Pentecost

Reversing Babel

It is often pointed out that the Day of Pentecost is the reverse of the Tower of Babel event in the Old Testament. My first pastorate was a church just south of Bangor, Maine. Bangor, like many American communities, has been struggling to make a name for itself. In the 1960s they lost a major military base and airport hub. Truth is, planes stopped needing to fuel there as they flew to Europe. Few people remember that Bangor was the destination for the King of the Road hit song by Roger Miller. Fewer people still, associate Bangor with Paul Bunyan. Like the ancient people on the Plane of Shinar, and John Katich (who?), the Bangorites had a name recognition problem. The city council decided that the solution was to build, not a tower, but a 30foot high fiberglass statue of Paul Bunyan.

 

It is good to note where the people of Bangor and the citizens of Babel went wrong. With the United Methodist General Conference meeting soon, these stories have relevance. I think the average church leader can see similarities in the crack-pot schemes of their congregation.

Reversing Babel

It is often pointed out that the Day of Pentecost is the reverse of the Tower of Babel event in the Old Testament. My first pastorate was a church just south of Bangor, Maine. Bangor, like many American communities, has been struggling to make a name for itself. In the 1960s they lost a major military base and airport hub. Truth is, planes stopped needing to fuel there as they flew to Europe. Few people remember that Bangor was the destination for the King of the Road hit song by Roger Miller. Fewer people still, associate Bangor with Paul Bunyan. Like the ancient people on the Plane of Shinar, and John Katich (who?), the Bangorites had a name recognition problem. The city council decided that the solution was to build, not a tower, but a 30foot high fiberglass statue of Paul Bunyan.

 

It is good to note where the people of Bangor and the citizens of Babel went wrong. With the United Methodist General Conference meeting soon, these stories have relevance. I think the average church leader can see similarities in the crack-pot schemes of their congregation.

Come over here and help

I’m running out the door, late, as usual. Across the street my neighbor is sitting alone, on his porch. He doesn’t look up. He doesn’t acknowledge me. Yet, I hear a silent nudge in my heart, saying, Go over and talk to him. 

    But, I have a meeting to attend. My neighbor is a recovering alcoholic who has recently left the path. His wife is forcing him to move out, saying, “I won’t live with a drunk.” I helped him pack a U-haul over the weekend. I let him borrow my car to take his son out to the park. He thanked me. I learned the next day that he had picked up a bottle of whiskey on the way back from the park. No, I didn’t want to go across the street to talk to him.

    I went on my way and didn’t think much about it until I saw the scripture for this Sunday. In Acts 16:9-15, Paul has a vision. A man from Macedonia appeared in a dream saying, “Come over to help us.”  This meant crossing the Aegean Sea and starting a new ministry in Europe. Paul already had his hands full with Asia Minor. He had meetings to attend.

Sunday, May 1, 2016
Easter 6

Pentecost is Coming!

In a few weeks we will celebrate Pentecost (thank God it’s not on Mother’s Day or Memorial Day this year).  I say that we should prepare for it. Just as Lent forces us to journey through our spiritual wilderness, and Advent renews our respect for the prophets of old, so we are now in the midst of fifty days of reflection on the new thing that God is bringing about. Now is the time to prepare for when the Kingdom of God is manifested in power. The weekly scripture lessons of the lectionary help us with this by scanning ahead in the book of Acts to chapters 9, 11, and 16. These stories are to be read in the future tense. One day, God will do to us what he did to Jesus’ first followers. 

 

Sunday, April 24, 2016
Easter 5

Preparing for Pentecost

What if we prepared for Pentecost the way we prepare for Christmas or Easter? We spend the month before December 25 buying presents for those we love. What if the fifty days before Pentecost became a time in which we thought about how God has gifted us? We each have received spiritual gifts, natural talents, and places of service, by the grace of God. The post-Easter time should be used preparing ourselves — sharpening the saw, as Steven Covey says — for more effective service and more fruitful lives.

 

Hopefully our Lenten journey in preparation for Easter varies from year to year. One year we may study the Lord’s Prayer, line by line, seeking to understand the mechanism of prayer. In the Pentecost that follows, we could make changes in our church to make it a more solid house of prayer.

 

Sunday, May 24, 2015
Pentecost
Aldersgate Day

Spiritual Harvest

Joel chapter 2 means something different for rural folk. People who live out in the sticks are mindful of the weather. They bend their plans around the possibility that the creek might rise or snow might close a road or that the Fall Apple Butter Festival might happen this weekend. In Joel, God takes ownership for a series of disasters, drought, locust, caterpillar, and grub, that ruined crops and brought famine. God says, “I ruined your harvest in the past, now I’m going to make up for it” (Joel 2:23-25). The passage reminds us of our physical dependency upon God, in order to prepare us to be spiritually dependent upon God. For rural folk, this is the central theme of the fall season.

 

Urban folk need a different interpretation. For them, failing social services and crumbling infrastructure are the drought, locust, and grub, that God has to answer for. Today, Joel might hear God say, “In the past I gave you corrupt politicians, inadequate housing, and racial segregation, but now, I’m going to make up for it.” Like their country cousins, they need to know that their struggles against oppression and inequity, were part of God’s greater plan to bring them shalom and the witness of his Holy Spirit.

 

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