CCC Blog

Pentecost Transformation

This Sunday is Pentecost Sunday in the church year.  Pentecost is a word that means “50” because Pentecost takes place 50 days after Easter.  It is celebrated as the day the Holy Spirit came down from heaven and fell upon the followers of Jesus.  He had left them 40 days earlier – 40 days after he rose from the tomb – to ascend into heaven and sit at the right hand of God.  And so on Pentecost the Holy Spirit came down, fell on the followers of Jesus and turned them into “The Church.”  It is even thought of in some ways as the Birthday of the Church.  It is also the when those followers of Jesus “spoke in tongues” and where the history of Pentecostal and charismatic worship began. 

What I love about Pentecost is the fact that it didn’t begin as a Christian “holiday.”  It actually began as a Jewish one.  On that day when the Holy Spirit fell from heaven, the disciples and thousands of others were in Jerusalem to celebrate a Jewish religious festival.  And it was during that festival – that traditional holiday – that God did something new, through the Holy Spirit, to establish the church.

 

That speaks to me, as a Christian, because it is the reminder that God takes what is traditional – familiar; what is already here - and can transform it into something new.  Not just something new, but something hopeful and life-giving. 

 

What that means to me is this:

No matter what the condition of your life is now, in the hands of God – and through faith – we can see it as something new, hopeful and life-giving.  Often, when we face obstacles, difficulties or great challenges, our secret prayer is that we wish they would go away; that God would take some kind of cosmic eraser and wipe the slate clean and we could go back to a situation that was easier and safer.  But Pentecost is our hope that no matter what the condition of our present life may be, God can transform even IT into something hopeful and life-giving for us. 

 

Oh, and one more thing:

We invite you to wear RED this Sunday.  Red shirts, ties, suits, dresses, accessories, socks, hats, etc…  Whatever you have that is RED, wear it!!!  Red is the official color of Pentecost and we hope you’ll help us “Paint the Church Red” this Sunday. 

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Shaking Off Dust

In this past Sunday’s service we focused on the passage Mark 6:7-13.  In it, Jesus sends the disciples out as extensions of himself; to be his representatives in the world.  He gives them instructions about what to do and what to take with them, and we are told the ways in which they are successful.  But he also tells them what to do if things do not go well for them.  “If any place does not welcome you and they refuse to hear you, shake off the dust that is on your feet as a testimony against them” (v. 11).

Clearly this sounds pejorative and punitive.  Any time the words “testimony” and “against them” are used in the same sentence it is hard not to come to that conclusion.  And yet, there is a significant spiritual “silver lining” that may be embedded in these words. 

 

Rabbis, in ancient days, were not only teachers of the Law, they were highly esteemed figures.  They would invite students to come and learn the sacred teachings of God from them.  When students accepted, they would leave home and literally follow the Rabbi everywhere he went.  They would live with other students near the Rabbi.  The world could be the Rabbi’s classroom.  He could use any every-day situation or place to teach a biblical lesson to his students who, as was said, followed him wherever he went.   The students could only hope to soak up as much knowledge, experience and expertise from the Rabbi as possible.  For this reason, there was a blessing that families would impart upon the young boys invited by the Rabbi to follow him and it was this: May the dust of the Rabbi be upon you.  That is, may you follow the teacher so closely that the dust kicked up from his sandals settles upon you.  Dust, in this sense, represents the very presence of the Rabbi to which one would always desire to be near. 

 

Too often, we see judgment – or “testimony against” – as a license to end a relationship.  Someone doesn’t “get” what we are doing and it is our privilege to write them off; “shake off dust” against them.  Yet, if dust represents the presence of the Rabbi – the presence of Christ; the presence of God - then this verse takes on new meaning.  Even when we are fed up with someone and want to “write them off,” the presence of Christ is still there.  The invitation to be transformed has not been removed from them, even though our presence may be.

 

I wonder how our attitudes toward others might be impacted if we thought about “shaking off dust” in this way. 

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Holy Interruptions

I’m thinking this week about an event that happened in Jesus’ life and is recorded in John 4.  It’s a rather long story of a Samaritan woman who meets Jesus at a well.  She comes to the well at noon.  Jesus is there and they have a long conversation over many verses.  At the end of it, she leaves her water jug at the well – empty – and goes home.  And... she becomes a great evangelist for Jesus because, through that conversation, she becomes a convert.  She believes in him as she didn’t before.  And many people come to believe in Jesus because of her testimony. 

The classical interpretation of this event is that she left her water jar – empty and at the well – because she didn’t need it anymore.  She came looking for “running” water, but she left having received the “living” water – Jesus the Christ!  As Jesus would say just 2 chapters later, “Whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.” 

 

But I would like to think about this story in this way today. 

 

This woman came to the well with a plan in mind.  A definite plan.  An agenda.  She was there to get water.  But she was not so focused on that plan that she was unable to be interrupted by the holy encounter that Jesus offered.  She was not held captive by her agenda so much that she missed the God who was right in front of her.

 

There are many of us who fill our days with activity.  We are busy; on the move.  We have things to do and if we have a free moment, we’ll find something else to do.  We live our lives by a schedule; a plan; an agenda for the day.  This is, in some ways, a gift.  If not for this kind of busy-ness, many wonderful things wouldn’t get done.  And yet, there is a dark side to this kind of living as well.  And that is that we may miss the ways that God might be trying to intervene and “holy interrupt” our day with a divine encounter that we desperately need.

 

Those that know me well know that I’m “preaching to the choir” on this one.  But I have to think I am not entirely alone.  And so I’d like to remind those of you who, like me, are prone to busy-ness, that the season of Lent is an invitation to us to slow down; to allow God to break in to the schedule that we so otherwise adequately keep.  So that we may not miss the holy gifts God.

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Scripture for Anxious Moments

Last Sunday in worship, we asked everyone to think about what scriptures they turn to when they’re feeling anxious or stressed.  We asked this during the announcement time as a way of “getting into” the theme of the message that was to come.

At our 9:15 service, there is a very active live-chat going on during worship and last week worshippers typed in their answers to that question in to the chat.  The response was so good we wanted to share with everyone.  Please use these scriptures if they help you in your own times of stress and chaos.  Blessings on your day...

 

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