As I’m sure most of you know, this past Sunday was Pentecost. Needless today, Dr. Rabb preached about the birth of the church using the traditional scripture:
Acts 2:1-8 “When the day of Pentecost came (50th day after the Sabbath of Passover week (Lev. 23:15-16) they (the disciples) were all together in one place. 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 began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them.”
As with most things Christian, its really a day borrowed from Judaism. The word Pentecost means “fiftieth day.” For the Jews, Pentecost was the Feast of the Weeks, a celebration of the conclusion of the grain harvest. Bread made from the freshly-reaped grain was presented as an offering to God. The Jewish people eventually came to associate the delivery of the Law to Moses on Mt. Sinai with the Feast of the Weeks.
I am afraid, however, that Jesus would not be happy with the state of his church today. Given the appropriation for political gain, the hatred spewing from some of the so-called religious leaders, the sex scandals, the disregard by so many Christians for the plight of those in need, it is hard to believe this is what the Holy Spirit had in mind when it blew into the house of the Disciples.
We sang the very traditional Pentecost hymn, “The Church’s One Foundation.” I guess most of the time we stand and sort of mumble through the words of these old familiar hymns. I like how our Pastor Emeritus put it one Sunday, “Please stand and sing hymn number …, and for those of us that can’t sing, just make a joyful noise.” Sometimes though, down in the verses of those old hymns are great messages. I can’t remember if it’s the second or third verse, but it goes:
“Though with a scornful wonder we see her sore oppressed, by schisms rent asunder, by heresies distressed, yet saints their watch are keeping, there cry goes up, ‘How long?’ And soon the night of weeping shall be the morn of song.”
Indeed, “How long?” How long will the church leaders allow money changers to remain in the temple. How long will Christians continue to walk past the cripple, the hungry, the cold, the sick? How long will we allow religious leaders to spew hatred for gay people from their pulpits? How long will we consider women second-class when it comes to the church? How long will we allow the church to be corrupted for political purposes? How long will we allow religion to be used as a force to divide us?
As the hymn writer speaks of “peace forever more,” we can only hope and pray that we as a people we will come to know that Jesus’ message was first and foremost about the simple act of loving…the small victories of caring about others as we do ourselves.
“Mid toil and tribulation, and tumult of her war, she waits the consummation of peace forevermore. Til, with the vision glorious, her longing eyes are blest, and the great church victorious shall be the church at rest.”