Musing on Remembering Pentecost

Yesterday, Sunday May 27th, 2012, was Pentecost Sunday. Unfortunately, that is a fact that many people in the church were unaware of. In most churches during most years, Pentecost Sunday comes and goes without even a mention.  It seems that by a large, a good portion of the church has simply forgotten Pentecost.  It is a day that should never be forgotten and people need to wake up and remember.  The early church fathers I think would be appalled if they were to find that such an important day is rarely remembered.  We celebrate Jesus birth, we celebrate Jesus sacrifice and resurrection, but we fail to acknowledge God giving us the comforter, the one who empowers us.  The question is why do we forget?

The day of Pentecost falls on the Biblical feast day of Shavout also known as the Feast of Weeks or Feast of first fruits. It is a day very important to God, and it is one in which He has moved to give important gifts.  It is not only the day in which the Holy Spirit came to indwell those who have been redeemed, it is also the day he provided the Torah.  God has chosen on this day to give both His instruction and His empowerment. It is a day of sealing and cementing His promises and establishing connection with mankind. 

So the question is why do we forget something so important?  Why is the day not attended to?  One could post many theories but at some level the shift comes from a looking to God’s direction and moving in our own way.  God gave us guidance through Torah and the Holy Spirit, yet we all too often want to go our own way, do our own thing, and determine our relationship with God.  We may grow in knowledge of God and grasp varied orthodox understandings of God, but do we at heart, deep down have a God directed relationship. Others may embrace spiritual experience but the focus is on what feels good, feels powerful, or looks cool but lacks depth or growth.  Do we seek Him for guidance and empowerment or do we ask God to bless us as we go about doing our own thing?  Do we follow God, and surrender to Him or just do what we want to do?  I think in essence, it comes down to that question. Going the way of self or going the way of surrender.

So here is a challenge on this day of remembrance, take time to remember God.  Take time to examine where you have gone your own way versus walking in submission to Him. Let God bring to mind what He asks of you as you move ahead.  Each us will continue to have a choice. Follow God’s ways and surrender to Him. Grow in walking His path and let Him enable each step. The other choice is the way of self. Each of us need to wake up and remember.  For God and His ways have not changed, He has shown and provided a narrow way to walk in and given us the Holy Spirit to guide and empower us along the way. So wake up and remember for God is with us, every day.

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Musing on the Ascension and waiting

Yesterday was the anniversary day of the Ascension. The day Jesus returned to Heaven.  He spent forty days on earth after the Resurrection teaching and explaining things to the disciples.  There are a few interactions recorded in scripture of some of the time He spent but most of it was not. Basically, the forty days were spent with Jesus really explaining the meaning of scripture to the disciples in relation to what just happened. He made sure they were on a sure ground of understanding. In the Gospel of Luke he is described as opening their minds to understand scripture. In the book of Acts he is described as teaching them about the Kingdom of God.   Jesus took time to make sure they fully understood and had full knowledge before he returned to heaven. He also gave them instruction to wait.  They were waiting for the power, the Comforter that was promised.  They waited because the knowledge itself was not enough; the power of the Holy Spirit was needed.  So the disciples waited. 

The ascension was definitely a strange day for the disciples. They had to be awe struck as they saw Jesus leave. Acts describes them as just standing there staring. They needed a message from angels to get them moving again and they followed direction.  The emotions had to be raw. There had to be pain of separation. They had forty days of joy and learning and wondering what would happen next.  The learned new insights and really began to fully understand and then Jesus left with instructions to wait.   Since they were all gathered together on Pentecost, I believe they were told how long they had to wait and the importance of the day to come. No it is possible Jesus did not spell it out and they all were together to celebrate the feast. God does often leaves waiting without the details, but I believe Jesus told them enough to know that the coming Feast something important would happen.  So they waited and prayed. Excitement and anxiety building each day for what would come. 

Waiting is difficult.  When waiting on God to act and move in His time is challenges faith. There is the mix of anxiety and excitement.  There are often encroaching doubts and questions.  Especially in relations to be sure of understanding fully what God has shown us.  The time is best spent seeking God, taking time to understand what has gone on, make preparations for what is ahead, but still it is waiting.  Often God works as he did here.  He gives us times of knowledge, learning, and growth. He then has us enter a time of waiting and preparation.  The waiting period serves to let us more deeply grasp what we learned and let it reach a level beyond just knowledge.  Sometimes the waiting is tough, particularly if we are not given specifics of when.  However, knowing the specifics does not make it any easier.  There is always a temptation not to wait, to take matters into own hands and bring about what God promises on our own.  Scripture is filled with examples of such choices.  In the days following the Ascension though we have a picture of faithful waiting. 

Ultimately we are all in an ongoing process of waiting that is undefined. Jesus has left and his return is soon. We have the Holy Spirit to direct and comfort us, to leads us in to the right paths and to build us up and cleanse us.  We have the ongoing work of salvation and sanctification going on in our lives.  Yet, the waiting gets tough.  We live in a world filled with darkness filled with pain and suffering. Each of our lives is touched with pain and sorrow.   We lose focus. The pains, doubts, and anxiety overwhelm us. God’s love and plan is questioned. We easily get distracted and lose focus.  Yet, Jesus is coming soon.   Yet, while he is in Heaven making all preparations, he is still active and he is here.  We have access through the Holy Spirit and He is here. 

So we wait and we follow the lead of the Holy Spirit.  We are to follow the lead of the Holy Spirit.  We can rest simply on our knowledge and what is written in God’s word. Yet, the disciples were told to wait for more. We cannot diminish or separate the importance of the Holy Spirit and His empowerment.  For if we are acting simply of our own knowledge are efforts are of self and weak. When we are following the lead of the Holy Spirit and acting at His direction, God moves in powerful ways. Sometimes we are aware and see the result, often it is unseen for we are at the time where each day is a day to grow in faith.  Waiting is really about time to grow and build faith.  In waiting we learn the limits of our faith. In waiting God causes what he has done to grow and take root.  Waiting is a really a Holy time we really struggle to grasp. The ten days that the disciples waited before being empowered by the Holy Spirit were a special, God ordained time.   The time is painful, difficult, and intense but God has a purpose.  When waiting follow the disciples lead and review, worship, pray, and prepare.  Do not retreat into fear and anxiety but look ahead and behind for the time that is coming, what God has in store is glorious.  When Jesus returns there will be no greater day. When God acts in our life in the now, it reflects that greater glory as he moves in deeper maturity and dependency on Him.