Acts 2 is one of my favorite chapters in the Bible. At the beginning is the story of Pentecost, when the Holy Spirit comes down and fills the people, enabling them to do and say things they wouldn’t be able to do and say on their own. Whenever I read it, I think about the potential for a church that allows itself to be led by the power of the Holy Spirit. But that’s not what stuck out to me as I read this today.
At the end is the story of that early community of faith and how they lived together, shared their belongings, took care of each other, prayed and worshiped and ate together. I love it because I think it gives us a picture of what is possible for the Church today. It’s so simple and every time I read it, I think about how much we could learn from both the simplicity of what they did and the full-life dedication of the earliest community to live out what they believed. But that’s not what stuck out to me today either.
What stuck out to me today is an interaction I think is one of the funniest parts in the New Testament, that happens closer to the middle of the chapter. After the Holy Spirit has come down and filled some of the people, some people jeered at them saying, “They’re full of wine!” In other words, “they’re drunk!”
Here’s what the story says about how Peter responded to that:
Peter stood with the other eleven apostles. He raised his voice and declared, “Judeans and everyone living in Jerusalem! Know this! Listen carefully to my words! These people aren’t drunk, as you suspect; after all, it’s only nine o’clock in the morning! (Acts 2:14)
Notice that he doesn’t say, “These people aren’t drunk; they don’t get drunk!” Nope, he says, “They’re not drunk, it’s only 9am! That would be crazy this early in the morning.” I almost expect him to say, “But come back at 5, and it might be a different story.” This story always makes me laugh!
But it also makes me think. When’s the last time I was accused of being drunk at church or in the community because I was doing something so out of the ordinary that people noticed and wondered why I was doing it or what was wrong with me? Because, according to this story, both in the beginning and the end of Acts 2, when the Holy Spirit shows up, strange and unexplainable things begin to happen. People speak in languages not their own, cultural and racial boundaries are broken down and people are unified into one community. When the Holy Spirit shows up, people worry less about themselves and their own needs and they share what they have to take care of other people. When the Holy Spirit shows up, people commit themselves, their whole lives, to pursuing God: learning about God, worshiping God, praying to God, and demonstrating to other people how much God loves them. Do people have to be drunk for that to happen?
I’ve never been accused of being drunk because I was following the guidance of the Holy Spirit, have you? I’ve rarely done anything that raised questions about what I was doing. (Okay, that’s not true. I’ve rarely done anything in an effort to live out my faith that raised questions about what I was doing.) But maybe it’s time for that to change. What if I listened to and followed the nudging of the Holy Spirit? The next time I have the sudden urge to do something for somebody else, what if I do it? The next time I see somebody on the street and I feel just a little nudge that I should stop and talk to them or try to help them even if it’s in the middle of a busy intersection, what if I do it? The next time I feel the strong sense that I need to say something to somebody when I would normally just keep my mouth shut, either a word of encouragement or that I’m thinking about them or that I think they’re crazy and they’re doing something destructive and harmful, what if I do it?
What would happen if we followed the nudging of the Holy Spirit every time we felt it, not matter how big or small? Would people think we were drunk? If they did, we’d be in good company. If we followed anyway, I think we would be amazed, just like the people on the day of Pentecost, at the incredible things that could happen.
God, when I feel you tugging, nudging, pushing, moving, help me to listen and follow.