Day of Pentecost, Encountering Christ in Absence

Devotional for May 19th

Written by Mark C. Pederson, Pastor, Trinity Lutheran Church

Theme Background

It is Pentecost, the birthday of the Christian Church, and the seventh anniversary of the founding of McMinnville Cooperative Ministries (not counting the year we spent together as Methodist and Lutherans living together in sin!)  Today we are finishing up our Easter theme of encountering Christ.  Today specifically we talk about encountering Christ in Absence.  That may seem a bit strange.  In the Gospel lesson today Jesus is talking with his disciples about how he will have to leave them.  He will be gone, but they will not be left on their own.  Jesus will send the Holy Spirit to them.  The Spirit will teach, and comfort them.

Both Martin Luther and John Wesley made reference to the Latin phrase, “deus absconditus.”  It refers to those times when God is hidden from us.  Jesus himself reaches this point on the cross when he cries out to God and asks why he’s been abandoned.  Certainly, we too, will experience these moments of separation.  God, however, is present even when we do not experience God’s presence with us.  Perhaps God is especially present in these times.

Pastor Courtney McHill feels the times when we feel God’s absence are often the preparation for times of great spiritual growth.  Children experience this.  When they are in growth spurts, they sleep more.  That is part of why babies sometimes sleep so much.

In the first lesson we have the story of the disciples actually experiencing the fulfillment of what Jesus had told them in John.  They receive the Holy Spirit, and it allows them to communicate in new and exciting ways.  It also drives them out of their hideout and into the light of day.  Peter stands up and speaks to the people who have gathered.  He talks of their present day experience as being tied to the prophet Joel.   The vision is wonderfully inclusive.   Women are included as full partners.  The young and the old each have a part to play.  Every kind of people are included.  It is interesting that the old people will dream dreams.  A dream in my mind is tied to the future, to what might be.  Perhaps these older people will be able to see beyond their own existence to another place and time, one where all people are joined together, and where love is known by all people.

Quotes for the Week

“Growth in love comes from a place of absence, where the imagination is left to it’s own devices and creates you to be much more then reality would ever allow.”                                                                                                                                            Coco J. Ginger

“Good gave us memory so that we might have roses in December.”  James M. Barrie

“A Memory is what is left when something happens and does not completely un-happen.”                                                                                                                         Edward de Bono

“Though lovers be lost, love shall not; And death shall have no dominion.”  Dylan Thomas

“It is impossible to experience one’s death objectively and still carry a tune.”  Dave Barry

1st Lesson Acts 2:1-8 & 12-21 (The Message)

1-4 When the Feast of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place. Without warning there was a sound like a strong wind, gale force—no one could tell where it came from. It filled the whole building. Then, like a wildfire, the Holy Spirit spread through their ranks, and they started speaking in a number of different languages as the Spirit prompted them.

There were many Jews staying in Jerusalem just then, devout pilgrims from all over the world. When they heard the sound, they came on the run. Then when they heard, one after another, their own mother tongues being spoken, they were thunderstruck. They couldn’t for the life of them figure out what was going on, and kept saying, “ Aren’t these all Galileans? How come we’re hearing them talk in our various mother tongues?

12 Their heads were spinning; they couldn’t make head or tail of any of it. They talked back and forth, confused: “What’s going on here?”

13 Others joked, “They’re drunk on cheap wine.”

Peter Speaks Up

14-21 That’s when Peter stood up and, backed by the other eleven, spoke out with bold urgency: “Fellow Jews, all of you who are visiting Jerusalem, listen carefully and get this story straight. These people aren’t drunk as some of you suspect. They haven’t had time to get drunk—it’s only nine o’clock in the morning. This is what the prophet Joel announced would happen:

“In the Last Days,” God says,
“I will pour out my Spirit
on every kind of people:
Your sons will prophesy,
also your daughters;
Your young men will see visions,
your old men dream dreams.
When the time comes,
I’ll pour out my Spirit
On those who serve me, men and women both,
and they’ll prophesy.
I’ll set wonders in the sky above
and signs on the earth below,
Blood and fire and billowing smoke,
the sun turning black and the moon blood-red,
Before the Day of the Lord arrives,
the Day tremendous and marvelous;
And whoever calls out for help
to me, God, will be saved.”


Gospel Lesson John 14: 8-21 (The Message)

 Philip said, “Master, show us the Father; then we’ll be content.”

9-10 “You’ve been with me all this time, Philip, and you still don’t understand? To see me is to see the Father. So how can you ask, ‘Where is the Father?’ Don’t you believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me? The words that I speak to you aren’t mere words. I don’t just make them up on my own. The Father who resides in me crafts each word into a divine act.

11-14 “Believe me: I am in my Father and my Father is in me. If you can’t believe that, believe what you see—these works. The person who trusts me will not only do what I’m doing but even greater things, because I, on my way to the Father, am giving you the same work to do that I’ve been doing. You can count on it. From now on, whatever you request along the lines of who I am and what I am doing, I’ll do it. That’s how the Father will be seen for who he is in the Son. I mean it. Whatever you request in this way, I’ll do.

15-17 “If you love me, show it by doing what I’ve told you. I will talk to the Father, and he’ll provide you another Friend so that you will always have someone with you. This Friend is the Spirit of Truth. The godless world can’t take him in because it doesn’t have eyes to see him, doesn’t know what to look for. But you know him already because he has been staying with you, and will even be in you!

18-20 “I will not leave you orphaned. I’m coming back. In just a little while the world will no longer see me, but you’re going to see me because I am alive and you’re about to come alive. At that moment you will know absolutely that I’m in my Father, and you’re in me, and I’m in you.

21 “The person who knows my commandments and keeps them, that’s who loves me. And the person who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and make myself plain to him.”


Questions for the Week

Is there a time in your life when you could not sense the presence of God in your life?

When you look back to you sense that Christ was present with you at that time?  How?

How can we help one another through such times?


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