Pentecost Sunday, June 9, 2019
Birthdays are important, and how you celebrate them can be important.
But what is really important is how you live your life the other 364 days of the year.
Today, we celebrate the birthday of the Church, the Day of Pentecost, 50 days after Easter.
Jerusalem was crowded with persons from all over the Mediterranean basin in town
for a Jewish festival when suddenly, fresh winds of the Spirit encouraged the disciples
to speak to people in many various languages,
and to share with them the good news of the love and grace of Jesus of Nazareth,
whom they had come to know as their Christ, the Messiah, the Promised One.
The Church was born that day, and Luke reports that as many as three thousand persons were added.
That birthday is and was important and we still celebrate that birthday 2000 years later.
But what was most important was how the people who received the message
began to live their daily lives. Their daily devotion, and not the events of the birthday itself,
was what caused the Church to spread throughout the world and to rescue many a lost soul.
Hear about the daily devotion of the earliest church according to the physician Luke.
Now when they heard this, they were cut to the heart and said to Peter and to the other apostles, ‘Brothers, what should we do?’ Peter said to them, ‘Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ so that your sins may be forgiven; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is for you, for your children, and for all who are far away, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to him.’ And he testified with many other arguments and exhorted them, saying, ‘Save yourselves from this corrupt generation.’ So those who welcomed his message were baptized, and that day about three thousand persons were added. They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.
Awe came upon everyone, because many wonders and signs were being done by the apostles. All who believed were together and had all things in common; they would sell their possessions and goods and distribute the proceeds to all, as any had need. Day by day, as they spent much time together in the temple, they broke bread at home and ate their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having the goodwill of all the people. And day by day the Lord added to their number those who were being saved.
Our Faith Formation Council is encouraging us all to practice Faith 5.
Faith 5 is a Daily Devotion that may be particularly important over the summer
as many will be out of their normal routines and perhaps out of town.
There are Faith 5 handouts available at the reception desk.
You can find a Faith 5 post on our church’s Facebook page.
I checked the church website this morning to ensure that Faith 5 is there, and it is.
Faith 5 is a guideline for spending intentional with God and intentional time together as family.
To be clear, this practice can be used both for individuals and for families, all kinds of families.
It may just be you and God sitting down together,
or you and God and God’s divine representative of unconditional love on earth – that is, your dog.
Or, you may sit at table with a family, whatever that family you may be,
the kind of family with a mom, a dad, 2.3 kids, and a picket fence,
or the kind of family with two persons committed to each other,
or the kind of family that may have three generations at the table,
or the kind of family which includes people who live together but who are not related.
Whatever your individual or family arrangement,
first, begin your intentional time by sharing highs and lows of the day or of the week.
We call them joys and concerns when we gather for church meetings.
Sometimes the youth call them “warm fuzzies” and “cold pricklies”.
Allysen gave me a new name for them the other day – “happies and crappies”.
The point is to share a bit of life together.
The relationship enrichment curriculum that I utilize for premarital counseling is called Prepare-Enrich.
Prepare-Enrich encourages couples to practice a daily check-in asking the following questions:
What do you more of in this relationship?
What do you want less of in this relationship?
It matters less what you call the practice or how you do it – the point is to connect with each other,
to listen to one another, to hear one another.
This is not the time to review the to do list nor the time to do a homework check in with your kids.
This is not the time to review the upcoming calendar.
We encourage you to take at least a few minutes – you’ll probably need more –
for purposeful, intentional human connection with God and with the people with whom you live.
Hear each other’s thoughts and feelings; check in about how life is going;
seek to understand what they may be going through.
If a loved one is not at home, then use Skype or Facetime to share your highs and lows.
Second, we encourage you to read Scripture together.
This could be the Scripture text for the next Sunday
or a text from the PCUSA Daily Prayer app on your phone
or perhaps you could choose a book of the Bible to read through together over time.
Here’s the thing – We have been reading sacred texts together for more than two thousand years,
and human beings continually, from generation to generation to generation,
have found this practice edifying.
Your family probably no longer reads from an old family Bible in the King James Version
as many families did one hundred years ago, sitting around a fireplace at night time,
long before there were cell phones and televisions.
But you may read from a new study Bible that has life applications or study helps.
If you carry around a phone all day, use one of the common Bible apps.
Did you know that the most downloaded apps of all are Bible apps?
Just as the printing presses still print more Bibles every year than any other book in the world,
Bible apps are still the most popular of apps.
Human beings still know, even in the midst of our plugged in, overstimulated world,
that reading Holy Scripture is helpful….
Reading the Bible helps give perspective, helps raise interesting questions about God and about life,
helps comfort in times of sorrow, helps encourage joy in times of gladness,
helps direct in times of confusions,
helps people become more grateful and compassionate.
Reading the Bible is helpful, and it strengthens relationships when you read it together.
Of course, you don’t have to limit your reading to Scripture;
you can read all sorts of helpful, sacred texts together,
like Rumi, or the Tao te Ching, or the poetry of Milton, or Keynesian economics.
You can discuss Youtube videos or documentaries you have watched or Ted talks.
But do not be remiss in reading Holy Scripture.
Even if you have read the Bible all the way through several times
and didn’t find what you were looking for, try, try again.
Timing is everything.
You may consider yourself a well-educated academic who does not appreciate simple faith.
You may consider yourself a science-oriented agnostic who is not at all interested in Holy Scripture.
Nevertheless, give it a try. What do you have to lose?
You just might be surprised by what you discover.
You might be surprised at the intriguing life questions that are raised.
You might find more than you were expecting, especially if you read the Bible with other persons
who see life differently than you do.
Third, talk about how the particular Scripture you are reading relates to your highs and lows.
Not every time, but surprisingly often, something you read in Scripture will connect in a significant way
to what you or your loved one has been experiencing.
Notice how the people in the Scripture showed love or did not show love.
Notice the role of God or of Jesus in the scripture text.
What was God up to in that obtuse Old Testament passage?
What massive world change was Jesus bringing to life in that gospel encounter?
Fourth, pray together.
If this has not been a practice that you are comfortable with or that others are comfortable with,
just give it a try. Offer a blessing before a meal, then happen to include a few of those highs or lows
that your family members mentioned.
Offer a prayer for the needs of the world related to a news headline that gave you pause.
Prayer can be helpful.
Whatever impact it may have upon God or upon the life of those for whom you pray,
it will impact you. Over time, prayer will change your life.
Prayer can unburden the soul, remind the heart to be grateful, encourage the mind to seek peace…
Again, why not? What do you have to lose?
Fifth, end your daily devotion with a blessing of one another.
Our Faith 5 daily devotion encourages these words:
“May God bless you and may you be a blessing to others.”
Even if you’re doing your devotion alone, you can say this blessing to yourself,
or to your cat or your dog.
Many cats that I have known need the encouragement to be a blessing to others!
If you live with children or someone who is struggling in their career,
this blessing may be particularly significant.
Some years ago, I came across a relationship curriculum that encouraged you to reflect upon
the last ten things you said to your loved one.
Go ahead – consider the last ten things you spoke to your spouse or your parent or to your child.
If you are like many people,
all ten of those last things you said may not have been as edifying or encouraging as you would like.
Consider what it could mean if your daily devotion included these words to your loved one:
“May God bless you and may you be a blessing to others.”
When we engage in a daily devotion, when we do any measure of these five practices, this Faith 5,
our lives will change. Our lives will take a turn, however slight that may be.
For some, life will take a significant turn, just as it did for those early disciples in Jerusalem.
Here’s what Luke recorded:
When “They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship,
to the breaking of bread and the prayers…
Awe came upon everyone, because many wonders and signs were being done by the apostles.
All who believed were together…. Day by day, as they spent much time together in the temple,
they broke bread at home and ate their food with glad and generous hearts,
praising God and having the goodwill of all the people.
And day by day the Lord added to their number those who were being saved.
Would you like to feel more together with the people around you?
Would you enjoy sharing your meals with others with glad and generous hearts?
Do you want to live your life with an attitude of praise and with the goodwill of all the people?
Do you want to add to the number those who are being made whole?
Daily devotion is the key.
Today, the Church gathers on its birthday to break bread at the common table.
We gather with glad and generous hearts, and with an attitude of praise,
and in a service centered on Scripture.
My prayer is that, as we devote ourselves to this type of devotional gathering,
more and more the Lord will add to our number those who are being saved,
those who are being made whole.
May God bless you, this congregation, this Decatur Presbyterian Church,
and by God’s grace, may you continue to be a blessing to others.
Rev. Dr. Todd Speed
Decatur Presbyterian Church