‘Tis the season of Pentecost. It’s the time to recount the coming of the Holy Spirit in Acts 2 with the rush of wind, the tongues of fire, and speaking in other languages. For many in the church, it’s a reminder of the oft-forgotten third person of the Trinity who often takes a backseat to Father and the Son. And, for others, it’s right in their theological or denominational wheelhouse. Regardless, it’s exciting and celebrates the power of God that is given to the church after Jesus ascends, a power that is present today.
Acts 1:8 when Jesus gives a reason for the Spirit’s coming: “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”
This Holy Spirit power is for witnesses. And Jesus is pretty specific about where that is they are to be witnesses. It begins with Jerusalem–their home field, right among the people that know them best. And then it’s off to Judea–which is really pretty similar to Jerusalem. These might not be people as close to them as the Jerusalemites, but they look a lot like them with similar language and tradition. Then it’s off to Samaria, where the people look different and talk different and are even unliked. Only then does the power of the Spirit send them to the ends of the earth.
We often lift up and celebrate how the Spirit leads persons to be witnesses to the ends of the world. We hear about missionaries to the jungles of Africa and Asia. We send teams on short-term mission projects to build homes and churches and medical clinics. That’s all good. But we need to remember that the coming of the Spirit empowers the believers to witness, first, in Jerusalem…in their own backyard.
And this is hard. It’s hard to be a witness in our “Jerusalem,” among those who know us best, where we are comfortable. Those who are closest to us know what we did in 3rd grade or how we got that stupid nickname. They see our Facebook rants, through Instagram they know that we had jambalaya for dinner, and they find out we’re having a rough day via Twitter. These are the people we kiss before bed at night or chat with in the school after dropping off kids. We’re going to see them tomorrow…and the day after that…and the day after that. And these people…our “Jerusalem”…are those to whom the Spirit sends us first.
It can seem very attractive to go far away to “witness” to the love and power grace of Christ somewhere three flights and a couple layovers away. We go, we love with the love of Christ, and then we come home. It can be a lot harder to look at those right around you…right around you today…and ask “How can I witness here; here in my “Jerusalem?”
How will God’s Spirit empower you to witness to those who know you best?