PENTECOST IS THE BIRTHDAY OF THE CHURCH

Do you enjoy celebrating birthdays? Do you enjoy birthday parties? Birthday parties are intended to be joyful occasions. We celebrate birthdays for everything that is important to us, and pleasant times also includes weddings, graduations, and so many important other big highlights we share together.

When the day of Pentecost had come the disciples were all together in one place, when suddenly there came from heaven a sound like the rush of a violent wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. The disciples were together in one place, and they were waiting. They were waiting together. They were not waiting by themselves. Of course, a disciple is a disciple among disciples and a believer is a believer among believers. So, there is individuality, but there is also a focus on community. God chooses to pour out his Spirit, not just on a single individual, but on the church, the community of believers. Now that’s the principle in the book of Acts 2, on the Day of Pentecost.

The principle of community is something that is throughout the NT, the letters, the book of Acts, and the Gospels. However, each one of us has an individual journey, and that is evident in the way that Jesus called each one of his disciples, by name, one at a time. Pentecost does not diminish the message that each person is unique and special in the eyes of God, but magnifies the unity of one church, many members, and one body.

On this day, the Day of Pentecost, we celebrate the birthday of the Church of Jesus Christ. And on this first birthday, which was fifty days after Easter, the first parish and the first (one) holy catholic church was born. It was an extremely joyful day, overwhelming the early disciples who realized that the Holy Spirit was sent as a powerful reminder of things to come, as a first fruit of the beginnings of the church.

The disciples began speaking in unknown languages. People who witnessed this event, witnessed an act of God, like a fiery furnace that overflowed into the streets of the city below. The observers who were all gathered for the Feast of First Fruits, from all parts of the known world, the “Diaspora” of Jews that had escaped from the persecution of the Romans but gathered here to celebrate one of the important Feasts of Judaism. They were overwhelmed with awe because they heard people speaking in a multitude of languages, and they also recognized that some of them were speaking in the various languages of the observers.

The promise of the coming of the Holy Spirit is for all people. And, it is clearly our responsibility to share the good news about what God has done for us, and to invite people to join into this blessing, a blessing that brings joy and laughter. A time to say, come journey with us as we follow Jesus and welcome others to enjoy the blessings of Pentecost.

This concept of many members yet one body; the parts make up the whole is prevalent at Pentecost. The body though many members are one body. The Holy Spirit relates to us individually, in distinctive ways. I don’t want to downplay that because it’s so special. Your life has meaning. You have meaning. There is nothing more complex than a single person. The Spirit comes to us individually, but also collectively. However, there is but one Holy Spirit.

There is a mineral heated swimming pool in Glenwood Springs, Colorado, about the size of a football field. The pool is open 12 months of the year, and people can be seen swimming in this pool, even when there is snow on the ground. When I was a child there was a bus that took people to the swimming pool from neighboring towns every day in the summer. On any given day, you could see people in the shallow end of the pool walking or just sitting with their feet in the water. In the deep end of the pool, some people would be swimming laps, others playing and splashing, or jumping into the pool from the sides.

At the very deepest part of the pool were diving boards, a low dive, medium and high dive. This is where I learned to dive. My buddies and I competed with our dives. The biggest feat was seeing how many times we could flip before hitting the water. It became a spectator’s sport for everyone that liked to dive. The water that met everyone in the pool, whether in the shallow side, the deep side or the divers was the same water. It reminds me that the water that everyone in the pool wherever they were at, reminds me of the Holy Spirit in the church.

You may be on the outer edges of the church in your mind, while someone else may be right in the center of church activities, but you’re still a significant part of the community, wherever you are, because the Spirit, like the water in a big swimming pool, touches all of us at the same time. The more visible members of the church, like the high divers in a pool, may get more attention, but that does not mean they are the most important. On the contrary, St. Paul says to show more honor to those members that are not so prominent. The heavy lifters may be in a different part of the church, areas that are not so obvious to most people. (1 Corinthians 12:22-25)

There is a diversity of individuals, personalities and talents among us. In fact, sometimes it’s easier to recognize and appreciate that more in a smaller church than in a larger church. What truly amazes me is the power of the Spirit that pulls all different and unique people together here in this place to form one church.

Here’s another way to look at the diversity right here at St. Alban’s. Picture if you will a stone that’s thrown into a pool of water. From the point where the stone hits the water, there will be rings that form one big circle that circle out from the center, the rings getting wider and wider the farther out from the center.

So, like if this circle is the church, picture a target with rings that go out from the middle. You may be on one of the outer rings but you are still part of the circle. The Holy Spirit is touching you at the same time as all the other people on all the rings of the  circle, just as much as those that appear to be in the in the center of the circle. Sometimes people that we may think like to be in the center of the circle, picture themselves on the outer part of the circle. Just because socially we look like we are in the center, does not mean that we actually feel like we are in the center. It should give us pause.

Perhaps that part of the circle you find yourself on has a lot to do with your personality and your rareness. Don’t kid yourself. You are an important part. Without you the church is going to look different. The church will go on without you but it is going to look different, because the members of the church make up the persona of the church, and without you that unique part of church will be missing. You’re accepted and you are loved in the community of believer’s referred to as the church. We want you and we need your specialness. You are not required to act or be like someone else, and neither are they required to be like you. Wouldn’t it be boring if everybody in the church was just like you or me?

My prayer and my desire is that people will be drawn to this church, not because of what our needs are, but because they recognize the Spirit of Pentecost in our midst, and our response to the Holy Spirit, accepting, welcoming, forgiving and encouraging, both those we know and those we do not know.

Today we celebrate the Holy Day of Pentecost, the birthday of the Church of Jesus Christ.

Amen

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