Written by Courtney McHill, United Methodist Pastor
It only seemed appropriate that we launch into our new theme on Pentecost. We will be talking all summer about restoration. At the point of Pentecost, we will be talking about the restoration of church. In fact, the old ways of religion are falling away and we have a chance to embrace a new fire and wind sweeping through as we restore what it means to be the church in the world today.
This is not so different from what the disciples were doing. Everything that they knew had fallen away. Life could not go on as planned or even as expected. Every term that they had known before seemed foreign. Their leader was gone and the group was left without direction, without motivation, and with a whole lot of fear. So what happens now? Does it mean that every old way of religion goes away?
In Diana Butler Bass’s book, “Christianity after Religion,” she argues just the opposite. She is arguing that even though the previous forms of religion are falling away, there is a new way that is rising up out of the ashes. Many people call this being spiritual without being religious and yet veiled in just those words, is a new way to see God moving in the world. For the early disciples this kind of newness took the form of communication, rushing wind, and present fire landing on tongues. Through that craziness, a new form of church was born just as we stand on the brink of something happening in our world. Resurrection truly occurred.
This summer we want to look at what it means to be that church in this world, a resurrected Christianity. We have been looking around during Easter to see God right in front of us and now how are we out in the world doing God’s work? Just as the disciples are called to celebrate a new way of being church, we too can answer the call.
This is the anniversary of the disciples being a new way of church just as the CoOp celebrates an anniversary as well. This year we celebrate ___ years of being the CoOp, saying to the world that we are not afraid to experiment a new way of being Christians in the world. How will we continue to challenge the status quo and live out what it means to follow Christ? How do we restore the spiritual in our everyday lives?
Quotes for the Week
Our greatest fear as individuals & as a church should not be of failure, but of succeeding at things in life that don’t really matter.― Francis Chan
Anyone who thinks sitting in church can make you a Christian must also think that sitting in a garage can make you a car. ― Garrison Keillor
The perfect church service would be one we were almost unaware of. Our attention would have been on God. – C. S. Lewis
Catch on fire and others will love to come watch you burn.― John Wesley
With so much effort being poured into church growth, so much press being given to the benefits of faith, and so much flexing of religious muscle in the public square, the poor in spirit have no one but Jesus to call them blessed anymore. ― Barbara Brown Taylor, Leaving Church: A Memoir of Faith
But this may be changing. Around the edges of organized religion, the exile Christians have heard the questions and are trying to reform, reimagine, and reformulate their churches and traditions. They are birthing a heart-centered Christianity that is both spiritual and religious. They meet in homes, at coffeehouses, in bars–even in some congregations. They are lay and clergy, wise elders and idealistic hipsters. Some teach in colleges and seminaries. They even hold denominational positions. Not a few have been elected as bishops. The questions are rising from the grassroots up–and, in some cases, the questions are reaching a transformational tipping point. – Diana Butler Bass
Acts 2: 1-21 (NRSV)
When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place. And suddenly from heaven there came a sound like the rush of a violent wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. Divided tongues, as of fire, appeared among them, and a tongue rested on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages, as the Spirit gave them ability.
Now there were devout Jews from every nation under heaven living inJerusalem. And at this sound the crowd gathered and was bewildered, because each one heard them speaking in the native language of each.Amazed and astonished, they asked, “Are not all these who are speaking Galileans? And how is it that we hear, each of us, in our own native language? Parthians, Medes, Elamites, and residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya belonging to Cyrene, and visitors from Rome, both Jews and proselytes, Cretans and Arabs—in our own languages we hear them speaking about God’s deeds of power.” All were amazed and perplexed, saying to one another, “What does this mean?” But others sneered and said, “They are filled with new wine.”
But Peter, standing with the eleven, raised his voice and addressed them, “Men of Judea and all who live inJerusalem, let this be known to you, and listen to what I say. Indeed, these are not drunk, as you suppose, for it is only nine o’clock in the morning. No, this is what was spoken through the prophet Joel: ‘In the last days it will be, God declares, that I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh, and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams. Even upon my slaves, both men and women, in those days I will pour out my Spirit; and they shall prophesy. And I will show portents in the heaven above and signs on the earth below, blood, and fire, and smoky mist. The sun shall be turned to darkness and the moon to blood, before the coming of the Lord’s great and glorious day. Then everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.’
John 15: 26-27; 16:4-15 (NRSV)
”When the Advocate comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth who comes from the Father, he will testify on my behalf. You also are to testify because you have been with me from the beginning.
I have said these things to you so that when their hour comes you may remember that I told you about them. “I did not say these things to you from the beginning, because I was with you. But now I am going to him who sent me; yet none of you asks me, ‘Where are you going?’ But because I have said these things to you, sorrow has filled your hearts.
Nevertheless I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Advocate will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you. And when he comes, he will prove the world wrong about sin and righteousness and judgment: about sin, because they do not believe in me; about righteousness, because I am going to the Father and you will see me no longer; about judgment, because the ruler of this world has been condemned. “I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now.When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth; for he will not speak on his own, but will speak whatever he hears, and he will declare to you the things that are to come. He will glorify me, because he will take what is mine and declare it to you. All that the Father has is mine. For this reason I said that he will take what is mine and declare it to you.
Questions for the Week
What would you love to see the church doing?
Where are you out in the world and where do you see Christ working?
Have you been caught by wind and fire? What does it feel like?