07 June 2022, St. Louis, USA [Audrey Andersson]
Are there life events that define who we are and how we act? For the apostle Peter, the Passover weekend when Jesus was crucified was one such event. He fell asleep in Gethsemane. His initial violent bravado in cutting off the High Priest’s servant’s ear was followed by a cowardly denial, cursing and saying that he was not a follower of Jesus. His despair was all consuming, but on the Sunday morning, when he heard the women say the tomb was empty, it gave way to hope. Only when Jesus appeared in the upper room did he begin to comprehend something of the reality of the resurrection.
After that meeting, when contemplating what to do next, he decided to resume his career as a fisherman. He was a man without a vision. He had no ambition, no clear direction in life. He returned to Galilee. His return to fishing was not profitable. After a night’s unsuccessful fishing, he meets Jesus again. Jesus confronts Peter with his denial. He is restored. He is assured of Jesus’ forgiveness and commissioned to feed Jesus’ followers. Despite this, change does not happen overnight.
Fast-forward fifty days to Pentecost and the coming of the Holy Spirit. Gone is the cowardly, foul-mouthed fisherman. Peter is transformed. He stands up in Jerusalem, fearlessly proclaiming the message of the risen Saviour. People who had been in the mob crying for Jesus to be crucified now asked, ‘What shall we do?’ What made the difference? The presence of the Holy Spirit gave Peter the vision.
Reflecting on what has taken place over the last couple of years through events which that at times still seem unbelievable, such as the Covid-19 pandemic with hospitals full to the brim of seriously ill people, mask wearing, social distancing, and cancelled worship services – people experienced a fear of which they did not know how to fight. Compound that with more recent global political, social and economic events, they are looking for answers, for people of vision to show the way forwards.
The story of Pentecost in Act 2 reminds us that the church has a message of hope and healing. A message which has never been more relevant. There is a danger that, like Peter when he was in Galilee, we know the message, but there is no discernible change in our behaviour. The church needs leaders. The hour calls for those, from the local church to the General Conference who will catch the vision. Who will take the message of salvation and hope to their neighbours, to the stranger in the street, whether it is convenient or not?
This is not the time for the status quo. It is the time to be filled by the Holy Spirit, and to catch the vision of a living Saviour and spread the Good News throughout the world.