A Nation on Fire Needs the Flames of the Spirit

As racism tears the country apart, the message of Pentecost can help the church find its voice.

This weekend, churches around the globe gathered virtually to celebrate Pentecost, that miraculous moment when tongues of fire descended on the followers of Christ and the gospel was heard in the varied languages of the world. Pentecost is the miracle that follows another miracle (the Ascension), which occurs in the aftermath of a wonder (the Resurrection).

In contrast to Christ’s disciples, we experienced Pentecost this year in the aftermath of a woe, following a trauma, in the context of a tragedy. The protests and riots of Minneapolis (and so many other cities) follow the death of George Floyd, who was choked to death while handcuffed and pleading for his life. For nine minutes, a police officer kept his knee on Floyd’s neck while the man called for his mother. This occurred in the wake of the killings of Breonna Taylor and Ahmaud Arbery. And all this takes place within the wider context of a global pandemic that has killed 100,000 people. It feels more like we are in the middle of an extended Lent rather than the end of Eastertide.

Some will assume that I’m bringing politics into the church. They’ll wonder why I’m not upset about black-on-black crime, or the breakdown of the black family, or abortion, or looting, or whatever topic that helps us avoid looking at the thing itself. That “thing” is the 400-year history of racial trauma and oppression still plaguing blacks in this country.

What do protests, riots, and police brutality have to do with Pentecost and the passage in Acts 2:1–21? Does the death of the Messiah for our sins have anything to do with how we approach the flames of Minneapolis? Does the church have something to say, or will we be discipled by Fox News on …

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