Along the Way: Oneness & Oneing

The Day of Pentecost is often called the birthday of the Church, and there is a sense in which that is true. More on that below. But a look at the text itself (Acts 2:1-21) shows that it was the rebirth of oneness and the ignition of oneing.

Luke uses the language of universality repeatedly to make the point. People from “every nation” were in Jerusalem. “All” of the Christian community was together in the upper room, and the Spirit descended as wind and fire (life and passion) on “each one of them,” so that “they were all filled with the Spirit.”

But from the outset they knew that what had happened to them was intended for “all people.” So, they took it to the streets, and before the end of the day, 3,000 people had been added to the community, with daily additions thereafter. The “splash” of the Spirit in Jerusalem became an immediate “ripple effect” that went everywhere and included everyone.

Pentecost is about oneness, and we call it the birthday of the Church because the first Christians recognized the oneness and immediately set about oneing (Julian of Norwich’s word) the world, eventuating in the Jerusalem Council in Acts 15, where the oneness was acknowledged and declared to be the essence of the Gospel–that “all are one in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:28).

I have said this before, but today on Pentecost Sunday, I say it again: oneness is the message and oneing is the ministry. We call it the message and ministry of reconciliation. The lack of both is the fundamental force that is destroying life and the planet. Pentecost is about oneness and oneing, but fallen-world principalities and powers reverse the flow, creating division and all the destructive things which come from it.

Pentecost was the revelation of radical faith–the faith that “all flesh” is in-Spirited. It remains the radical-faith Sunday in the Christian year when we go against the grain of political and religious imperialism to re-experience and declare that “all means all.’ The Church is birthed and re-birthed when we proclaim that Christ has broken down dividing walls so that oneness is our reality and oneing is our mission.

About Steve Harper

Dr. Steve Harper is retired seminary professor, who taught for 32 years in the disciplines of Spiritual Formation and Wesley Studies. Author and co-author of 43 books. He is also a retired Elder in The Florida Annual Conference of The United Methodist Church.
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