Whoopie!

Under my plan, I would just about be in upstate New York about now. I had a doctor’s appointment with my primary scheduled for Friday, my granddaughter’s graduation Saturday morning, a graduation party Saturday afternoon, visits with three of my kids over the weekend and a podcast with Harold Weber on FingerLakes1.com Monday afternoon. That was the plan.

It all came to a screeching halt Tuesday afternoon when my podiatrist strongly advised against driving the 594 miles back to New York. You see, my foot hasn’t completely recovered from its bout with cellulitis. While the foot temperature overall was good and consistent, it’s still a little swollen and there is a “hot spot” just under my ankle that is tender although not sore. She suggested I not drive to New York, not stand too long and elevate my foot as much as I can.

The door was closed on my plans, as I systematically advised family and friends of the decision to stay close to home in Maine this weekend.

What do they say about one door closing? That’s right, another opens … and opens … and opens.

First, my primary care physician — who has all the bloodwork and reports — felt we could skip the visit. The numbers are trending in the right direction — despite the cellulitis.

When I advised Harold I wouldn’t be able to visit the studio, he replied, “Well, there is more than one way to skin a cat. We can CALL YOU Monday afternoon and do the interview by phone. We can discuss the book, etc., etc.”

So, tune in to Weber This Week at 3 p.m. Monday at FingerLakes1.com. The podcast will remain online after the show as well.

Word travels fast in a small town, leading to Door 3. This weekend is the town’s famous Whoopie Pie Festival, which draws 10,000 plus visitors to our sleepy town for fun, food, entertainment, vendors and of course, whoopie pies. I initially planned on being one of the vendors, peddling my book, Heaven Shining Through. But given the weekend and my plans, I bowed out.

When word got out I had altered my plans and was sticking close to home, I received a call from Denise at the Chamber of Commerce today saying there was a vendor cancellation {vendor spots were full} and wondered if I would be interested in setting up a table — right in the middle of the vendor space and next to the entrance to the Kids Zone. That’s prime real estate, my friends! And all I have to do is sit there, chat with visitors and {hopefully} sell a few books.

The Whoopie Pie Festival — billed as one of the biggest one-day festivals in the state — includes whoopie pies of all kinds, shapes and sizes; whoopie pie bake-offs and eating contests; a food court; Kid’s Zone with rides and tons of activities for kids including rides and a magic and balloon show; entertainment; and over 80 vendors pitching everything from artwork to handmade crafts to, well, books.

I visited the festival my first year in Dover-Foxcroft and again last year. There truly is something for everyone. If you’re around Dover-Foxcroft Saturday, stop by.

THOUGHT TO REMEMBER: Watch how a man treats his mother. He will treat you the same way.

 

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Congratulations

My granddaughter, Taylor, will be graduating from South Seneca High School Saturday. Kids I watched grow up as editor and publisher of the Reveille/Between the Lakes at Waterloo,  Mynderse Academy (Seneca Falls), Romulus and South Seneca (Ovid) will also be turning their tassels this weekend. Seniors I have come to know and love at Foxcroft Academy (Dover-Foxcroft) marched down the aisle last weekend. And seniors around the country experienced the same milestone. By extension, new chapters abound as students “graduate” from kindergarten to primary school, primary school to middle school, middle school to high school and even post-graduate or the workforce following a college career.

In years past, I always shared  some words for the graduates in the Reveille/Between the Lakes. I have a different platform these days — this blog — but the message is timeless and universal, so here’s to the Class of 2018.

Congratulations!

You will be hearing that word many times over the next few weeks. But remember it always. You will gain something … more than just a diploma, more than just recognition for putting up with four years of high school.

You don’t realize it yet, but the lessons you learned over the years were a lot more than just “book knowledge.” You learned discipline. You learned interpersonal skills. You matured.

No, you are not just graduating from high school. You are advancing from one chapter in your life into another. In four years – four very short years – you went from an adolescent to a young man or woman, ready, willing and able to conquer and make your mark on the world.

Just as these last four years were transitional, so, too, will be the next couple of years. Whether you continue in school or join the workforce or serve your country, change will be inevitable. Nothing ever remains the same.

We’ll offer some words of advice and encouragement on this, your big day. Dream your dreams. Follow your ambitions. Set your goals. But, above all, be true to yourself. Do the best you can … with an emphasis on the word “you.” You’ll know. You’ve always known when you gave it your all … and so did everyone else. You’ve always known when you didn’t … and so did everyone else.

Don’t try to live up to somebody else’s standards. Set your own. Don’t try to please everyone else at your own expense. Eventually you’ll regret it. Keep your faith and trust in humanity. Look for the good in people and the bright side of every calamity. All things have a purpose … you just have to look a little deeper for some.

Again, congratulations. We applaud your past achievements and we look forward to your future accomplishments. You have to believe you can be whatever you want to be. They key word there is “believe.”

THOUGHT TO REMEMBER: Don’t be afraid of anything but don’t take chances with your life.

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If We’re Honest

Just sharing some words from the pulpit in Maine this morning.

May these words of my mouth and this meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, LORD, my Rock and my Redeemer.

It’s Father’s Day, so Happy Father’s Day to all you dads out there. I thought before I get into the meat and potatoes of today’s homily, I would share some experiences with my Dad in his later years while confined to a nursing home in upstate New York.

It had almost become a ritual going over his funeral plans. For days on end he would ask me to go over the plans … plans he made.

One day, he said to me, “I just don’t understand it.” Dutifully I responded, “Don’t understand what?”

“What happens,” he said.

“What happens about what?” I asked, completely lost and not knowing where this conversation was going.

“You know, when I die.”

It caught me off guard. I told him I didn’t know, but figured this could be a “faith” moment to discuss ethereal things like heaven and relationships with Jesus. So I started, “Well, you have a deep relationship with God so …”

He cut me off mid-sentence. “I’m okay with God,” he said. “I mean, how am I going to get back to New Jersey?”

Again, we had been over this about 100 times already, and it was just one of about 100 more. But I pressed on. “The nursing home will let me know. I’ll let the funeral director know. He’ll pick you up, get you ready and drive you to New Jersey. We’ll have the funeral there and you’ll be buried by mom.”

He thought for a minute. “The undertaker will drive me there?” he asked.

“Yes,” I responded.

He had a glazed look on his face, so I asked him what was wrong.

“Nothing,” he said. “I just thought you were taking me down in your truck.”

All I could do was laugh as visions of the film Weekend at Bernie’s flashed through my mind.

Another time, he told me he dreamt he had died. He said it was so real, so I naively asked him, “What was it like,” to which he responded, “I don’t know. I woke up.”

Then there was the time he asked me if I saw his name in the newspaper. I said no and asked him why his name would have been in the newspaper. He said, “Because I died and my obituary was supposed to be in the newspaper.”

I assured him he did not die because we were talking and he seemed to agree it must have been a dream. But he told me to check tomorrow’s paper. “Okay,” I said, “Why?” He answered, “Just to make sure. It’s after lunch so maybe it was too late for today’s paper.”

That spring, I was complaining about gas prices. A couple of days later, he asked if prices were still rising. I said yes and he shot back, “Is that going to make a difference for my funeral.” I didn’t understand where he was going so I asked him what he meant. He said, “You said everything was paid for. Do you have enough to get me back to Paterson?” In one of my flippant moments, all I could say was, “No, we just have enough to get you to the Delaware Water Gap.”

As I said during his eulogy, “Dad, we had enough.”

 

If you had faith the size of a mustard seed, you could say to this mulberry tree, “Be uprooted and planted in the sea,” and it would obey you. (Luke 17:6)

If we’re honest — notice how I linked the sermon topic — do we really believe that? Do we have the power to make extraordinary things happen? Can we change the natural order of things?

I believe we do and can, although I say that with a little caveat. We cannot do it, but our faith can. That, my friends, I believe, is what Jesus was saying in the opening words of today’s gospel. And Matthew (17:20), Mark (4:30-31) (9:23) and (11:22) echo Luke’s words, All things are possible to him who believes!

All my life, I’ve been a pretty positive guy. I always looked at the “half full” side of the glass. Even in dark days I could look beyond the storm. Okay, some times I had to be forced to be still and remember God is God and in control. And I will never say I totally understand the whys of life.

But I have learned to accept the daily ups and downs and recognize I am not in control. I want to be, Lord knows, but I’m not.

After we learned the prognosis of Karen’s illness, my mantra song was Dare To Believe by Ray Boltz. I would crank it up when it played on the radio or if I had popped in the CD. Everyone knew I was coming … they could hear me.

There’s a miracle inside you
It’s just a mustard seed of faith
But by the mighty hand of God now
You know that tiny seed was placed …

For the God that we serve
He is much more than able, yes, He is
So don’t be afraid
Stand up and say, I dare to believe

I dare to believe
That miracles happen, yeah
That mountains still move
And demons must flee …

I believed that with all my heart. I still do, although God’s results didn’t move my mountain.

There are many other traditional hymns and contemporary Christian songs that address God NOT moving mountains. They are reminders to me to keep the faith … to trust … remind me who is in control … and most of all to look forward, not back. A contemporary favorite of mine is Trust in You by Lauren Daigle. The chorus says it all …

When You don’t move the mountains
I’m needing You to move
When You don’t part the waters
I wish I could walk through
When You don’t give the answers
As I cry out to You
I will trust, I will trust, I will trust in You

Let’s be honest. THAT is extremely difficult. Our faith does get shaken. Our focus does get diverted. We retreat into ourselves or we lash out at others. We get hurt. We get disappointed. We get disillusioned. We can’t make sense of the violence or abuse or illness or even the death of someone close.

Truth is we don’t have to. There is a greater Power who has all the answers. My job — your job — isn’t to figure out the answers. My job — your job — is to trust in the God who has been there through the good and bad times. Isn’t it exciting to know we have an anchor in the storms of life?

That’s what makes it all worthwhile. That spurs hope for a future. That’s the seed of faith germinating inside you and me.

Scripture often heralds that. In our first reading, we’re shown how faithfulness to God led to David’s rise from shepherd to eventual king. David also tells us in today’s psalm, Some trust in chariots, and some in horses; But we will remember the name of the Lord our God. And Paul, in his letter to the Corinthians, shares we walk by faith, not by sight and if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.

But, again, let’s be honest. We can hear the words, but do we HEAR the words? Do we believe them? Do they resonate with us? Do they change us?

Well, maybe … or least for an hour on Sunday morning with perhaps a short bump as we walk through the everyday, mundane tasks of our lives. But generally, and unfortunately, Scripture words are just words and not life changing. When we leave here we return to the “real world” and revert to our “real lives.”

Jesus’ tells us if you want to increase your faith, have faith the size of a mustard seed. Believe in that power. Believe while we may not be able to move mountains, God can. And, sometimes, maybe He doesn’t want us to move the mountain but figure out a way around or over it or through it that gives us the opportunities to shine His light.

In the agrarian nature of the time, those listening to Jesus’ words, would have understood the significance of the mustard seed, one of the smallest of seeds which can overtake a garden and have been known to blossom to a large shrub that commonly reached the height of eight to ten feet around the Lake of Galilee.

Today’s parable is almost like Jesus telling the apostles — and by extension, us — “You already have faith you silly disciples! You just aren’t using it!” A little faith can go a long way.

See, the disciples were asking for the wrong thing. They didn’t need to increase their faith — they needed to increase their faithfulness. They needed to increase their faithfulness. There is a big difference.

Faith is a gift from God. He gives us the amount of faith we need and it never runs out. Actually, to ask God to increase our faith is kind of an insult.

Faithfulness, on the other hand, is our response to our faith. It’s what we do with our faith. And that is entirely up to us.

Faithfulness is defined as being loyal and obedient to the person we put our trust in. If we put our faith in Jesus, then we also have to be faithful to Him.

When we accept Jesus as Savior, we put our faith in Him. When we accept Jesus as Lord, we put our faithfulness in Him. Those who know Jesus as their Lord and Savior can sleep  when the wind blows. Their salvation is assured.

Now the challenge. We live for Christ, and to do His will, not for reward, not for praise, not for gain, but because I am to love God and to love my neighbor as myself. It isn’t the things you do, it is the things you leave undone which will give you heartache. The message is easy to read over.

Again, let’s be honest. That’s our nature. We do what we ought to do and often very little else. We — you and I — are broken and we — you and I — often let that brokenness pave our path. We — you and I — often look for the praise and adulation and forget our purpose in life, to shine the light of Christ in a dark world.

If we’re honest, we would see how God has taken us on our individual journeys. Whenever there were difficult encounters or joyful events, we can — or should — see Him at work. He has taken us from our youth to today — 10 years, 20 years, 50 plus years. Remembering His faithfulness is like looking at the mustard seed to remind us He is real. He gives life its purpose. Our heavenly Father provided our sacrifice for all times — His Son — as redemption for us all! That’s why we are reminded to give thanks in all situations and to praise Him for all He is and does.

You and I have a chance to change the trajectory of our lives, right here, right now. As you heard in our special song from Francesca Battistelli,

“Bring your brokenness, and I’ll bring mine,
‘Cause love can heal what hurt divides.
And mercy’s waiting on the other side
If we’re honest. If we’re honest.”

Our lives may be the only sermon those around us will ever hear or, more important, will ever see. We say things like, “I’m not ready yet. I’m not prepared enough. I need to learn more. I need God to give me more faith.”

No. Show grace to the world around you, to those God sends into your life and make your broken life a glorious sermon.

Faith. Belief. Trust. Hope. Grace. Honesty. Brokenness. Love.

Personally, I would rather see a sermon than hear one any day.

Amen and Amen!

THOUGHT TO REMEMBER: Don’t take your youth for granted. Travel while you can.

 

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Five Minute Friday — Restore

Welcome to Five Minute Fri… Saturday. Let’s be honest, I hang around here more on Saturday than Friday.

But I come willingly because whatever the prompt word for the week is, it forces me to think and let the words flow from the recesses of my heart and soul. It does the same for the hundreds of others who participate in the weekly exercise. We wait for the prompt, we let the word sink in, then free write for five minutes, visit http://fiveminutefriday.com, share our words and read the contributions from others in the group. It’s a win-win for all of us.

But don’t take my word for it. I’ve been sharing words about how valuable the exercise is from contributors as chronicled in Five Minute Friday: A Collection of Stories Written in Five Minutes Flat. Here’s an anonymous entry.

“One word. Five minute. No edits. No fine-tuning. Raw. Real. Get down writing. The way I like it.”

This week’s prompt is RESTORE. The timer is set so it’s time to GO…

There it is on the side of the road. A needle-nose Studebaker, already sanded and filled in; it’s engine, transmission, seats and glass sitting aside it. All waiting for someone to lovingly restore it to its post World War II beauty.

There it is. An old Singer sewing machine hidden beneath what looks like a table under bags of trash. The plug is long gone. The finish is rough and weather-beaten. But it’s waiting for someone to faithfully restore it back to functionality.

There it is, an old Victorian that has seen better days. Graffiti cover its majestic walls. Dirt, dust and grime is everywhere, hiding the beauty of the stained glass windows and hardwood floors. There is more junk in the fireplaces that once warmed this home. It’s there  for a song and someone who sees beyond the dirt and grime and envisions the grandeur of years gone by.

Here I am, broken, battered, scarred, helpless and hopeless. I, too, need the touch of a Master’s hand to restore me — more important my soul — to the worth it is.

The good news, in each of the first three cases .. STOP

there are people who see beyond the “now” and put their vision and talent to use to transform someone else’s junk into a treasure.

The best news, in the last case, is there is One who doesn’t look at my now, but at my potential … the potential He made me for.

Can I get an Amen.

THOUGHT TO REMEMBER: If you feel lonely, put on worship music and invite the Holy Spirit over.

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Five Minute Friday — Fly

Another Saturday. Another Five Minute Friday post.

Sometimes the prompt easily triggers the mind. Other times, it’s more of a struggle. That was this week. In fact, I even considered playing hooky this week.

I don’t have to tell you the drill — I’ve done that many times over — but there is something different. The link is now on Facebook at http://www.fiveminutefriday.com. I hope to see some of you there.

If you’ve followed this blog at all, you know how much value FMF has for me. I’ve asked you to join in [you really, really should]. It’s quick. It’s easy {okay, sometimes not always}. It’s challenging. And it’s oh so rewarding. But don’t take my word for it. Here is what an anonymous writer had to say, taken from snippets in Five Minute Friday: A Collection of Stories Written in Five Minutes Flat. Don’t listen to me. Listen to her.

“I found my people. Writers. Moms. Singles. We are a choir of words. Sometimes silly. Sometimes profound. Sometimes not making any sense at all. But, our voices rise on this worldwide web and our music is beautiful.”

The timer is set. The prompt is FLY. It’s time to GO…

Sometimes you have to travel. Sometimes you just have to get away.

While my first choice is to hardly ever fly, I share the sentiment about winging away on an adventure. I need one right about now … not to get away but to re-focus and re-evaluate my life at this time and this place.

Of course, for me that means the rolling — and sometimes roaring — waves of the ocean. I’m not sure when I’ll be able to make the weekend or weekday trip to the ocean, and I’m not sure where along the Atlantic coast my trip will be. But it is in the future … the near future. STOP

Well, it’s a first for me, not even five minutes. Just finding it hard to let the creative juices fly at this point.

Have a good week.

THOUGHT TO REMEMBER: Your boss is only your boss while at work. They are people too.

 

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Five Minute Friday –Return

What! It’s Saturday? And I’m working on Five Minute Friday?

What else is new?

Seriously, I have always had the desire to put the words on paper (okay, the screen). Blame it on busyness, schedules or — okay — procrastination, more often than not the assignment shifts to Saturday. And I visit because I believe in it and the community.

I don’t have to tell you the drill — I’ve done that many times over. I’ll link at Kate’s place on Facebook at  http://www.fiveminutefriday.com and scan through the incredible work of my fellow writers. I hope to see some of you there.

As I’ve been doing, here’s Michelle’s take on the value of the exercise, taken from snippets found in Five Minute Friday: A Collection of Stories Written in Five Minutes Flat as an added inducement to join us.

“Being an introvert, finding FMF has been such a blessing. People who meet me will tell you I am friendly. They find it had to believe I am an introvert because I am friendly. I’m more friendly now than I was before I met Jesus. I still prefer solitude to group activities. I still prefer to hike alone, but I’m not averse to hiking with others. Solitude is just my preference. On that note, I still have a lot to say. It’s a conundrum. Or it was a conundrum before the Internet, before blogging. When I found FMF I fund a community that is a perfect fit for me. I can have interaction with like-minded women and men AND solitude at the same time. I’m super thankful for FMF and all that it has brought to my world.”

Michelle is so right. FMF is way more than just writing. It’s extending ourselves, our family and our outreach.

So, it’s time to set the timer for five minutes, settle down and ponder on the prompt, RETURN. GO …

After a couple of days in the hospital, I’m back. I’ve returned to the confines of my familiar surroundings and routines.

When I think of “return,” that’s what I envision … a look back to times and places where we’ve been. It’s one of the reasons I listen to oldies music and belong yo You Know You’re From …” and other specific Facebook groups.

The past is the connection to the present. We are where we are beca use of where we’ve been … good times, bad times, indifferent times. And I’ve had a host of experiences in New Jersey, Illinois, Ohio, Maryland/Washington, DC, upstate New York and currently in Maine. Each experience has been a stepping stone to my present … just as today’s steps pave the way to the future and the ultimate return to my heavenly abode. There are people to see and places … STOP

to experience on the other side of the Jordan. That’s a return I’m really looking forward to.

THOUGHT TO REMEMBER: Spend time alone with God every day.

 

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Do You Feel It?

My latest stint in the pulpit at Dover-Foxcroft (ME) United Methodist Church was almost derailed Sunday. My bout with an allergy/cold/cellulitis had pretty much zapped my spirit but not my Spirit. When I realized the pain was I was sure was cellulitis. I was faced with heading to the ER Saturday afternoon, knowing full well it would mean a Sunday stay in the  hospital rather than the pulpit. Satan wins.

I wouldn’t let that happen and instead made arrangements to preside from a seated position eye level with the congregation. We broke in our new wireless mic and I opened the service with the admonition if I keeled over, have one of the congregants step over me and pick up from the script. I went from sanctuary to hospital. Spirit wins.

I didn’t keel over although there were moments when I had to take a deep breath and re-focus. These are the words I shared.

May these words of my mouth and this meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, LORD, my Rock and my Redeemer.

Do you feel it.

Do you FEEL it.

Do YOU feel it.

We’re celebrating the anniversary of one of the most important dates in the church. Although liturgically it was last week, today, we celebrate Pentecost. Today we celebrate fulfillment of what Jesus came to do. Today we introduce the third member of the Trinity.

In my mind, John sets the stage and Acts starts the action, so let’s set the stage with John.

It’s the evening of the first day of the week immediately following Christ’s death. Earlier in the day, all four gospel writers acknowledged the empty tomb and three of the four — Luke doesn’t — tell the tale of the appearance of Jesus to Mary Magdalene. Fast forward through the day. It is now night time, maybe 12 hours later than the discovery of the empty tomb. What are our fearless disciples doing?

They’re cowering in fear. The doors are locked in fear of the Jewish leaders. I suspect they are trying to figure out the events, not only of the day, but of the past few days. Some, perhaps, couldn’t understand the significance of the empty tomb. Some, perhaps, may have still been thinking Jesus’ body was stolen. I can hear them arguing with each other … okay, not arguing but certainly debating and challenging each other.

In other words, they were clueless. They witnessed the greatest miracle of all time — the resurrection of the Lord — and they didn’t know what to make of it. They didn’t know what they were going to do next. They weren’t thinking expansion. They were paralyzed by fear. Perhaps they were talking about going back to their ships and families and old jobs and trying to figure out what they were going to say to their friends back home. When their Jesus died, their hopes died with Him. They believed in Him. They still believed in Him. But they just couldn’t fit the puzzle pieces together. And they couldn’t figure out this empty tomb thing. What did that mean?

All of a sudden, Jesus is in their midst. The Scriptures don’t say Jesus walked through the door or floated down. He just appeared. He stood among them.

Can you imagine this crew of characters’ reaction when Jesus “stood among them”? They had to be bewildered. Mary, at least, had a previous encounter with Jesus at the tomb. The others did not. They just saw the empty tomb, the wrapped linen, the stone rolled away.

I suspect they had more questions than are recorded in Scripture, but the key point is what Jesus did. First, He wished them Peace to reassure them. Just as we extend the hand of friendship during worship as a gesture showing we care for each other, Jesus says Peace be with you. Shalom. I’m still here with you, He says. I … am … still … here … with … you. It was a statement of comfort. It was reassurance.

Next, He verifies who He is. He shows the disciples His hands and side. It’s at this point, John tells us the disciples were overjoyed. This is a fulfillment of Jesus’ words at the Last Discourse (16:20-22). They would have sorrow while the world rejoiced, but their sorrow would be turned to lasting joy when they saw Him again.

Then, He commissions them — As the Father has sent Me, I am sending you. — and breathes on them.

That’s kind of a strange thing to report, but it’s theologically significant. Let’s go waaay back — to Genesis. God breathed life into Adam. God formed man out of the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and the man became a living being. And so, here, Jesus is breathing life into the disciples. He is giving of the Spirit who produces life. It’s different from the reading in Acts, but we’ll get to that difference in a minute or so.

Jesus continues, “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive anyone’s sins, their sins are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven.” This “power” is consistent with the idea the disciples were to carry on the ministry of Jesus after He departed from the world and returned to the Father. It was also a theme of the Last Discourse — “You also are to testify because you have been with Me since the beginning (John 15:27).”

So, what do we glean from the Gospel. First, nothing can shut out Christ’s presence. When He manifests His love to believers by the comforts of His Spirit, He assures us because He lives, we shall live also. We learn every word of Christ received in the heart is by faith and comes accompanied by this Divine breathing. Without this there is neither light nor life. Nothing is seen, known, discerned or felt of God, but through this Divine breathing.

And we learn one other lesson, although it is not directly in today’s reading. It follows. Thomas, you might note, was absent from this appearance and the Twin was certainly skeptical. He was not breathed upon. He was still confused. He wanted tangible proof. He wanted to put his finger in the nail holes and his hand in Jesus’ side. And he makes that statement even after the disciples gave their account. He wanted more.

That’s the lesson. When we assemble in Christ’s name — like right here, right now — He meets us and speaks peace to us. It becomes our job to share this good news with our fellow believers who may be absent, and making known what we have experienced to the skeptics. They may want more proof, like Thomas. We have it. The proof is in our actions … the rest of Sunday, on Monday, on Tuesday, on Wednesday, on Thursday, on Friday, on Saturday, in our home, at work, in the community. It’s our job not to preach the Gospel, but to live the Gospel so the skeptics come to the Cross on their own, put their fingers in Christ’s nail holes and their hands in Christ’s side.

Now let’s fast forward to Acts. Remember, I said there was a difference in the readings. John’s Gospel was the giving of the Spirit that produces life. Here, we are shown the giving of the Spirit that produces power — the power to witness and carry out the mission the disciples had been given.

It’s too bad canonically, John interrupts Luke and Acts. It is presumed the same author or camp wrote both Luke and Acts. Tradition holds the texts were written by Luke the companion of Paul (named in Colossians 4:14), although many modern scholars question this view. Others believe authorship is by Luke the physician. Either way, Acts actually is a continuation of Luke. The Acts of the Apostles picks up where the Gospel of Luke leaves off. And this is significant to the story of Pentecost, because the first Christian Pentecost is deeply rooted in the Gospel of Luke. Luke began his Gospel with the story of Jesus’ birth. He begins the book of Acts with the story of the church’s birth. First came the Messiah; now comes the Holy Spirit.

The “fulfillment” language is important here. Jesus promised, “You will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now” (Acts 1:5). Now His promise is fulfilled.

To give you some historical perspective, Pentecost is also known as the Feast of Weeks. Leviticus 23:15-21 requires Jews to observe the Feast of Weeks 50 days after the offering of the barley sheaf at the Feast of Unleavened Bread. Numbers 28:26-31 and Deuteronomy 16:9-12 provide details about offerings to be offered and persons to be included. So the Feast of Weeks was a big deal to the Jews of the time.

The word “Pentecost”, however, is Greek, meaning 50, reflecting the 50-day countdown. It is one of three great pilgrimage festivals (the others being Passover and the Feast of Tabernacles), which Jews living near Jerusalem are required to attend and to which Jews from other nations make pilgrimage as they are able.

And so, these followers of Christ — still Jews — were gathered in Jerusalem. There are 120 believers mentioned in Acts 1:15, although many had retreated into hiding after the crucifixion.

And it has been a long journey for Jesus’ followers. Lacking in their capacity to imagine the ways of God, they have repeatedly proven themselves incapable of making sense of Jesus’ message, sometimes even working at cross-purposes with Him. Their metamorphosis has now reached a critical juncture.

Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit…

And we hear the story of each one hearing in their own tongue, which begs the question, is Pentecost a miracle of speaking, hearing or both. Verses 4 and 6 suggest both are true. It’s sort of a reversal of the Babel story in Genesis where God confounded the language of all the earth.

Peter, of all people, becomes the star of the day. Without question, the Apostle Peter was a “duh”-ciple most of us can identify with. One minute he was walking on water by faith, and the next he was sinking in doubt. He was impulsive and emotional. Only seven weeks earlier, he denied Christ three times (Luke 22:56-62). But during those seven weeks, Peter and the other disciples were transformed by their encounters with the risen Christ. Now, in Jerusalem, Peter and the disciples are filled with the Holy Spirit. The Spirit is the power behind Peter’s sermon. The Spirit is responsible for the crowd’s overwhelming response.

Peter quotes Joel 2:28-32, where Joel prophesied God would pour out His Spirit “upon all flesh” (verse 17b). Peter reinterprets Joel’s words to point to the salvation that comes to everyone who calls on the name of the Lord. But remember, when he speaks these words, Peter is still a Jew addressing Jews, and his vision does not yet include Gentiles. Joel was also speaking to the Jews. It was the Holy Spirit who inspires Peter in chapter 2 to say words that open the door further than he understands. Then everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved (verse 21) … including Gentiles. The fulfillment of this prophecy begins within the hour when 3,000 people call upon the name of the Lord and are saved (verse 41).

The disciples’ minds were opened by the Risen Lord to understand the Scriptures — the John account of events from Jesus’ death to Ascension — and now, as recipients of the Pentecostal Spirit, they are empowered by that Spirit both to understand the significance of the dramatic events that have transpired at this Feast and to communicate its significance in ways that draw those events into the ancient purpose of God. The text weaves together Pentecostal phenomena, the story of Jesus and the witness of Israel’s Scriptures. The result is a community generated by the Spirit, shaped by the proclaimed Word.

That will be just the beginning. These 3,000 are from every nation under heaven and the majority, probably 2,000, are pilgrims from other lands. They will return to their homes, forever changed by their Pentecost baptism. The spark they carry in their hearts will spread the Pentecost fire far and wide.

Ultimately, that spark found its way right here to this little church in little Dover-Foxcroft, ME. The question is, What are we going to do with that spark?

We — who know Christ and have that same power of God’s Spirit — often are not in enough meaningful contact with the people who need us most. We spend so much time in meetings with each other, doing programs for each other, having concerts with each other, serving on committees for each other and doing books and music for each other that we’re disconnected from the people who are dying without our Jesus.

This is our time to use God’s power to get out to where it’s needed. We need to dare to risk getting involved in places where lost people are; to look at the unbelieving people around us and start building some bridges into their lives; building intentional rescue relationships. God needs us to just move close to some people who are not His people.

Too many people are slipping away, falling, crashing because there is no one making a difference where they are. If you know Jesus, you have the same power He promised to His disciples — way back at Pentecost — to be where you are needed the most.

I’m going to leave you with two thoughts.

Debra Dean Murphy, in the 2012 Ekklesia Project, wrote, “In truth, Pentecost is not the complete reversal of Babel. We still can’t understand each other; we routinely miscommunicate; we gather and we gripe, betraying the unity Christ has called us to as His Body. But the good news of the Acts 2 story, the good news of all our gathering ‘together in one place,’ is not that the Church has a mission, but that God’s mission has a Church.

And Russell Rathbun, in his chapter “The Narrowing of the Gospel,” in the 2011 resource, The Hardest Question, adds, “Our holy book contains different interpretations of the same stories from creation to the resurrection. There are four gospel voices but only one Acts of the Apostles in the canon.

The Day of Pentecost. The time has come! The heavens roar! Fire burns! The Spirit of God fills! Disciples preach! Crowds wonder!

Do you feel the Spirit?

Do you FEEL His presence?

Do YOU feel His power?

And the faithful say, Thank You and Amen!

THOUGHT TO REMEMBER: Just because it hasn’t been done doesn’t mean you can’t do it.

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