We recently celebrated Pentecost Sunday. We are now in the “season” of Pentecost. Just as many people believe that Easter is one day, (it is actually a season) so too many believe that Pentecost is a single day on the church calendar.
And it is an important day. Many call it the “birthday of the church.” We know the story. On the day of Pentecost, there was a sudden rush of wind, and tongues of fire appeared and rested on the disciples, and they were able to speak in other languages, and everyone was filled with the Holy Spirit. Jesus had promised the disciples he would send the Holy Spirit to be with them and to help them as they spread the message of Jesus.
But Pentecost is also a season that reminds us that it is the Spirit that also fills us, guides us, comforts us, challenges us, and empowers us. Yes, the church at Pentecost was empowered; empowered for mission, to tell the story of God’s love, and empowered to continue Christ’s mission of preaching, teaching, baptizing, witnessing, and serving as the scripture says it, “in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and unto the ends of the earth.”
As church, we have people, ministries, programs, and a beautiful building, but we are powerless without the Spirit. The Spirit is what we need most. We need the Spirit to help find the right words to tell people about God’s love, and to show people God’s love. We need the Spirit’s guidance in knowing just what to do to help the people in need around us.
Steve Shoemaker has written that we need to create a “habitat for God’s Spirit.” By that he means that we take delight in what we do. We stick to our calling. We love beauty. We walk on the edge of chaos or order to create something new. Creativity requires that we take chances and be willing to make mistakes. And inherent with innovation and creativity is a kind of suffering, the pain of failure, criticism, and rejection.
Pentecost is a day, but it is also a season, so as we make our Pentecost journey this summer, let us reflect on what it means to live as God’s people and as servants of Christ. We will continue our Pentecost journey by telling some stories of Jesus in worship. I encourage you to join us each Sunday in June!
Oh, how I pray for the power of God to be set loose among us. May we never take for granted the greatest power of all, the power of God’s Spirit set loose in the church!
In Christ, Pastor Joel
Our MHBC mission statement says that we are a church where everyone can “belong, grow, and serve.” I want to share with you a few thoughts about service in this space. First, I take note that our Lay Mobilization Team recently offered a one-hour training session for those who are interested in knowing what our MHBC ministry teams do. The LMT is constantly looking for ways that gifted people can plug into the ministries of our church.
And I further note that one of the components of the Women’s Retreat at Skycroft in May also has to do with discovering and using our God-given spiritual gifts in ministry. Also, (commercial time!) the Journey 101 course that I am currently leading on Wednesday evenings includes a unit on service this month.
Mark 10 tells us that our most important motivation for service comes from Jesus himself. He came not to be served but to serve. That is our calling as well; the expectation is not that others will serve us, but that we will serve others. If we are willing to give our time, energy, and gifts, there is always a place for us to serve. Indeed, the way of Jesus includes loving and serving others the way that Jesus loved and served them.
We don’t have to look very far to find people in need, and prayerfully, we should be moved and motivated to serve as our Lord did. We have spoken many times here of “heart-bursts.” Who does our heart burst for? What does our heart burst for? As Frederick Buechner once famously said, “The place God calls us to, is the place where our deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet.”
I believe in a church with no “unemployment.” I have spoken to you about the “Pareto Principal,” which says that about 20% of church members do about 80% of the ministry in a church. I don’t know about that. I suspect that the percentage is a good bit higher here at MHBC. One of the values we hold dear is working to change spectators into participants; getting people out of the bleachers and onto the playing field.
We can do this by spending time with passages of scripture that have to do with spiritual gifts, or by taking a Spiritual gift analysis. We can do this by praying for guidance. We can do this by asking others to tell us what they think our gifts are. One thing is sure. If you are willing to stretch, grow and commit your heart and life to ministry for Christ, I pledge that you will receive nothing but encouragement and help from our LMT team, and from the church staff. We will be there to help you or we will find someone who can.
Spirit of the Living God, fall afresh on us. Thank you for the gifts you have given. May we discover them and use them in service to others and for the building of your Kingdom, to the glory of your name. Amen.
In Christ, Pastor Joel
Tony Campolo is well known as a professor and preacher, and one of his better known sermons (with a book by the same name) is, “It’s Friday, but Sunday’s Comin’.” Perhaps not so well known is that Campolo borrowed the main story in that sermon, as he freely confessed, from Dr. Shadrach Meshach Lockridge, the dynamic African-American pastor of the Calvary Baptist Church in San Diego. Lockridge was active in the Civil Rights movement, but was best known as a preacher.
Among his most famous sermons was, “It’s Friday, but Sunday’s comin’.” Some of the words include
these: “It’s Friday. Jesus is praying. Peter is a-sleeping. Judas is betraying. But Sunday’s comin’. It’s Friday; Pilate’s struggling. The council is conspiring. The crowd is vilifying. They don’t even know that Sunday’s comin’. It’s Friday; Jesus is buried. A soldier stands guard. And a rock is rolled into place. But it's Friday. It is only Friday.” Then Lockridge thundered, “But Sunday is a-comin'!” And the congregation erupted in praise!
Dr. Lockridge’s sermon was much longer of course, but we get the idea. Friday was a bad day. But
Sunday, when it came, was glorious. The lesson that we can take away is an important one. There is
a tendency for us to despair like the disciples did on that Friday when Jesus was killed and buried. We
live in a Good Friday world filled with suffering, pain, sorrow, sin, and death. We see it played out around us every single day with school shootings and the recent bombings in Texas. And very often, it gets played out in our own lives.
But we are hope-full, because Easter Sunday is coming and with it the reminder that Good Friday doesn’t
have the last word. God has the last word and the last word is always “hope.” Jesus was raised from
the grave, with the promise of eternal life for all who follow him. He is alive and with us in our lives no matter our situation or circumstance. God is a promise-keeping God.
In one of his classic Easter sermons, William Sloane Coffin acknowledged “that there are plenty of
reasons to think we live in a Good Friday world — a world where might makes right, goodness is
betrayed, integrity gets compromised, and seemingly powerless love gets nailed to a cross by loveless
power.” But Coffin also said “that the resurrection means that this is an Easter world after all. Easter means that Christ is alive, not as a memory that inevitably fades, but as an undying presence in the life of every one of us.” Coffin then asked the question: “What shall we choose: to live half alive and preserve the illusion of a Good Friday world, or to live fully alive in the truth that Christ is raised?” I choose the latter. How about you?
As I write this, it is Wednesday, March 21; it is springtime and it is snowing! But Easter is coming! I wish to each and every member and friend of Montgomery Hills a glorious, hope-full, and meaning-full Easter.
Pastor Joel Hawthorne