Old First Presbyterian Church is an inclusive community of faith united by trust in God and faith in Jesus Christ. We warmly welcome all who accept and respond to God's saving grace in Jesus Christ and who desire to participate in the life and ministry of this church.
Maggi's Musings - May 2016
Pentecost is celebrated on May 15: Pentecost is about new creation, new creation of us, of the church, of the world. It is a story that is so wild, spirit-filled, uncomfortable, that even Hallmark hasn’t been able to market it! A great overview/reflection is found in Companion to the Book of Common Worship.
According to the Pentecost story in Acts 2:1-13, God gave the gift of the Holy Spirit to empower witnesses to the resurrection. Sounds from heaven, cosmic language, the rush of a mighty ruach (wind, spirit, breath) invaded the house in which the apostles gathered, and appeared to them as a burning fire. Tongues of fire touched their nerve centers. A power — the unseen power of God — moved among them and gripped them. The Holy Spirit is unseen, like the wind, which is why the Old Testament calls it ruach YHWH, “the wind/breath of GOD.” (Compare John 3:8.) The Spirit is the “unseenness” of God working among us.
According to Joel (2:28-29) the ruach is to open everybody to God’s future. People young and old will dream and will have visions of hope; they will be able to loose themselves from the way things are now, because God is establishing a whole new economy of creation. The Holy Spirit breaks us out of our preoccupation with ourselves and frees us to serve neighbors, loosens our grasp on possessions, and sets us to loving people. New creation is what Joel is talking about. Pentecost is new creation.
The book of Acts tells the story of the outcome of Pentecost’s new creation: people witness in word and in deed to the risen Christ. At the outset, the newborn church immediately tumbled out into the streets to witness to God’s mighty works in the languages of people all over the world. By the end of the story, a tiny, Spirit-filled community of faith that broke from its present order has spread across the continents with incredible power to bring new things into being. With the gift of the Spirit, all things become possible.
Therefore on the Day of Pentecost we celebrate God’s gift of the Holy Spirit which draws us together as one people, helps us to comprehend what God is doing in the world, and empowers us to proclaim, in word and in deed, God’s plan of reconciling all people in the name of Christ (Ephesians 1:10).
Without the gift of the Spirit, Christ’s church dries up and withers away, and we are left with only our broken selves. With the gift of the Spirit, all things are possible. A Spirit-filled community of faith opens its eyes to needs in the world and sees what’s missing. The Day of Pentecost is the climax of the Great Fifty Days of Easter*, celebrating as it does the gift of the Spirit to the body of Christ — the church.
I am caught by the image of the Spirit, the wind, the breath of God whose role it is to open us up to God’s future, new creation in us. (Dare I say, cause change in us?) Yet, honestly it is really hard to change, sometimes I prefer the same because it easier, familiar, automatic. Yet, without the Spirit the church dries up and withers away.
I want to have the “ears to hear,” to have the courage to follow the Spirit. I long that this will develop during my sabbatical, May 30-September 30. I hope that the Spirit will blow through my life, that I will be renewed and opened up once again to God’s creativity. I hope you too will encounter God’s presence in new ways, not only through the preaching and teaching that you will encounter, but also by discovering that the Spirit works through the whole body of Christ-church empowering the people to be about God’s work. May the power of Pentecost blow through us, nudge us, push us forward into God’s vision for new life.
*Pentecost is Greek for the “fiftieth” day, that is, the conclusion of the Great Fifty Days of Easter.