Did you hear about the first Methodist Pentecost? No, I don’t mean the First Methodist Pentecostal Church. I’m talking about the first Methodist Pentecost. It’s a different thing. Believe me, it’s not the kind of thing you forget.
This was the time when Methodists from all over the world assembled in Jerusalem for the “World Methodist General Annual Conference of Wesleyan Gatherings and Associations since the Dawn of Time.” An annual meeting, Methodists from all over the known world converged on Jerusalem just fifty days after their individual celebrations of Easter. For some reason, this year was an extra special meeting. A commission of divinely appointed disciples was gathered in “the” Upper Room to wait upon the “Holy Spirit” for heavenly direction on a way forward from where we are now to where (some said) we ought to be. Are you sure you haven’t heard this story? I hate to repeat myself.
It was nearly 9:00 am when it started. Most of Methodism was still asleep in our nice jurisdictional factions. These “way forward” disciples were in their upper room praying and debating. They were hemming and some were hawing. A few were drinking coffee from expensive mugs while a tech guy worked out issues with HDMI plugs. It was a normal Methodist Sunday morning. Until, until the windows blew open and in flew John Wesley’s ghost who announced the arrival of the one, the only, the Hooooly Spirit!
Suddenly, the room was on fire with the kind of electricity only God can provide. The technology failed, the lights went dark, and the way forward disciples were forced to talk to one another. Their words went through, past, over and under each other and finally out the door. Into the streets, the Methodists below heard God’s roar. The disciples stumbled to their feet and one or two began to preach.
The lay folk and clergy clustered below didn’t know what to believe; because everyone was hearing what they wanted to hear. (People aren’t used to hearing anything they genuinely agree with at any gathering of two or more United Methodists.) “Aren’t all these people doing the talking from that Way Forward Caucus?” said one man from Mississippi. How is it I hear what he says as if he is from Yazoo City?
Georgians, Texans, Floridians, Oregonians, New Yorkers, and Liberians too; heard what they wished and got what they wanted. They heard a gospel that looked, sounded, walked, and talked just like them. This can’t be. As Tex from Cleveland said to Dallas from Portland, “These people are surely drunk. There’s no way Jesus talks like any of us!”
Jesus was different, so they believed, a man far removed. If he talked like me or you, he might resemble others, of whom we certainly do not approve.
The first Methodist Pentecost was a bit of bust; the world thought we were a bunch of factionalized drunks. Or was that the other guys? I can never tell. These stories, I’ve told them so many times, they blend together so very well.