pastorjohnb

Thoughts and musings on faith and our mighty God!


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Ears to Hear

Reading: Acts 2: 14-18

Verse 17: “In the last days, God says, I will pour out my spirit on all people”.

For the followers of Jesus Christ, the giving of the Holy Spirit on Pentecost was a game changer. After his death and resurrection Jesus appeared for forty days as he continued to teach. Those that had orchestrated Jesus’ death felt pretty good about the outcome. There were some rumors of resurrection and appearing again, but all seems quiet now. The followers themselves are in a wait and see mode. Ten days pass between the ascension and this day that they gather. Life and direction must feel very unsure for them all. And then the promised Holy Spirit comes powerfully and fills them all with the ability to speak God’s word to people from all around the world. By the time Peter finishes the sermon that we read part of today, almost 3,000 people will choose Jesus, showing that his Spirit is indeed alive and well.

Peter begins by quoting from the prophet Joel. Writing about 900 years before Jesus’ birth, Joel prophesies, “In the last days, God says, I will pour out my spirit on all people”. It is significant that the Holy Spirit goes out to all people. Traditionally only prophets chosen by God held the power to speak for God. In the course of the Old Testament, there are only 55 prophets. But in the passage from Joel that has been now fulfilled and is quoted by Peter, the Spirit falls on sons and daughters, on young and old, on men and women, and even on servants. All are enlisted in the work of God. The religious leaders of the day would have certainly chafed at this idea and at what happens in the place that the followers are gathered. A large part of why they crucified Jesus was because he threatened their power. They control access to God. And now all sorts of people are being empowered to serve God, sharing the wonders of God in this case.

Understanding that the Holy Spirit is given to all people opens the gates. It means that all have gifts to offer for the building of the kingdom of God. It also means that those outside of the traditional power structures of the church have Holy Spirit voice. It still means that young and old, powerful and powerless, rich and poor, longtime members and those new to the faith, slave and free, black and brown and yellow and tan and white – all have voice. The big question is this: how can we seek to hear from and include all people in our churches and in the larger family of God? May we listen well.

Prayer: Lord, open my ears to all people’s voices. Help me to not only hear the traditional power holders but those on the edges too, for all have gifts to offer. Give me ears to hear, O God. Amen.


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Turn Back to God

Reading: Joel 2: 1-2 and 12-17

Verse 13: “Rend your hearts and not your garments”.

Joel was a prophet who worked to call the people back to God. His beloved nation has been invaded and destroyed by a great swarm of locusts. The swarm has come, of course, for a reason. Joel calls the priests to lead by example – to put on sack cloth and to grieve what has happened. The nation lays shriveled and dry in the aftermath of the swarm. The souls of the people are in the same state. This is the context that we use to turn to today’s passage from Joel 2.

Joel is not looking for lip service, a weak apology, or for someone to just go through the motions. In verse one Joel gives us a sense of urgency, declaring, “Blow the trumpets… sound the alarm”! Why? Because the day of the Lord is close at hand. In our Lenten journey we should have the same urgency. In our pursuit of holiness and justice and righteousness, we should be charging down the gates as we look within and strive to be more like Jesus. Whether it is April 12 or whether our day comes sooner, we too should sound the alarm and we should work to be made ready for the day of the Lord.

In verse twelve we hear God’s call to return to him with fasting and weeping and mourning. Does the state of our soul lead us to these practices? When we honestly look within we may be lead to tears. In verse thirteen Joel calls for us to“rend your hearts and not your garments”. Don’t just tear the superficial clothing, but dive deep and get to the core, to the heart of the matter. When we do so, we too will experience the God described by Joel: gracious, compassionate, slow to anger, abounding in love. God is not a destroying God but a restoring God. In faith may we turn back to God, asking the Holy Spirit to be at work in our souls. In faith God will respond, joining us in sacred assembly. God meets us there because God is loving and faithful and gracious. Thanks be to God.

Prayer: Lord God, thank you for reminding me once again today of your grace and compassion, of your abundant love. The gentle reminder encourages me to seek deeply within, to search honestly for what must go. As a refiner, purify my heart, cleanse my soul. Make me more in thy image. Shine within me so that I may light my world today. Amen.


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Living as Easter People

Reading: Acts 2: 14a and 22-32

Verse 24 – God raised Him from the dead, freeing Him from the agony of death, because it was impossible for death to keep it’s hold on Him.

Yesterday was Easter.  Chronologically speaking, the next day Jesus appears to the disciples inside a locked room.  This must have removed any doubt that a few may have been holding onto.  They had all heard Mary’s testimony but had not seen Jesus for themselves.  A week later Jesus again appears to reassure Thomas, who had been absent a week prior.  Today’s passage occurs several weeks later.  Over the forty days since His resurrection, Jesus has appeared multiple times, teaching and performing miracles.  Just before ascending into heaven, Jesus gave the promise to send the Holy Spirit.  Right before today’s text, this has been fulfilled.  The Spirit descended on the believers and the have spoken in tongues, sharing the Word with all of the Jews gathered to celebrate Pentecost.  It is at this point that Peter stands to address the crowd.  They are amazing at the work God has done right before their eyes.

Peter addresses the crowd that day with a message that connects the words of Joel and David to what they have just experienced.  From the prophet Joel, Peter recalls Joel’s vision of God pouring out the Spirit on all people.  He also quotes Joel and reminds the people there that all who “call on the name of the Lord will be saved”.  In today’s text Peter speaks of Jesus’ death and resurrection and backs it up by quoting David from Psalm 16.  In this Psalm, David writes of the Lord being ever before him and of the Holy One not seeing decay.  Peter is connecting two Old Testament texts into what has just occurred, to help those present to make sense of what they have just heard and experienced.  He is connecting what the Jews there know to what they have just witnessed.

Yesterday was Easter.  Many felt and experienced the power of Jesus Christ in and all around them.  Worship was moving and impactful.  It was like Pentecost for the crowd in our passage today.  Verse 24 reads, “God raised Him from the dead, freeing Him from the agony of death, because it was impossible for death to keep it’s hold on Him”.  This we know to be true.  Many experienced it yesterday.  Some are like those there on Pentecost – needing a bit more explanation to help them believe.  How will we live as Easter people today, helping those who felt and experienced to come to know and believe?