When Pentecost Day arrived, they were all together in one place.2 Suddenly a sound from heaven like the howling of a fierce wind filled the entire house where they were sitting. 3 They saw what seemed to be individual flames of fire alighting on each one of them. 4 They were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages as the Spirit enabled them to speak. (Acts 2: 1-4)
After worship this past Sunday, members of the Worship Team (and some of their family members!) prepared the sanctuary for Pentecost Sunday. Because the official color for Pentecost is red, recalling the tongues of fire alighting atop each disciples’ head, we hung red paraments on the Lord’s Table and pulpit and draped red fabric from either side of the stained-glass cross.
You might wonder where the word ‘Pentecost’ comes from. Think of the shape of that large government building in Arlington,VA (Pentagon), and you will deduce correctly that Pentecost must have something to do with the number five. The eventful day when the Spirit blew through the room where the disciples were gathered occurred fifty days after Jesus’ resurrection. Being that Greek was the preferred language of early Christianity, the Greek word pentecoste, meaning fiftieth, was used to name this important holy day. The Jewish holy festival of Pentecost, or Shavu’ot,(meaning ‘weeks’), occurs seven weeks after Passover.
For those of the United Methodist tradition, the cross and flame (with two tongues) reminds us of the red flames in the Pentecost story. According to UMC.org:
“In 1966, a commission on church union, representing The Methodist Church and The Evangelical United Brethren, was authorized to develop an official insignia. Edward J. Mikula (art director) and Edwin H. Maynard (editorial director) were appointed to develop the design. The resulting insignia is rich in meaning. It relates The United Methodist Church to God through Christ (cross) and the Holy Spirit (flame). The flame is a reminder of Pentecost when witnesses were unified by the power of the Holy Spirit and saw "tongues, as of fire" (Acts 2:3).The elements of the emblem also recall a transforming moment in the life of Methodism's founder, John Wesley, when he sensed God's presence and felt his heart "strangely warmed." The two tongues can also represent the two bodies that united in 1968 to form The United Methodist Church. The 1968 Uniting Conference adopted this design as the official insignia of the new denomination, and so it has been to this day.”
Now that you have been enlightened on the history and meaning of Pentecost, my prayer for you is that you may be open to the movement of the Spirit in your heart to share the love of Christ with those who may be lonely or hopeless!
Anyone asking me over the past couple weeks how my garden was coming received the response that Eric and I were trying to get the deer fence up first so that the garden wouldn’t become an Old Country Buffet for our hungry woodland neighbors. Coordinating our schedules to work on the fence around the whims of spring weather has been challenging. Adding to this the urgency of planting the many tomato and pepper plants lined up on the patio whose roots were slowly bursting through their plastic confines in search for space to grow.
Earlier this week I made the mistake of freeing named tomatoes and peppers from their pots, assuming that if frost was predicted, I would simply cover the plants with bed sheets to protect them. Within three days I twice received frost warnings from my weather app! Upon uncovering my tender plants each morning following a frost, the sight of several plants looking like long-expired lettuce buried at the bottom of the refrigerator vegetable drawer revealed that more needs to be learned about protecting garden vegetables vulnerable to frost!
If someone had observed the many hours Eric and I spent on installing the deer fence, they would have bet that the fence would never be finished, with all the mistakes we made. Thirty-seven years of marriage has made us a good team, though, and through persistence and hard work, the fence should be finished by the end of this week.
Bambi and Thumper will need to find their supper elsewhere!
Let my whole being bless the Lord!
Lord my God, how fantastic you are!
You established the earth on its foundations
so that it will never ever fall.
You make grass grow for cattle;
you make plants for human farming
in order to get food from the ground,
and wine, which cheers people’s hearts,
along with oil, which makes the face shine,
and bread, which sustains the human heart.
Let my whole being bless the Lord!
Lord my God, how fantastic you are!
From Psalm 104
"You show me the path of life.
In your presence there is fullness of joy;
in your right hand are pleasures forevermore."
As I headed out the door yesterday morning for a morning walk, I was greeted by an explosion of pink blossoms on the crab apple tree outside the parsonage. The joy of such spring splendor put a smile on my face and an extra kick of energy as I began my 2.3 mile route--under highway 63, across the foot bridge, through downtown, and then home via Florence Park. As I neared the Florence Park footbridge that arches over the Root River, I was greeted again by an explosion of white and pink blossoms from trees lining the pathway. Once again the joy of spring splendor put a smile on my face and an extra kick of energy for the final leg of my walk.
If you are fortunate to have a crab apple outside your home, you have probably noticed that the tree offers year-round joy to wildlife; spring foliage attracts bees and birds--especially robins, starlings, and thrushes--love the fruit. From personal experience, I know that possums also love the fruit. I took a video this past winter of our furry friend, "Polly", gorging herself with berries while suspended upside-down on a lower branch!
If I had to give a nickname to the season of spring, it would be "Joy"; joy as a sensorial response to God's good creation in seeing trees in blossom, hearing bird calls in the forest, smelling freshly-cut grass, digging fingers into warm, garden soil, and savoring veggies hot off the patio grill.
My prayer is that you too, may revel in the joy of spring!
Last evening, as I watched Catie lead the Confirmands in a dress rehearsal for Confirmation Sunday, I thought about my own confirmation, fifty years ago at my home church of Northfield UMC. Fifty years may be a wide span of time to recall a particular day, but there are a few tidbits from that day that I still remember:
· The Confirmation class of around sixteen had to dress in special white robes used only on Confirmation Sunday; I was not happy about this, as the robe covered the pretty new dress I had sewn for the occasion.
· Before worship the class had to line up in the sanctuary for pictures; I hated having my picture taken, especially on that day when I was wearing that ugly old Confirmation robe!
· The sanctuary was packed that morning; my entire family—including my three grandparents—were there; as usual, Mom and Dad sat in the choir, while my two brothers sat next to my grandparents (‘their pew’ was three rows back, next to the center aisle).
· I was allowed to receive Communion for the first time. How many years had I remained in the pew enviously watching my parents and grandparents go up to the chancel to receive Communion; what joy I experienced that morning as I received Communion for the very first time!
· Although I was happy to be confirmed, my mind and fingers that morning were preoccupied with ‘practicing’ on my lap the Edvard Grieg piece I would be performing at that afternoon’s spring piano recital held in a St. Olaf College recital hall. Thankfully, I made it through the piece without making too many mistakes!
Fifty years ago the congregation of Northfield UMC committed to continue nurturing the faith of a group of young Confirmation Candidates while upholding their own membership vows:
Pastor: Members of the household of God, I commend these persons to your love and care. Do all in your power to increase their faith, confirm their hope, and perfect them in love.
Congregation: We give thanks for all that God has already given you and we welcome you in Christian love. As members together with you in the body of Christ and in this congregation of the United Methodist Church, we renew our covenant faithfully to participate in the ministries of the Church by our prayers, our presence, our gifts, our service, and our witness that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ.
Fast-forward fifty years: from that group of kids confirmed so long ago two of us are now UMC clergy leading congregations just a few miles apart. (My buddy Dave is the pastor at Mazeppa UMC) God does amazing things!
As I recall that important day when I confirmed my own baptism, my prayer is that the heart of each young person confirming their baptism this Sunday at SUMC be receptive to the grace of God in Christ, who has, is, and will continue guiding them on their own, unique faith journey!