Tumbledown Shack

A reading for Wednesday, January 11, 2017: Acts 19:1-7.

In the Spring of 1906, a small group dedicated to following Jesus moved into what one newspaper later called a "tumbledown shack" in downtown Los Angeles, CA where they intended to worship. The building had been a wholesale house, a warehouse, a lumber yard, a storage building for tombstones, and most recently a stable with rooms to rent above. It was a clap-board, flat roofed structure, with only 8 foot ceilings and debris littered all over the floor.

Still the group was undeterred from their mission to worship. The cleaned it up, and set it up. The pews were left behind boxes and nail barrels with planks across. There was no pulpit. The preacher stacked two shoe boxes on top of one another. There was no stain glass, no baptismal font, and no organ. The first worship service was held Saturday, April 14, 1906. The following day was Easter Sunday.

The group, under the leadership of a one-eyed African American preacher named William Seymour, was singularly focused and praying for a baptism of the Holy Spirit. They believed in the literal words of our lesson today, that if believers earnestly seek a baptism of the Holy Spirit in Jesus name, that it was possible to prophesy and speak in tongues just like the earliest believers in the book of Acts.

Men and women from all over the city of Los Angeles came to see what was happening on Azusa street. Blacks and whites, rich and poor, of every denomination and class came to see the speaking of tongues and prophesy. Soon the news spread from the city and the state to the whole nation and eventually the whole world. Pentecostalism has become the fastest growing Christian denomination in the world today. In 1910 there were about 1000 adherents to baptism of the Spirit, and today there are over 35 million mostly in Latin America, Africa and Asia.

We are not all created to be Pentecostal. I don't believe all Christians have to speak in tongues or prophecy. It's not even necessary to start in a "tumbledown shack" like Azusa street did.

But isn't it amazing what is possible with prayer and belief in what God is doing? What do you believe is possible with Jesus Christ in your life today?


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