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SERMON OF THE WEEK: The Spirit gathers us together

Because opportunities to attend services may be limited for several weeks, the newspaper has invited local clergy to submit sermons for publication here.

Pastor, Alexanderwohl Mennonite Church

If it weren’t for the pandemic, it wouldn’t seem significant for us to be gathered in the same place.

The disciples of Jesus were “all together in one place” on the day of Pentecost, before the Spirit showed up like the blowing of a violent wind and like tongues of fire.

We remember that event as the birth of the church, the regrouping of Jerusalem pilgrims from “every nation under heaven.”

What will this moment mean for our church now? If it feels like the pandemic has shut us down, surely the Spirit is working to regroup us and birth something new.

On that first Pentecost, the vivid imagery reminds us of other special revelations of God, like when Moses went up to meet God as the Lord descended like fire.

In the Acts account, Luke makes it clear that the Spirit was like a wind and seemed to be tongues of fire because you can never pin the Spirit down.

In biblical languages, spirit, wind, and breath are all the same word. Jesus said it’s like a wind that you don’t know where it comes from or where it’s going.

Notice the outside breeze and imagine it’s the wind of God.

Pentecost was a harvest festival. Farmers here are thinking about wheat harvest. For the Israelites, Pentecost came seven weeks into the harvest season.

It was like their Threshing Days — a harvest festival drawing people from all kinds of locales. At our Threshing Days, people come from out of state. Many of them have connections to Goessel even if they don’t live here.

That seems a decent comparison with the scene in Acts 2. We’d have to imagine that the native language in every region or state was different rather than everyone speaking English.

By reading Leviticus about Pentecost, I learned something new!

You see, “Pentecost” simply means “fiftieth,” referring to counting off 50 days or 7 weeks. Counting off from what?

Right after Passover they had their first fruit grain offering as they began the first harvest.

So when the apostle Paul writes that “Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who have fallen asleep” (1 Corinthians 15:20), I never realized that Easter Sunday was when some Jews would have been celebrating with their first fruits offering. That’s part of the meaning of Christ’s resurrection.

That makes Pentecost a second harvest. In Romans 8:23, Paul says, “we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly while we wait for adoption, the redemption of our bodies.”

You see, we’re all longing for something. And it’s more than resurrection in the ultimate sense; it’s something we can live into now as a church.

We have come together in one physical place, even if more than six feet apart and in separate vehicles. It still will be some time before we resume worship services as we once knew them.

Continued next week

Last modified July 1, 2020

 

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