Sunday, June 4
1 Corinthians 12:3-13
(Concerning all the creatures of land and sea:)
“When You hide Your face, they panic,
You withdraw their breath
and they perish,
and to the dust they return.
When You send forth Your breath,
they are created,
and You renew the face of the earth.
The following comes from the United Church of Christ Calendar of Prayer:
Before Hurricane Katrina hit in 2005, New Orleans’ Beecher Memorial UCC was not unlike many churches— modest in size, but significant in mission— with a century long tradition of providing educational and community development programs, and a vibrant gospel music ministry reaching 90 people a week.
Then the levees broke. Its building drowned; its people displaced, and no endowment to draw on. Meeting in a nearby church, attendance hovered at about a dozen. They began to worship among the studs of their building. Their large former choir became a praise team. Their Bible study group met in a FEMA trailer. They began a quilting ministry, and reached out to the homeless. Every Saturday, they “walked” the community, greeting people, passing out flyers, praying.
And as they re-built, people returned— both those they expected and those they didn’t. This historically Black church now draws on a much broader demographic— justice-seeking, spirit-filled, music-loving people of God who believe that God is still speaking and working amid the chaos and pain of New Orleans. Beecher Memorial’s renewal has been supported by funds from Strengthen the Church special mission offering.
[Note: Bethel has not been supporting the Strengthen the Church special offering]
We all remember the miserable images of New Orleans’ destruction, which were shown on television day after day in 2005 and afterward. Darryl Lam went to the Gulf Coast on several mission trips, as did many other big-hearted folks, to help people there rebuild their lives and their homes. Many other people gave gifts in a sacrificial manner, to bless those who had lost churches and homes, workplaces and schools to the flooding and the destructive winds.
Many of us questioned in our hearts, “Is there something wrong with those people, that they won’t simply leave the coast and start over again on higher ground ?” As Paul Simon asks in his song, How Can You Live in the Northeast? : “How can you live on the banks of a river when the floodwaters pour from the mouth?”
There are a lot of choices we humans make, a lot of feelings that we feel, a lot of ways that we live which cannot truly be explained to other humans who have lived different lives with different surroundings and different influences. As a pastor, I am challenged almost every day by how unlike each other we humans can be— even Christian people come in enough varieties to boggle our minds.
On the Day of Pentecost, fifty days after Jesus was crucified, his disciples were gathered together in one place. These women and men had been praying and worshiping God together since Easter Day, coming to grips with the supernatural reality that Jesus had overcome death, just as he had told them he would do.
“[S]uddenly 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.” (Acts 2:2-4) God’s Holy Spirit was being poured out upon this diverse group of fishermen, housewives, tax-collectors, rebels, and who knows who-all !
If we church people will single-mindedly devote ourselves to praying to and worshiping the God who raised Jesus from the dead, we too may receive the weird and overwhelming gift of the Holy Spirit. We may find ourselves doing things we never anticipated, with the power that fills us.
“Thus says the Lord GOD: I am going to open your graves, and bring you up from your graves, O my people.”