Happy Birthday, Church!
Back on that first Day of Pentecost, the followers of Jesus, some of whom had just witnessed his ascension into heaven, gathered together. Now what was going to happen? Jesus had said to them, “You will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” But they couldn’t have imagined how it was going to work, this coming of the Holy Spirit!
Suddenly they heard the sound of a violent, rushing wind, and flames appeared over their heads. You can imagine them turning to each other and saying, “You’ve got one! And you’ve got one!” They all began to speak in other languages, and amazingly, everyone understood. It was a “foretaste of things to come” – of being sent out by the Holy Spirit to the ends of the earth, to share the message and love of Jesus in the many ways it could be shared, spoken, and lived. Now the believers had an Advocate, the Holy Spirit, to guide them into their future, to speak to their anxiety about what was going to happen next.
And what about us? Well, we are anxious about our future too. What does our future hold these days as we move through a pandemic? For that matter, what’s in store for us as individuals? – in our careers, for our children, for our parents, for our relationships, for our finances, in our retirement, in our health … and so on. We don’t know. We do what we can to prepare, but the bottom line is that there is no guarantee even of where we’ll be five years down the road. And our ability to control where we will be is extremely limited. We are seeing evidence of that reality all around us, aren’t we? Think of how the world has changed in the last year and a half.
The real question of Pentecost for us may be, WHO ARE WE? In the journey toward relationship with Jesus, we find not only Jesus – we also find ourselves. We discover who we really are – children of God, the beloved of Jesus. The church is made up of us individual members, like those believers at the first Pentecost who all spoke different languages and yet, amazingly, understood each other. Without the individual followers of Christ, there would be no church.
Yet Pentecost is not just about our own private relationships with Jesus. It’s really about who we are together. When did the believers morph into being the church of Jesus? When they were TOGETHER. And make no mistake, as they grew into a church, they didn’t always agree about everything. Throughout Christian history, there has been disagreement and discord among Christians, from the time they were a small community up until now, when we have all these branches of Christianity with different ideas of what it means to follow Jesus. But here at TLC and Knox, we have reason for celebration – we celebrate that we are able to see beyond the divisions – to ministry, to fellowship, to seeking to be part of what the Spirit of God is up to in this community.
That is what leads us into our future as a ministry in this time and this place. We are, for sure, going forward into unknown territory – but the important thing is that we are GOING FORWARD, led by Christ.
We are on what the early Christians called the Way; and on the Way, we are called to be true to Christ and true to each other – and that means treating each other with love and fairness, seeing the face of Jesus in other human beings. It means, for us who are the body of Christ, sharing the sacraments and the Word of God, and taking care of each other.
Because we can’t be the body of Christ without other Christians. We can’t continue on this journey toward relationship with Jesus, we can’t find God’s purpose for us, without each other. We need each other, and we are Christ for each other. That’s our calling. That’s what makes up the body of Christ – the loving participation of all the members of the body.
Happy birthday, Church! The church was born many centuries ago – yet it is continuing to be born today, just as the Holy Spirit came to the believers gathered at Pentecost and yet comes to us anew every day. The coming of the Holy Spirit was not just a one-time event so long ago. Listen to this idea: our God is a present tense verb. The Spirit COMES and IS COMING. The Spirit owns our present and our future.
As travelers in the Way, we belong to Jesus, we are guided and cared for by God and called to care for our neighbor. And so we are Christ’s church in the world – we are one. May it be so! Amen.
Pastor Janet Blair