“When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in the same place. Suddenly from heaven came a sound of a strong, rushing wind, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting. Then there appeared tongues of fire, distributed among them so that one settled on each of them, and they were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages, as the Spirit gave them ability.” (Acts 2:1-4)

Nothing sets kiwi hearts racing like the haka before a big game, especially when it’s against a Lions team full of muscle and bravado. This pre-match ritual conjures up a heady cocktail of pride, memories and anticipation of what’s to come.

The Day of Pentecost plays a similar role for us as followers of Christ, but with a twist. For those first believers, it was a reminder of God’s ancient faithfulness to his people, as it marked the beginning of the harvest each year — “the day of the firstfruits” (Num 28:26). The Pentecost described in Acts gives this festival powerful new meaning, fulfilling an old promise and providing a new beginning.

The Prophet Joel saw a time when God would pour out His Spirit on all humanity, releasing Spirit-inspired prophesies, dreams and visions among the people. More recently John the Baptist had foretold that the Coming One would baptise with wind and fire. The Pentecost described by Luke in Acts truly was “the day of the firstfruits,” when God filled His people with divine inspiration and heralded the beginning of the harvest to end all harvests.

When the current crop of All Blacks pull on their shirts and perform the haka later this month, they’re carrying both memories of the past and hopes for the future. In fact, you could say it’s the memories that give power to the hopes they carry. When I think of the rushing wind and tongues of fire coming upon those early believers, it reminds me a bit of the haka. As Christians Pentecost is our living history; it’s a present reminder of who we are and where we’ve come from. That we are a radical people filled and united by the Spirit of God to take up our part in His mission in the world.

And here’s the twist. The haka is a war dance but Pentecost marks the beginning of God’s peaceable kingdom. Whereas the Tower of Babel marked the enduring conflict and division between people as symbolised through their different languages, at Pentecost God unites people through His one Spirit, and this unity is expressed through a diversity of languages — different tongues but all praising God.

Pentecost is a beautiful, radical and powerful living memory of who we are as followers of Christ and it’s also an expression of what we seek to become as his church here at St Paul’s.

Blessings,
Rev Jonny Grant