. We also invite you to send us stories of your experiences and observations of present hopes and hope fulfilled, so we can spread them around the world via this web-site.This is one way we can all join together to help keep hope alive.