All Who are Far Away Let us pray… Rev. Stuart Buisch
The whirlwind is slowing or is it? These last four weeks we have been looking at the Pentecost event. Luke goes on to describe it in vivid detail. Now we are at the wind down. But what a wind down.
There are several phrases to note: Brothers, what shall we do? Change your hearts and lives. This promise if for you, your children and for all who are far away They praised God and demonstrated God’s goodness to everyone
Its pretty amazing that worship is always about words seldom about deeds. Peter’s listeners want to know what to do. In Detroit a church community group is designing and building little homes where the old houses in tatters had been torn down. A new kind of sharing like how this chapter ends. Is having the Spirit active in us possible if it is only words? Let’s ask this question again in our day – what shall we do?
Change your hearts and lives: I don’t know what their lives are like now. I don’t know what your life is like now. I am not sure of the details of my life right now. Certainly some of that can be blamed on the pandemic. Parts of our nation are seeking to change the way criminal activity is stopped and controlled. What can change in our hearts and lives? We need to work, to eat, to relax, to build homes and families. What else did those listeners to Peter do that needed to change? Peter goes on to talk about baptism – an outward sign of an inward work of forgiveness by God. Then they would receive the Holy Spirit as a gift. Luke doesn’t mention a repeat of the start of this chapter. The crowd doesn’t speak in tongues, there is no second wind, no flames. Could this Spirit come in different ways for different situations?
God’s Spirit is for all, us, our children and those who are far away. Geography, theology, ethics, economics, culture, what is the far away for you? Not when you are in prayer, not when you are reading Scripture but in your everyday, who is far away? Some folk are deeply frustrated with our government, is the other side of the aisle far away? Are people who are unemployed in this time far away? Are retired folk who have not had a change in income during this pandemic are they far away and safe? Are your neighbors far away? Do the kids who play in the street in front of your house using words that aren’t pleasant in most conversation far away?
It is an interesting question to think about who the far away are today. But more to the point, in this season of the Spirit none are far away. The Spirit of God brings everyone near. Maybe they aren’t brought near but we realize by the Spirit of God that far is not far at all. That God reaches everywhere.
But did you notice that we jumped right over you and your children. Its easy, perhaps, to get your children to Sunday School, to confirmation and maybe even to marriage in the church; but will they be involved with the church? What does this promise mean to you? Children hear what their parents say and they hear the stories of the church. Is that why we need a promise from God that our children have this promise we have received too? Do we need to
pray and trust that God is working that out in our children? Now we all know that church attendance does not mean faith. We know that giving to the church doesn’t guarantee anything about our trust in God. Certainly serving on the session, deacons and committees of the church or presbytery has never been a pass card for trust in God. So when we reflect on this text are we proclaiming that God is at work in our own lives – complaints, sins, not quite making a mark all included. Yes indeed. Our petty way of measuring begins within ourselves and that’s what makes other people’s words so captivating. If we really lived in the certainty that God is at work, that God’s love sustains us inside, that who we are is only made real and certain because of what God says about us, then we would never be affected by words that can’t hurt us. So our children are heirs to faith in God because they see that forgiveness is at work in us. That this Holy Spirit is blowing through the cobwebs of disbelief and granting us hope in the midst of any and all our despair.
Notice with me what Luke doesn’t record in the final verses of chapter two. He doesn’t tell us who the counters were who got the number 3000. He doesn’t tell us if the children count or if you have to be over ____ years old. He doesn’t tell us where these three thousand lived or what their jobs were. We don’t know what their houses looked like and what they ate. We don’t know if they preferred bland pita or lots of chilis and garlic in their hummus. We aren’t sure if the wine skins were emptied each day or if everything went tea total. There was no directory and no one kept a register of these three thousand. Here is what we know: they devoted themselves to the Apostles’ teaching, to the community, to their shared meals, and to their prayers. Miracles happened and they were united and shared everything. Not one Apostle but more than one, they ate together and we aren’t told that some ate too much and others not enough. In the midst of their lives something new took place, they became one. They were family together, no one was alone. They cared for each other, isn’t that what community means? They got to know each other, not just who was there; their joys, concerns, kids and pets.
They praised God and demonstrated God’s goodness to everyone. I am not clear whether the event started and finished with praise or if praise was the cause or effect. I am sure there is not enough praise in our world today. I am guessing that gratitude may not fill your every moment and may not be the first phrase in your daily prayers. I am aware that sometimes it is profoundly missing in mine. In the face of a challenge I am not always ready to say thank you God for how you are going to lead us through this situation to a place that glorifies you. But I am convinced that if praise became a staple of my life that God’s goodness could flow from that. Amen.
Praise you God for not only getting this world going but continuing your work in it today…
Pain-bearer Christ, thank you for the forgiveness you offer us with every breath and the freedom that flows from that…
Sustaining Spirit, let the wind and breeze of your life flow in and around us…