By Gwen Sisson
Starkville Daily News
In a special worship service for Pentecost Sunday, Bishop Hope Morgan Ward of the Mississippi Conference of the United Methodist Church said Pentecost was a great “airing out” moment.
With the sound of wind rushing through streamers, Ward encouraged the children of local United Methodist churches to remember the sounds of the wind and the colors of fire as we remember the story of Pentecost and the arrival of the Holy Spirit to the early church.
“Pentecost Sunday was a time of coming full circle,” Ward said, “God breathed life into humanity in the Garden of Eden, and then he breathed life into the early Christians.”
Ward presented the worship service at Eupora First United Methodist Church. In honor of her visit, Maben UMC, Bellfontaine UMC, Lebanon UMC and Liberty UMC in the area did not hold services in order to join with the Eupora UMC congregation for the special event.
Ward shared her thoughts on Pentecost, which is also called the “birthday of the church.”
Pentecost Sunday is the remembrance of the original Pentecost recounted in Acts Chapter 2. According to Acts 2, Jews from all over were gathered in Jerusalem to celebrate the Jewish feast. On that Sunday, Jesus’ disciples and others were gathered into an upper room, where they had shared communion with Christ before his death on the cross. Suddenly there came a sound from heaven, as of a mighty wind coming, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting. And there appeared to them parted tongues as it were of fire, and it sat upon every one of them: “And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and they began to speak with diverse tongues, according as the Holy Ghost gave them to speak. “(Acts 2:2-4)
Christ had promised his apostles that he would sent His Holy Spirit, and, on Pentecost, they were granted the gifts of the spirit. The apostles began to preach in all of the languages that the Jews who were gathered there spoke, and about 3,000 people were converted and baptized that day.
Ward said today, Pentecost represents a great renewal and great giftedness.
“People ask, ‘what does this all mean?’” Ward said, “but it is a proclamation of a mystery our minds cannot conceive.”
Ward said she believed the miracle of Pentecost wasn’t just the capacity for everyone in the room of different nationalities to understand one another, though they were speaking their own language. Ward said she agreed with John Wesley who wrote the miracle of Pentecost was that all of these different people were praising God in the myriad of languages.
“Every tongue was giving praise to Jesus Christ,” Ward said. “And it is a foretaste of what is to come, when every knee shall bow and every tongue shall confess that Jesus is Lord.”
She said Jesus challenges us to “go and teach all nations” about Him and His Word.
“But how can we possibly measure up?” Ward said. “The truth is, it is not about us. God delivers His message through us. We always say “the world is our parish.’ Where you find yourself — that is your parish.”
Ward also said Pentecost was a clear and concise message, and with all our diverse gifts and abilities, it is so important to deliver those gifts to the world clearly and simply.
“The miracle is the capacity of faithful believers to live as a clear and concise witness for Christ,” Ward said. “We can all do that.”
She said living to share a clear and concise message for the love of Christ is so important right here.
“Right here in this community, there are children who haven’t heard the stories of Jesus, and there are families in a financial bind,” Ward said. “There are people who have been diagnosed with a health problem and are scared. There are people looking for a church home. And they need you to live a clear and simple witness for Christ, right here.”
“We are so very honored to have Bishop Ward worshipping with us, and that she was here for Pentecost, the ‘birthday’ of the Church, made it even more special,” said Rev. Trey Harper, pastor of Eupora First United Methodist Church. “The bishop’s schedule is so busy, and there are well over 1,100 churches in the Mississippi Conference, so to be able to host her is truly an privilege. When we confirmed that she would be coming, we immediately saw this as an opportunity to worship with our other United Methodist brothers and sisters. This service developed into a real celebration of the unity of the Body of Christ. We are so blessed to be a part of it.”