On Sunday, May 20, we will be celebrating Pentecost Sunday, the birthday of the church. On this day we will also be celebrating the rite of confirmation for four of our young members, Cate Castille, Leasia Griffin, Marshal Manning, and Zoe Spangler. Confirming the faith of young people, celebrating the birth of the church, and celebrating the future of the church are truly wonderful ways to observe Pentecost Sunday.
On the first Pentecost, from heaven there came a sound like the rush of a violent wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. Early in the morning 120 believers were meeting together in a house in Jerusalem to wait and pray as Jesus had instructed them. As they were worshipping they heard a loud sound coming from the sky. It was the wind. The wind was howling like they had never heard it before. They looked up and saw what looked like giant tongues of fire descending. The tongues of fire landed on each person present. In that dramatic moment all the believers “were filled with the Holy Spirit.” And they each began speaking in other languages, "as the Spirit gave them ability."
What would it mean for the church of today to be filled with the Holy Spirit? A symbol that is often used to represent the church is a boat, but what kind of a boat is it? In the days of the early church, there were no motorboats. There were basically two ways to power a boat, either by rowing or by sailing. As we celebrate the birthday of the church, the question we want to ask is this, are we in a rowboat that depends only upon our own efforts, or are we in a sailboat that is powered by the Holy Wind of God. Must we spend the rest of our days rowing, dependent only on our own power, or might we put up our sails and catch the wind of God?
Before Jesus ascended into heaven, he told the disciples, “You will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you.” (Acts 1:8) And that’s what happened on the day of Pentecost. Peter, quoting the prophet Joel, told the crowd, “In the last days it will be, God declares, that I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh, and your sons and daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams.” (Acts 2:17)
What did the first disciples do to receive the Holy Spirit? The book of Acts tells us that they waited and prayed. “All these were constantly devoting themselves to prayer.” (Acts 1:14) The kind of prayer that I envision is not confined to verbal or spoken prayer. It would be difficult to pray spoken prayers for several days. Their prayers probably include silent and meditative prayer. But the point is that they were praying and waiting to receive the power of the Holy Spirit. They were not devising their own plans to reach out to new members and to become a vibrant church with lots of programs for children and youth. Those kinds of plans are good and necessary for the church of today, but by themselves they will not succeed. The church needs the power that Jesus spoke about, the power that comes from the Holy Spirit and prayer.
When the wind of God’s Spirit blows across our lives, we are refreshed, empowered and transformed. And so the question remains, are we left to row our boat slowly and painfully through the waters of life all alone, or may we put up our sails to catch the wind of God? The word for Spirit and the word for wind are the same in the Hebrew. The Spirit of God, the mighty wind of God, is available to all who desire it. So we are given power from the wind of the Holy Spirit. Our boat is a sailboat that is powered by the wind of God’s Spirit. And with prayer and openness to the Spirit, God will be able to use Immanuel Church to reach out with God’s love to both the young and the old, for generations to come.
Blessings and Peace,