Here’s a familiar symbol: the Cross and Flame emblem, a powerful reminder of who and Whose we are as United Methodists.

The history and significance of the Cross and Flame emblem are as rich and diverse as The United Methodist Church. The insignia’s birth quickly followed the union of two denominations in 1968: The Methodist Church and the Evangelical United Brethren Church. It is rich in meaning and relates The United Methodist church to God through Christ (the cross) and the Holy Spirit (the flame). The flame is a reminder of Pentecost when witnesses were unified by the power of the Holy Spirit and saw “tongues, as of fire” (Acts 2:3). They remind us of a transforming moment in the life of Methodism’s founder, John Wesley, when he sensed God’s presence and felt his heart “strangely warmed.” The two tongues of a single flame may also be understood to represent the union of two denominations.

Today we celebrate one of the principal days of the Christian year, celebrated on the fiftieth day after Easter. The Greek word pentecoste means “fiftieth day.” Pentecost is the day on which the Christian church commemorates the coming of the Holy Spirit upon the apostles and others assembled in Jerusalem. It marks the beginning of the Christian church and the proclamation of its message throughout the world and is often referred to as the birthday of the church.

Two major changes took place on Pentecost. Change number one happened to the disciples. The disciples were together when the sound of a blowing wind came down from heaven. What seemed to be tongues of fire settled on their heads. They were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in foreign languages they had never learned before. The disciples were filled with new power and they took the message of Jesus to the streets. As a result, three thousand people believed and were baptized in one day.

Change number two happened to the crowd. Three thousand of them — who were not Christians, who did not know Jesus Christ before — were changed that day. Their whole way of looking at God, at themselves, at the world — everything changed.

This is what the Holy Spirit does — He brings change. He did that in an unusual way that first Pentecost and He can do it again this Pentecost season.