At some point during the week, an outdoor light on the side of the Pentecostal church I attended in college caught fire. I will always find the neighbor’s reported reaction quite humorous: “I’ve heard of stuff like this happening over there!”
We, of course, weren’t running around setting our lights on fire. But we were engaging the Holy Spirit throughout our services and seeing the supernatural at work in response. And those kinds of stories get around. So much so that despite any disagreements people had with this church, more and more filed in to see what God was up to. Prophetic words were spoken, healings happened, and people were knocked to the floor by God.
Such manifestations have happened in every revival and they have ways of attracting believers and skeptics alike. In my own Methodist stream of the church, John Wesley mentions the following in his journal:
“We understood that many were offended at the cries of those on whom the power of God came, among whom was a physician, who was much afraid there might be fraud or imposture in the case. Today one whom he had known many years was the first (while I was preaching in Newgate) who broke out into ‘strong cries and tears’. He could hardly believe his own eyes and ears. He went and stood close to her, and observed every symptom, till great drops of sweat ran down her face, and all her bones shook. He then knew not what to think, being clearly convinced it was not fraud, nor yet any natural disorder. But when both her soul and body were healed in a moment, he acknowledged the finger of God.”
In another story, a Quaker was attending one of Wesley’s meetings and was growing angry with the supposed “work of the Spirit” going on around him. Wesley describes him as “biting his lips and knitting his brows, when he dropped down as thunderstruck.” When he finally arose from the ground, he told Wesley, “Now I know, thou art a prophet of the Lord.” In a similar situation Wesley watched some people shake around on the ground more violently than he had ever seen. Wesley prayed that God would not “suffer those who were weak to be offended,” but despite his prayers, one woman was quite angry. But then, Wesley documents her as having “dropped down, in as violent an agony as the rest.”
When the Holy Spirit shows up, it gets people’s attention and outreach comes naturally. It happened to Jesus everywhere he went and it happened to his followers as well. People came from towns all around in hopes to catch a miracle from the early Christians. They even laid the sick out in the streets in hopes that Peter’s shadow might touch and heal them.
*This devotional was created out of the themes of Acts 5:12-26 found in today’s reading at CommonPrayer.net.