Grace and Peace to All,
This Sunday is Pentecost Sunday and it is the traditional birthday of the church. Church, and how church is done, has changed over the millennium, sometimes for good and sometimes not. Sometimes it seems that the pray of Jesus in John 17 that we be one together is just another utopian pipe dream. We argue about doctrinal differences, social policy, and who is right and who is wrong. We have even killed each other over those differences. Christianity currently has three main branches: Roman Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, and Protestant. Within Protestantism there are literally hundreds of denominations worldwide. One of the biggest problems for the 2000 year old church is the loss of worshipers, especially the teenagers and young adults. How are we to do church and be church that will be meaningful to this group? Can we do church without being church? Can we be church without doing church? The earliest church, the first few decades after Pentecost, was a gathering of people (mostly lower class workers, servants, and slaves) in homes around a meal to remember Jesus Christ in the bread and wine, to learn to live in God’s family with love, and to then reach out to others with the hope, love, grace and forgiveness of the Gospel. Can this be the model for “church” for our young people?
Since the color for Pentecost Sunday is red, I invite you to wear something red to church this Sunday. Guys, it can be as simple as wearing a red tie. Ladies, red hats in church would be fun if you have them. Pass the word on to others who don’t get this email.
Our readings this week are all about God’s Spirit.
Numbers 11:24-30 – There is trouble brewing in “desert” city (apologies to “Music Man”). The Israelites are still wandering in the desert and they are grumbling again. Earlier, when they complained about the lack of food to eat, God gave them manna. Now they are complaining to Moses about manna. Can you hear it? “Manna for breakfast, manna for lunch and manna for dinner. Manna pancakes, manna fried, manna biscuits, manna bread, manna chips, and manna soup; when will we get some meat?” Moses can’t bear the complaints and he complains to God. God tells Moses to find 70 elders. God then gives the elders a portion of the spirit that he gave Moses and they prophesy for one time. This is supposed to relieve the burden that Moses carries although we don’t know how it relieves that burden. God also promises to give the people meat to eat, so much that they will find it coming out of their noses and choking on it. (The quails that are given actually bring death to many of the people) This is the bulk of chapter 11. Our passage is only about the 70 elders and 2 others that receive God’s spirit.
Psalm 104:24-34, 35b – The entire Psalm is about praising God who has created all things. God’s spirit brings life and all is renewed. The entire Psalm is about the goodness of God and God’s creation except the little bit of verse 35 that the lectionary skipped. After praising God for 34 verses the psalmist has to take a swipe at sinners and the wicked.
1 Corinthians 12:3b-13 – According to Paul, the Spirit is manifest in all Christians in different ways. Each gift that is given is given by the same Spirit. Paul also lists the gifts that are given by the Spirit. In verses 12-13 Paul compares the variety of gifts given to the one body of Christ, the Church, to the variety of organs and appendages of one human body, all working for the good of the body.
Acts 2:1-21 – The giving of the Spirit of God to the Disciples on Pentecost. Pentecost was a Jewish festival and many people had travelled to Jerusalem. The Disciples are gathered in the upper room. They a sound like the rushing of the wind. They saw tongues as of fire resting on each of them. They then began to speak in other languages. (This is not “speaking in tongues”.) The crowds gathered and heard the disciples in their native languages. Are they drunk? Peter begins to speak and tells the crowds that this was prophesied in the Scriptures (Old Testament). We read the last part of Peter’s sermon several weeks ago and we heard the results: 3000 we added to the believers. Since it is assumed that many of those new believers were from all the places listed in the text, when they returned home they became the foundation of church when the apostles got there.
John 7:37-39 – This is our last reading in John for a while, until December 11. Next week we will return to Matthew. In this short passage Jesus calls on the people to come to the living waters which John associates with the Spirit.
The Spirit is a wind, a tongue of fire, and living waters. The Spirit gives gifts. How does the Spirit blow in you? Is it burning in and on you? Can you drink in the Spirit? What gift do you use for the glory of God’s kingdom/family?