Rector's Message for May

Happy Birthday to the church!

This month we will end the great fifty-day celebration of Easter with the Feast of Pentecost. I hope you’ll join us as we come together for one service on Sunday, May 20th at 10:30 am. I encourage you to wear festive red on this feast day, which celebrates the birthday of the church. We’ll worship, dedicate the new courtyard, and eat lunch together. Celebrate with us on May 20th and begin to think about what Pentecost means for each of us today.

In his blog, Mark Roberts writes on the spiritual significance Pentecost holds for us today. Consider these four points:

4 Points to Ponder on Pentecost

1. The Presence and Power of the Spirit--On the day of Pentecost, seven weeks after the resurrection of Jesus, the Holy Spirit was poured out upon those followers of Jesus who had gathered together in Jerusalem. What happened on the first Pentecost continues to happen to Christians throughout the world today, though usually not in such a dramatic fashion. We rarely get a heavenly wind and tongues of fire anymore. Nevertheless, God pours out the Spirit upon all who put their faith in Jesus Christ and become his disciples (see Romans 8:1-11).

Christians are meant to live in the presence and power of the Spirit of God. The Holy Spirit helps us to confess Jesus as Lord (1 Cor 12:3), empowers us to serve God with supernatural power (1 Cor 12:4-11), binds us together as the body of Christ (1 Cor 12:12-13), helps us to pray (Rom 8:26), and even intercedes for us with God the Father (Rom 8:27). The Spirit guides us (Gal 5:25), helping us to live like Jesus (Gal 5:22-23).

Personal Implications: Pentecost presents us with an opportunity to consider how we are living each day. Are we relying on the power of God’s Spirit? Are we an open channel for the Spirit’s gifts? Are we attentive to the guidance of the Holy Spirit? Is the fruit of the Spirit (love, joy, peace, etc.) growing in our lives? Most Christians I know, including me, live in the presence and power of the Spirit, but only to an extent. We are limited by our fear, our sin, our low expectations, not to mention our tendency to be distracted from God’s work in us. Pentecost offers a chance to confess our failure to live by the Spirit and to ask the Lord to fill us afresh with his power.

2. The Central Role of the Church in God’s Work in the World--On Pentecost, the Holy Spirit descended on individual followers of Jesus as they were gathered together in Jerusalem. This gathering became the first Christian church. New believers in Jesus were baptized as they joined this church. They, along with the first followers of Jesus, shared life together, focusing on teaching, fellowship, breaking of bread, and prayer. They shared their belongings so that no one was hungry or needy. As these first Christians lived out their new faith together, “the Lord added to their number those who were being saved” (Acts 2:47). Thus we speak of Pentecost as the birthday of the church.

In theory, the Spirit could have been poured out on the followers of Jesus when they were not gathered together. There are surely times when the Holy Spirit touches an individual who is alone in prayer, worship, or ministry to others. But the fact that the Spirit was given to a gathering of believers is not incidental. It underscores the centrality of the church in God’s work in the world. The actions of the earliest Christians put all of this in boldface. The Holy Spirit is not only given to individuals, but also, in a sense to the gathered people of God. Thus, in 1 Corinthians 3, the Apostle Paul observes that the church is God’s temple and that the Spirit dwells in the midst of the church (3:16-17; in 1 Cor 6:19-20 we find a complementary emphasis on the dwelling of the Spirit in individual Christians).

Personal Implications: Many Christians, especially those of us who have been influenced by the individualism of American culture, live as if the church is useful but unnecessary. We seem to believe that as long as we have a personal relationship with God, everything else is secondary. But Pentecost is a vivid illustration of the truth that is found throughout Scripture: the community of God’s people is central to God’s work in the world. Thus, Pentecost invites us to consider our own participation in the fellowship, worship, and mission of the church. It is a time to renew our commitment to live as an essential member of the body of Christ, using our gifts to build the church and share the love and justice of Christ with the world.

3. The Multilingual Nature and Mission of the Church--On Pentecost, the Holy Spirit empowered believers in Jesus to praise God in many languages that they had not learned in the ordinary manner (Acts 2:5-13). Symbolically, this miracle reinforces the multilingual, multicul-tural, multiracial mission of the church. We are to be a community in which all people are drawn together by God’s love in Christ. As Paul writes in Galatians 3:28: “There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus.”

Personal Implications: Although there are some glorious exceptions, it seems that the church has not, in gen-eral, lived out its multilingual mission. We are often divided according to language, race, and ethnicity. Pente-cost challenges all of us to examine our own attitudes in the regard, to reject and repent of any prejudice that lurks within us, and to open our hearts to all people, even and especially those who do not share our language and culture. Yes, I know this is not easy. But it is central to our calling. And it is something that the Spirit of God will help us to do if we are available.

4. The Inclusive Ministry of the Church--After the Holy Spirit fell upon the first followers of Jesus, Peter preached a sermon to help folks understand what had just happened. In this sermon he cited a portion of a prophecy from Joel:

‘In the last days,’ God says, ‘I will pour out my Spirit upon all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy. Your young men will see visions, and your old men will dream dreams. In those days I will pour out my Spirit even on my servants–men and women alike–and they will prophesy.’ (Acts 2:17-18; Joel 2:28-29)

Later, Peter explained that the Spirit would be given to all who turned from their sin and turned to God through Jesus (Acts 2:38).

This was a momentous, watershed event. For the first time in history, God began to do what he had promised through Joel, empowering all different sorts of people for ministry. Whereas in the era of the Old Testament, the Spirit was poured out almost exclusively on prophets, priests, and kings, in the age of the New Testament, the Spirit would be given to “all people.” All would be empowered to minister regardless of their gender, age, or social position.

Although this truth would not mean that every Christian would be gifted for every kind of ministry, it did im-ply that all believers would be empowered by the Spirit. The church of Jesus Christ would be a place where every single person matters, where every member contributes to the health and mission of the church (see Eph 4:11-16).

Personal Implications: Each Christian needs to ask: Am I serving God through the power of the Spirit? Am I exercising the gifts of the Spirit in my life, both in the gathered church and as I live for God in the world? Pen-tecost is a time to ask God to fill us afresh with the Spirit so that we might join in the ministry of Christ with gusto. And it is a time to renew our commitment to fulfilling our crucial role in the ministry of God’s people in the world.

Moreover, those of us who hold positions of influence in the church should examine our attitudes and actions. Are we encouraging all of God’s people to minister through the power of the Spirit? Are we open to what the Spirit of God wants to do in our churches and communities through his empowered people? Or are we gate-keepers of the church who would even keep the Holy Spirit out of our carefully tended and controlled commu-nities? Pentecost is a day for clergy and laity alike to recommit to equipping and encouraging all Christians for their ministry. When we do this, the Holy Spirit will be free to use the church of Jesus Christ for God’s purpos-es in the world.

Read more at http://www.patheos.com/blogs/markdroberts/series/what-is-pentecost-why-does-it-matter/#5MWOfSAPiiwCcdty.99

Fr. Seth+