We need to ask ourselves, “Why can’t the gift of the Holy Spirit be given again today?” What happened at Pentecost should thrill us, but it doesn’t. It passes by, even though it must have been one of the greatest miracles in history! Think about it: thousands of people were cut to the heart at the same time, and repented and sought a new purpose for their lives. They asked each other, “Brothers, what shall we do?”
Now, when many of us hear about being “cut to the heart,” or of repenting, we right away think in negative terms. We think it means confessing all the bad things we’ve done. It does, but that’s only part of it. The main fruit of being struck is what comes after: the freedom and the joy.
Why don’t we grasp that? To become vulnerable; to be willing to show who we really are; to be able to talk about the things that are burdening us – shouldn’t that bring freedom and a lot of joy? I don’t mean pious happiness. I’m talking about genuine, true joy – the joy of living.
Another important part of being struck in the heart is repenting of our “goodness,” because along with “goodness” often goes a lot of hypocrisy. We look down on people who have fallen into sin and don’t stand with them. This goodness, this wanting everything to be so perfectly right, runs right through our daily life and work, and because of it, we lose our ability to simply act from our hearts and speak our minds.
How can we overcome this holding back amongst us? I wish people would get inspired to meet together and talk about this, because it could actually change our lives. There wouldn’t be such dullness as there often seems to be: people would just express whatever is on their minds and hearts and not worry what others think, because they would be filled with a living spirit.
As individuals, we are nothing. As individuals we are powerless to do a single thing. We can speak clearly and sharply and try to get this or that message across, but if God’s spirit is not there, and hearts are not open, it will be futile. Human efforts always fail. Only God can open the hearts and doors that are closed to him. But let us long that this can happen – and not just among us, but for all humankind.
At the first Pentecost there were about one hundred people waiting expectantly in Jerusalem. They did not know what they were waiting for; in fact, they had only just taken in that Jesus had died and gone to heaven. He had often told them it would happen, yet they hadn’t understood or believed him. They were normal people, who had surely failed often and had to be forgiven for various sins. But in the end, because of their faithfulness, and because they allowed themselves to be filled with God’s spirit, they could be used.
The pouring out of the Holy Spirit is a gift, and we need to ask and pray that it be given amongst us! I’m not sure it has yet, at least not like it could be. One thing I’ve noticed: people so easily become depressed because they think they are so evil. But if all we see is the evil in ourselves, how can we find joy again? I’m sure that when the apostles looked at themselves, they found just the same sins that we have. Yet they still found repentance, baptism, and the gift of the Holy Spirit. And they were so filled with these things, that they forgot themselves. They were so focused on their task – feeding the poor and preaching the good news – that they had no time to think about themselves.
We are living for a kingdom that is not of this world: the kingdom that is coming. And whatever religion or creed you adhere to, in the end I know you, too, must think of what is beyond death – of what is eternal. Everyone must.
For us, the most important thing is to see what we can do each day to help our neighbor, our fellow man; to seek together what it is that our world really needs – what it is that holds people together in the end. It’s usually the small deeds, not the big deeds, that count.
Listen to these wonderful words from the prophet Joel about the last days: “Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your old men will dream dreams, your young men will see visions. Even on my servants, both men and women, I will pour out my spirit in those days” (Joel 2:28–29).
Can you imagine how God must be waiting for this? For people to turn back to him – people with expectant hearts; people who are waiting for his kingdom – so that he can pour out his spirit on them? It needs to start somewhere. Why not amongst us? Of course, there must be other people in the world too who are waiting for God’s kingdom. Isn’t it part of our mission to find them so that, together, we can be a light in this dark, needy world?
Richard Scott served as elder (senior pastor) of the Bruderhof communities from 2001 until his death on February 7, 2011.