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Bang the Pentecost drum for revival

Bang the Pentecost drum for revival

Bang the Pentecost drum for revival

17 May 2016

Beloved Aussie poet Henry Lawson understood The Salvation Army. He saw us in action in both the outback and the city, even recalling London East End roots in his poem Booth’s Drum:

They were ratty, they were hooted
by the meanest and the least,
When they woke the Drum of Glory
long ago in London East.
They were often mobbed by hoodlums;
they were few, but unafraid;
And their Lassies were insulted,
but they banged the drum, and prayed;
Prayed in public for the sinners, prayed in private for release,
Till they saved some brawny lumpers;
then they banged the drum in peace.

Like many fellow Australians in those early days, the poet captures that mix of bewilderment, wariness, misapprehension and respect the Army generated. What appears to be a travelling circus is the beginning of a much-loved and respected movement that will soon endear itself to a nation. What appears buffoonery is, in actuality, profoundly significant, a new spiritual initiative that will reap a great harvest of souls.

Likewise, apparent clowning that masks deep spirituality is present in the Acts chapter 2 story of Pentecost. The pouring out of the Holy Spirit with the miraculous speaking in other languages appears to the curious onlooker as drunken comedy, so it takes Peter to stand up and speak forcefully, pointing all the way back to the old prophecy of Joel, and under the anointing of God to say: “This is that!” In other words, the Joel passage has been fulfilled – it is not one of those prophecies that can even be thought of as “maybe” happening one day in the future. “This is that”, says Peter without flinching.

It is worth noting because the coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost is richly precise and significant. There is nothing haphazard here. The feast of Pentecost is a pilgrimage kind of a feast. That would explain the cosmopolitan gathering of Mediterranean types.

Pentecost literally means “fiftieth”. Designated all the way back in Leviticus (chapter 23) is the ordinance to bring a grain offering seven weeks and one day after the Passover Sabbath. Also called the “feast of weeks”, it marks the symbolic beginning of the harvest for a richly arable people. And so the Joel passage: “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved ...” is a true harvest of souls, the greatest revival in the history of the church. “... about 3000 were added to their number that day.” (Acts 2:41).

There is something else significant about the choice of Pentecost for the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, however, because over the centuries it becomes a celebration of the giving of the law, the 10 commandments, to Moses on Mount Sinai. Tradition has it 50 days after escaping from the slavery of Egypt, the first night of Passover.

And so the Joel passage, once again, is richly significant: “I will pour out my Spirit on all people.”

– If the “law” was given on Mount Sinai, at Pentecost, it is an “advocate” (lawyer) who is poured out at Pentecost.

– If it was the law given at Sinai – written on tablets of stone and impossible to keep – at Pentecost, it is the Holy Spirit searing God into the hearts of people given at Pentecost.

– If it was cloud, fire and God’s voice on Mount Sinai, at Pentecost, it is rushing wind, tongues of fire and miraculous languages.

Holy Spirit Pentecost stands as both contrast and continuation of the Jewish Feast of Pentecost, an extension of the great saving ministry of Jesus Christ, his ascension preparing the way for the coming of the Holy Spirit. Holy Spirit Pentecost brings unparalleled power to the disciples. It is for this that Jesus instructs them to wait in Jerusalem.

Holy Spirit Pentecost marks a new era for the third member of the Trinity. It is the first birthday of the church, an explosion of the presence of Christ around the world, an unusual visitation of God pouring out new life, invading human beings in a way that shatters old expectations.

Joel twice describes the coming of the Holy Spirit as a “pouring out”. The image is that associated with a heavy tropical rainstorm – not a drizzle or a shower here. “Pouring out” has a finality to it. What is poured out cannot be gathered again. And so it is at Pentecost, a Holy Spirit typhoon, and the recipients will never be the same again.

This pouring out is for “all people”. Just in case we don’t believe it Joel articulates it for us: regardless of gender, age or social status the Holy Spirit is for you. While there is specific reference to “prophesying” – and that certainly is accurate – this is not just for the preacher types. The universal outpouring of the spirit empowers us to communicate Christ in manifold creative ways, academic, artistic, aesthetic and more.

The outpouring and empowerment of the Holy Spirit is essential for mission and discipleship, whatever your field – home, school, factory floor, office complex – add your world to the list.

And so, just as Christ was baptised by the Holy Spirit in the River Jordan at the commencement of his public ministry, so, too, the disciples receive a baptism before their public ministry can begin. If Christ relied on this Holy Spirit empowerment, how much more must we depend upon such a Holy Spirit commission for our day.

Pentecost is perfect for The Salvation Army. Our founder writes: “We want another Pentecost”. We identify with the holiness movement and were birthed in revival. Male or female; young or old; clever or simple is part of who we are.

General Eva Burrows once pronounced to a congress of Salvationists, with thunderous applause: “The Salvation Army doesn’t need any more programs, what we need is more of the Holy Spirit”.’

So, come on beloved Australia Eastern, this Pentecost bang Booth’s drum with confidence, and see some “brawny lumpers” saved. The Salvos and Pentecost – perfect together.

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