Chris Heavner, Clemson, SC
- If a room is already full, how can more people get in?
- What do make of the saying, “Good endings make possible great beginnings”?
Old and New
My high school adopted a mascot many of us attending that school found to be insensitive, if not downright offensive. In 1962, when the school was established, we had not yet learned to listen to the voices of those whose experiences did not match those of the loud and boisterous. It was difficult to speak of what we wanted to be and become, when we were continually reminded of the comfort the status quo brought most of our classmates.
While we all like the idea of something new and different, it is never easy to let go of what we know so well. “If it ain’t broke; don’t fix it!” expresses our reluctance to make way for what is yet to come.
It doesn’t take long for us to fall into a comfortable routine. The 12th graders at our annual Synod Youth Retreat are celebrated in rituals which they strengthen by their participation as 10th and 11th graders. How dare we make changes when it is THEIR year to be in a unique small group of their own!
But nothing new can come when we hold the old too firmly.
It is easy to recognize the things which others (you can read “old people”) need to release. It is not so easy to see what we have so firmly grasped that we do not have an open hand to receive what is about to pass us by.
- Name one thing would you like to see come to an end? This can be a practice, a behavior, an attitude, or even an expectation.
- Put yourself in the place of those holding on to this “thing” which you think needs to come to an end. Do not move on till you have come to understand why “they” would not want to see an end.
- With great pride, name those things in your life which have become so special to you that you know you would fight to keep them firmly in place! Now, ask which of those others might not find as exciting.
Day of Pentecost
(Text links are to Oremus Bible Browser. Oremus Bible Browser is not affiliated with or supported by the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. You can find the calendar of readings for Year B at Lectionary Readings.)
For lectionary humor and insight, check the weekly comic Agnus Day.
This reading is part of Jesus’ farewell message to his disciples. He is telling them both good-bye and what he expects of them. We read this passage on Pentecost Sunday because it is such a clear message from Jesus about the role and purpose of the Holy Spirit. (Here called “the Advocate,” but also referred to as the “Spirit of Truth, “Holy Spirit,’ or “Holy Ghost.”)
On Pentecost Sunday, there is a great commotion in Jerusalem as the presence of this Spirit becomes obvious in the lives of the disciples. They begin to speak in strange tongues and they overwhelm folks with their announcement of God’s salvation.
Jesus says that this day can’t come until the Advocate comes. And the Advocate can’t come until Jesus is gone. Jesus knew the disciples were not going to lean on the Advocate so long as they had Jesus to lean on. So long as Jesus was with them, they did not need the Spirit to drive them out into the crowd to tell the Good News. Jesus was better at it than they, right? But when Jesus isn’t there, the Advocate is able to nudge them into action. And they become the witnesses to the truth of what Jesus taught and shared.
On Pentecost Sunday, we are each reminded of how powerfully the Advocate moves among us. We become those who turn loose of whatever it is that we were holding so tightly that we are unable to embrace the new thing God is doing in our midst.
It is a difficult thing to let loose of that which we come to prefer and to trust. But letting loose is essential to becoming the people God knows we have the capacity to be.
- Talk about the great things the disciples were able to do. (They give rise to the Church, which has members in every timezone around the earth!)
- Remember stories of how the disciples were moved by the Spirit to do God’s work in the world.
- Speak to one another about the modern-day disciples who have helped you see the workings of the Advocate.
- Return to the question above–what you have come to hold so firmly that you might not be able to receive the new thing(s) God wants to see happen in your life.
Seek out one of the older members of your congregation. Ask them to tell you about a practice or way of doing things which is no longer a part of the congregation’s life. Allow them to remember the happiness this event brought them; then ask if something was able to take its place.
Start by realizing that the Advocate is active in your life. Now – sit in stillness long enough to discover the thing you are being nudged to do. Maybe it is being kind to the classmate others ignore. Maybe it is speaking out against racism. The Spirit may be looking to you to be the one who shouts a reminder of how much God loves all the little children of the world.
O Lord, allow the Wind of Pentecost to blow though my life and into my world. Make it possible for me to follow where you lead and to do the things which you desire. Help me to avoid the comfortable niche; make me ever ready to take on the challenge of speaking your name and your promise. Amen.