pastorjohnb

Thoughts and musings on faith and our mighty God!


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Fill Us, Holy Spirit

Reading: Acts 2: 1-4

Verses 3-4: “… tongues of fire… came and rested on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit”.

Tomorrow we celebrate Pentecost Sunday in many of our churches. It is thought of as the birthday of the church. Two different groups were gathered in Jerusalem for two different reasons. The disciples of Jesus were gathered, waiting for the arrival of the promised Holy Spirit. Jews were also gathered, there to celebrate the Feast of Weeks. This annual festival fifty days after Passover was known as “Pentecost” in Greek. These two groups would be gathered under one roof as the loud noise, sounding like a “violent wind”, draws them together.

For the disciples who were gathered, they experienced something extraordinary. In verses 3-4 we read, “… tongues of fire… came and rested on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit”. With a tangible and very visible sign, that which Jesus promised arrived. The gift that will teach and remind also gives the gift of speaking in many different languages. This remains one gift that the Spirit gives to those who follow Jesus.

I am currently at Annual Conference – the yearly gathering of United Methodist churches. My Annual Conference consists of the UM churches in South and North Dakota. Last night we had our “Celebration of Life in Ministry” service. In worship we celebrate the ministry of those no longer with us. We celebrate those who have graduated and those becoming provisional members and those being ordained as elders or deacons. It is a wonderful night of celebrating ministry. It begins with a welcome from a clergy from another denomination. Last night it was an Episcopal priest that our Bishop met while visiting the Standing Rock Reservation. This special guest represents our ties as the larger body of Christ, together under “one roof” as the Bishop put it in his message. Near the end of worship our Bishop always invites those whose hearts have been warmed, those perhaps feeling a call to ministry, to come forward.

As the Bishop prepared to give the benediction, the Episcopal priest asked to speak. He spoke of how our two denominations are close – Methodism was “birthed” by the Episcopals. And he spoke of how his heart was full and was warmed by this movement of the Holy Spirit among us and in our hearts. He spoke of how we are under one big roof – drawn together by God. Yes, God was once again at work in a very tangible and powerful way, speaking once again into our hearts. This day I look forward to having the Holy Spirit speak in my heart once again. May it be so for you as well.

Prayer: Lord, thank you for filling my heart as well last night. Thank you so much for loving us so much that you work on being in relationship with each of us. Fill me up again today, Lord. Amen.

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Worthy

Reading: Matthew 10: 24-39

Verse 38: Anyone who does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me.

Today’s passage is tough.  Jesus’ words confront and challenge and shake us.  Or so they should.  This is not the warm, fuzzy, lovey-dovey Jesus talking here.  This is the Jesus that makes us squirm in our chairs as we read and contemplate this passage.

Jesus begins by encouraging us to be like him – “the student is like his teacher”.  He encourages us not to fear “them” but instead to speak the good news in the bright daylight and to proclaim it from the rooftops.  Jesus advises us not to fear men but to fear the one who holds our soul.  He clarifies this by telling us that if we acknowledge Him before men, He will acknowledge us before God in heaven.  He holds our souls.

Just as with those who heard Jesus speak these words, our choice is the same: Jesus or “them”.  He was probably referring to the religious authorities and the Roman occupiers at that time.  Today, our “them” can be similar but is more complex.  Of particular concern would be our choices of popularity, power, and position over the narrow way of Jesus.  It would be our pursuit of wealth and possessions instead of chasing our relationship with Him.  We must daily ask who we place as Lord of our lives.

Jesus continues to bring it, telling us that He did not come “to bring peace, but a sword”.  Nothing warm and fuzzy here.  In case they (or we) were thinking a little repentance and pruning to cut away the sin in their (our) lives, He clarifies.  Jesus says we must love Him more than mother or father, sister or brother, …  We must love Jesus above and over all else.  It is hard.  It is challenging.  It is a full-time commitment.  Jesus defines it this way: “Anyone who does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me”.  It is a daily choice.  Am I worthy?