"When the day of Pentecost came..." Acts 2. 1
Some regard today as the birthday of the church. Why not? Celebration strengthens our appreciation of the occasion or person being celebrated. It also redoubles our commitment. The coming of the Holy Spirit in Jerusalem at the Jewish festival of Pentecost fulfilled Jesus' promise to the disciples (Luke 24. 49 and Acts 1. 4) and it reminds us that we have been saved for a purpose, for which the Holy Spirit equips us and towards which he guides us.
I came across one example in the ministry of The International Justice Mission (IJM). This growing global movement focuses on the continuing outrage of slavery, which currently blights the lives of 40 million people (more than three times the number of victims of the American slave trade). IJM works alongside local and national governments to repair broken justice systems, in order to secure a fair deal for the poor who are most vulnerable to the breakdown of law and order.
Over 30 years IJM have helped identify and liberate thousands who were trapped in bonded labour, sex slavery and child abuse, bringing to justice the perpetrators while supervising the recovery of victims until they are ready to resume their place in society. IJM's crucial legacy is to re-invigorate those responsible for maintaining justice, from the police on the ground to the judges who preside over the courts. Their novel approach is underpinned by a commitment to pray which sees every employee contracted to spend at least an hour a day in prayer, half of which is personal and the other half in fellowship with colleagues throughout the organisation.
What of the future? IJM's vision over the next 10 years is to glorify God by rescuing millions from the reality of slavery, protecting half a billion from its threat and making justice for the poor unstoppable. Many believe that God is calling people out of the world, as if preparing us for eternity somewhere else. Not according to the Bible. The Bible looks forward to the return of Jesus, in glory, bringing heaven to earth in order to redeem the world and usher in the New Creation. So what happens here and now will endure for eternity.
Happy Birthday Church - in all your expressions, including and especially IJM!