Tag Archives: Holy Spirit

A Sermon for Pentecost

Genesis 11 verses 1-9

Acts 2 verses 1-21

 

In days lost in the mists of time and myth, the people of the world got above themselves, overreached themselves, and attempted to scale the heights that, we’re told, were the domain of the Almighty.

Their God was angry with them; furious at their wicked ambitions, and raged against their Tower that attempted to pierce the very fabric of his heavenly dwelling.

So…. he brought them crashing to the ground and muddled and confused their language, so that they couldn’t communicate with each other.  Now, instead of unity, there was a Babel of confusing voices.

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Pieter Bruegel – The Tower of Babel

We move on….. in the early years of the third decade (CE), many people from all over the known world, speaking in different tongues, were together in Jerusalem for a type of Harvest Festival.

Suddenly, something remarkable happened.  And they turned to each other, saying “…these Galileans. How come we’re hearing them talk in our various mother tongues?……

…..They’re speaking our languages, describing God’s mighty works!”  (“The Message” paraphrase)

below: “Descent of the Holy Spirit” by El Greco

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Come now to the middle of last Century…… and to the former East Berlin:

The Communist authorities – to “get one over” the West during the Cold War – built a giant television transmission tower, which rose magnificently above the skyline of that sector of the City.  Built to impress and to provoke envy.

Just below the summit of this tower was a revolving restaurant.

What a spectacular structure it was – intended to be a showcase to annoy the West.

However, a design fault turned it into a bit of an embarrassment; whenever the sun hit the structure at a certain angle, the tower had the appearance of a huge shimmering cross!

Frantic attempts were made to repaint the tower – to blot out the cross – but with little success.

In Jerusalem in 32/33 or thereabouts, those in authority thought that they could blot out the Christian movement which was being built up, following Christ’s crucifixion.

They didn’t, of course, succeed.

Instead it grew spectacularly…….

…..beginning on that day of wonder and amazement: Pentecost.

The Holy Spirit, whom Jesus had promised, “zapped” the Apostles gathered in the Holy City……and transformed them.

This rag-bag of rather disorganised human beings were touched by Heaven itself.  Changed from a disparate bunch into a single body of witnesses which we now know as the Church.

Today we celebrate a birthing – that of a new community – with one thing in common: a mutual love of Jesus Christ.

What a hodgepodge collection of odds and ends of folk they were.

Look at the roll call from the 1st chapter of the Book of the Acts of the Apostles:  amongst them a “Rock” who crumbled under pressure, a so-called “Son of Thunder” such was his fiery temperament, a man who had doubted, a former tax collector, a freedom fighter….. members of Christ’s family who probably were still puzzled as to what this was all about, a clutch of women who were essentially viewed as second class citizens….. oh, and poor Matthaias, drafted in to replace Judas Iscariot, and who was probably wondering what he’d let himself into.

But they were a group, a fellowship, a new community of believers – and that transcended any barriers that might have separated each from the other.  Congregated through their love of Jesus, bound together by the Spirit.

Look around you today – look at the person in front of you, and behind, and across the aisle.  You’re all different.. with different backgrounds…of different ages…and so on.  But part of the same Body.

We, whoever we are or wherever we come from, are united, drawn together through our common love of Christ.

 

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Note this too (@ verse 4)  “They were ALL filled with the Holy Spirit”

ALL

There’s nothing exclusive or discrimatory about that precious gift.

{it annoys me when looking at some of the Pentecostal, fundamentalist, literalist and independent congregations whose “pastors” – usually a married couple – have been especially “anointed” –  claiming to have been especially “touched” by God. This anointing allows them to hold a God-ordained authority amidst a group of believers and to give a greater blessing to their opinions.  And many of them make a lot of $$$$$ out of their divinely appointed and approved status. “Touched by and infused with the Spirit” – you know the kind of thing?!!}

Those gathered that momentous day in Jerusalem, were, each and every one of them, brought together, understanding what God had in store for them.  Now, theirs was a common language, the language of faith, trust, and belief in the might of God who knows no boundaries, and who has no favourites – no, not even the specially “anointed” leaders of some contemporary gullible flocks.

So…it’s an old story, overlaid with symbolism and metaphor.

Today, with the General Assembly starting in six days time, where is the fire, the zeal, the enthusiasm that drove the Church for centuries?

You know, when I was ordained in 1974, the Kirk had about 1 million members.  Looking at the latest statistics (31 December 2015), I see that we’re down to something like 363,500+. That’s some drop in numbers.

I remember – sometime in the late 1980s, a guest speaker at my then Presbytery (Lothian) charting the probable decline in membership numbers.  He said – to great guffawing – that Edinburgh Presbytery (adjacent to that of Lothian) would have no members by 2029, and would effectively disappear; a pause…..”And you’re next in 2030!”

Why are we in retreat?  I wish and pray that I knew (and I’ve pored over many church-sociology books). Are we being sidetracked by matters that, though important, will eventually sort themselves out, such as SSM, Biblical interpretation (very much tied in with the first), too manyv buildings (the C of S has £millions in its property portfolio.) and so on.

Instead of “being Church”, should we not be “doing” Church?  Feeding the poor, sheltering the homeless, reaching out to the marginalised?

Only the Spirit will guide and draw us together in a common cause – whatever God decrees that to be.

We began this morning with a TV tower in the former East Germany.  It’s usually the tradition on this Pentecost Sunday to refer to another tower – that of the Tower of Babel

Genesis tells us that prior to the construction of this tower, all people could communicate, insofar as they spoke the same language.  God, we are told, “muddled” all this up, because of the people’s “pride”

Would it not have been better if all people who on earth do dwell understood each other, with a common tongue? Aye, but this is the interpretation of the Hebrew Scriptures, to make sense – in their limited way – to describe why we all speak in different tongues.

Whatever, this interpretation of what happened on the day of Pentecost reverses the situation – quaint and metaphorical it may appear.

OK – what of us today?

We are people of the Spirit.  Big deal!  What do we do with it?

How do we put it into practice?

Here’s something that may sum it up…

Abraham Lincoln’s Civil War diary:

“of all the forms of charity and benevolence seen in the crowded wards of the hospitals, those of some Catholic Sisters were the most efficient

“I never knew whence they came or what was the name of their Order

“More  lovely than anything I have ever seen in art…are the pictures of those modest Sisters, going on their errands of mercy among the suffering and the dying

“Gently…yet with the courage of soldiers..they went from cot to cot….They were veritable angels of mercy”

Our kind of revived witness?  Pentecost calls us from separation into community; from selfish individualism into fellowship with everyone.

It’s this kind of witness that the Holy Spirit has called us……are we – together – hearing its call?

 

 

 

 

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The big cover-up (an unbelievable “agony aunt” blog)

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Is it Wrong For Christians to Wear Bikinis
“I wanted my bikini to bring attention and glory, not to God, but to me. My body image was my idol and my bikini helped me worship..”
Last week I received this question on Christian women and bikinis. Thankfully, the reader gave me permission to share it (and my answer–expanded for this post) with you. No matter where you stand on the topic, I hope you’ll take a second to check it out!

Dear Heather,

Your writings have been a huge encouragement to me, thank you for your service! This summer the issue of modesty has come up for me. I was the only one in a two piece at the 4th of July while the other ladies were wearing tshirts and shorts. My husband wants me to wear something like they were wearing. I feel that not all bikinis are created equally and feel that mine is as covering as they come. I struggle because less fabric on a bathing suit is much more practical. I am really only exploring this because my husband asked me to. I love Jesus, this one is tough for me! Your thoughts, sister?

In Him –

A

————–

Dear A:

Bikinis!!! Ahhh . . . where to begin?

Let me start with my own personal bikini history.

You wouldn’t have caught me dead in one before age 23. I battled my weight during that time and didn’t feel like I had a “bikini body.” Likely, I would have told you I being modest. But that would have been a lie. I was wearing the old one piece to hide a body of which I was ashamed. Secretly, I longed to rock a skimpy string variety.

I started working out with gusto sometime before I turned 25, and that changed my shape quite a bit. I wanted to show off my body, though I still didn’t really like it. Bikinis brought more balance to my pear shape and I wanted to look as good as possible. Drowning deep in my body image issues during that time, I associated my value with how I looked in that swimsuit.

I remember a few months before our wedding, going to the pool with my then-fiancé. I threw an internal fit about the fact that he didn’t say I looked good in my little brown Victoria’s Secret swimsuit. Within the course of 30 minutes of sitting poolside, I decided that he likely wanted to call off our wedding because he thought I was so ugly in a bathing suit, he just didn’t have the nerve to tell me. He thought I was fat. He wanted me to be thinner. He didn’t want to marry me anymore . . .The thoughts barraged my brain like cereal pouring into the bowl. He had no idea the internal war that was waging and when I finally exploded with something like, “We can’t possibly get married because you don’t think I look good in a swimsuit!” He was caught off guard . . . to say the least.

Yes, I’m a little surprised he still married me after that act of lunacy.

I used that little two piece suit to affirm that I was physically good enough.

I wanted my bikini to bring attention and glory, not to God, but to me. My body image was my idol and my bikini helped me worship.

I wanted others to worship too. No, not literally bow down. That’d be silly. But, I hoped people would think I was hot. I wanted to capture the interest of men and the envy of women. (I’m definitely not proud of this, but it’s true.)

After I had a baby, my body changed. So, I just bought bigger bikinis with better lifting and tucking power. I wasn’t ready to give up, yet. I needed the physical affirmation wearing one brought me.

Then I had a daughter.She received the sweetest little bikini as a baby gift and, within five minutes, my perspective on the issue shifted. I didn’t want my baby to wear that miniaturized adult woman swimsuit! She didn’t need to be sexy at six months old. Soon I realized that I didn’t need to be sexy (at least not in public) at 33 years old either.

The Holy Spirit started to convict me on my swimwear choices and motivation. How could I allow my daughter to wear bikinis as a pre-pubescent and then, when her body developed, tell her that she’d need to switch to something more modest? And, what kind of authority would I have to enforce a “no bikini” rule if all she ever knew was a mom who wore little bitty swimsuits?

I flashed back to a conversation I had with a friend in high school. She told me that she didn’t mind hanging out in her bra and underwear around another friend’s brother because it was “just like a bikini.” Even at fifteen, something inside me bristled at the appropriateness of this. Now, I had the responsibility to make sure my daughter wouldn’t follow that same logic. Ever.

At that point, I decided to stop. Bikinis and I were finished. I got rid of them. (Well, all except one that I wore in our fenced in backyard, all by myself, to keep my stomach from turning snowball white. Eventually I gave it up too.)

Does the Bible tell us that showing your navel is sinful? I don’t believe I’ve seen that specific verse. I can’t make a hard and fast rule that says wearing a bikini is wrong for every woman. A very pregnant friend recently sported a bikini on a 100-degree Texas day because she was uncomfortable in anything else. Having worn my fair share of maternity one pieces that have no less than seven layers of thick lycra over your already hot belly, I could ‘amen’ her decision.

If you have a private pool in your backyard and want a tan abdomen is that sinful? That’s hard to judge, too . . .It’s also difficult to say, empirically, “only one piece bathing suits are good.” When, in truth, there are a lot of one piece suits that are a whole lot skimpier than some bikinis.

If we want to talk modesty–we must focus more on our hearts than our exposed navels. Now, don’t hear me wrong, what we are doing in our hearts usually comes out in what clothing choices we make. The two are related. But, the latter rarely dictates the former.

Why are you choosing to wear that swimsuit? That’s the question you need to ask and honestly answer in your heart.

Is it to prove something about your value? Is it to draw attention to yourself? Is it to find affirmation that you look good enough? Is your profile picture you in your bikini because you want affirmation of your physical beauty? If you have even a hint of a “yes” answer to any of these questions, than perhaps you need to make a change.

There’s also some interesting data out there about bikinis and what happens in the minds of those who observe them. If you’ve never watched Jessica Rey’s Q talk called “The Evolution of the Swimsuit” you should really check it out. This blog post recently caught my attention and offers another beautiful perspective.

As believers we are called to make informed and thoughtful decisions. This is wisdom, no matter what the issue.

Should a Christian woman wear a bikini? This boils down to three decision points.

Decision Point One: Your Motivation

What is your motivation behind your swimwear choice? Where is your heart as you consider it? Are you looking to bring glory to yourself or just be comfortable at the pool? If you are trying to win the hottest woman out there contest, then that’s a modesty issue. It sounds to me like you are just trying to be comfortable and, in that case, if you don’t feel personal conviction in that arena you aren’t, necessarily, doing anything “wrong.”

(I feel like many women I meet have never really thought through their swimsuit choice and aren’t necessarily trying to be a hot-body-show-off, they’ve just never stopped to think about their selection. Wisdom and maturity often chase, and then change, these women over time. And, they need grace through the process.)

Decision Point Two: Your Other Half

As a married woman, you have a responsibility to respect your husband. If he feels like he’d rather you wear something more modest, than maybe explore with him why. Does he feel like other men will find you “hot” in your swimsuit and he doesn’t like that? Or, is he feeling pressure from the groups you are in to meet some–not necessarily biblical–but imposed standard of dress? Have a heart to heart conversation and ask him why? As you husband, he does have a right to speak into your decision. Pray before the conversation and ask the Holy Spirit to soften both of your hearts so you can really hear each other and understand each other’s point of view.

Decision Point Three: The Other Women

Then there’s the issue of the other women. . . Ahhh, women can be so complicated!

You don’t specify as to whether or not this group of friends is from church, your neighbors, or coworkers, but it would be interesting to know why all of the women are choosing to wear t-shirts and shorts to the pool instead of swimwear. Is it that they don’t want to wear a swimsuit in public because they are obsessing over their body image? If so, perhaps they need someone to show some courage in this arena and be comfortable at the pool. Or, is it because they genuinely want to be modest and don’t feel comfortable wearing less than that in mixed company? Covering your body out of embarrassment and out of modesty are truly two different things.

As Christian women we are free in Christ Jesus to dress according to our own convictions. That word–convictions–assumes that we are actually listening for the Holy Spirit’s voice. To say that we “aren’t convicted” we must first sincerely pray and seek God on an issue and then know we have clearance. Not praying about it, not asking Him, does not equate to “not being convicted.”

Along with liberty always comes responsibility. Sometimes that responsibility requires us to give up some of that freedom. If I know I would make my friends (or husband) uncomfortable by showing up in a two piece bathing suit, I should, likely, lay down my own desires and wear something different. “Just please yourself” And, “Do what you want!”–these are not the mantras of the Christ-follower who has surrendered her life to a higher calling. Your body is a part of that calling. It’s not an ornament for your glory, it’s an offering to His.

Thanks again for your question, A. I pray that the God will give you wisdom and clarity as you seek his direction in this area. You’ll never go wrong seeking Him first.

Your Sister in Christ,

Heather
By Heather Creekmore
Heather Creekmore is a speaker, author, mom and pastor’s wife from Texas.

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PADEREWSKI (an old illustration for Pentecost Sunday)

 

ignacy_paderewski

IGNACY JAN PADEREWSKI 

There is a delightful story about a mother who bought a ticket to a concert by Paderewski, the great Polish pianist.  She took her five-year-old son with her hoping the experience would encourage him in his own young efforts at music.

She was delighted to see how close to the stage their seats were.  Then she met an old friend & got so involved talking to her that she didn’t notice that the wee laddie had slipped away to do some exploring.

When eight o’ clock arrived – the time for the performance to begin – the lights dimmed, the audience hushed to a whisper, and the spotlight came on.

Only then did the woman see her five year old on the stage, sitting at the piano, innocently picking out ‘Twinkle, twinkle little star’

She gasped in total disbelief.  However, before she could retrieve her son, Paderewsski walked onto the stage.  Walking over to the piano, he whispered to the boy ‘Don’t stop!  Keep playing’

Then leaning over the youngster, Paderewski reached out his left hand and began to fill in the bass.  A few seconds later, he reached around the other side of the boy, encircling him, and added a running obbligato

Together, the great maestro and the tiny five-year-old mesmerised the audience with their playing.  When they finished, the audience broke into thunderous applause.

Years later almost all those present forgot the pieces Paderewski played that night, but no one forgot ‘Twinkle Twinkle little star’

That image of the great maestro and the little boy at the piano makes a beautiful image of the Holy Spirit and the Church.  It provides a lovely image of how the Holy Spirit unites the Church to make beautiful music.

Today we celebrate the coming of the Holy Spirit upon the disciples, just as Christ had promised when he said:

 ” I will ask the Father, and he will give you another advocate to be with you always, the Spirit of truth…he will teach you everything and remind you of all that I told you…  I have told you this before it happens, so that when it happens you may believe.” (John 14, vv 16-17, 26, 29)

Going back to the image of Paderewski and the five-year-old, we see that – to some extent – the boy resembles the disciples.

When Christ departed from their midst, they were like children; their knowledge of God & how to spread God’s kingdom was terribly deficient – like, if you like, the boy’s knowledge of music.

And the great pianist – if we can use this image – resembles, if you like, the Holy Spirit coming upon the disciples, encircling them with love, whispering encouragement to them, and transforming their feeble human efforts into something beautiful.

There is a lesson here for us, I believe.  We look at the world and see so many problems that need to be addressed.  We look at our talents and see how inadequate they are in the face of these problems.

It’s here that we need to recall the image of the little boy and Paderewski

Musically, the little boy’s skill was minimal.  Nevertheless, Paderewski built upon it and turned it into something beautiful – something that completely mesmerised the sophisticated audience that gathered in the hall that night.

In a similar way, the Holy Spirit can take whatever we have – no matter how small – build upon it, and transform it into something powerful and beautiful.

That is the good news of Scripture.  This is the good news we celebrate on this day of Pentecost.  It is the good news that Christ has sent upon his church the promised Holy Spirit.

We are not alone.  The Holy Spirit is leaning over us, taking our small contribution, and transforming it into something that we never dreamed possible.

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WHISPERING THE LYRIC

 I like old music – by that I mean the rock songs of the 60’s and 70’s – the Rolling Stones, Eric Clapton and Cream, Led Zeppelin and so on.

All of these rock dinosaurs would be the first to admit that they owe a great musical debt to the American blues singers and guitarists whose names have now passed into legend.

One of them was Jimmy Reed. A share-cropper’s son, Reed brought the throbbing harmonica-and-guitar-driven black rhythm-and-blues of the Mississippi Delta into the popular rock-and-roll mainstream.

 

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There’s an interesting story behind the Jimmy Reed records. In placing the old gramophone needle again and again in the grooves of Jimmy Reed’s records, you began to notice something curious.

If one listened very carefully, there could sometimes be heard, ever so faintly in the background, a soft woman’s voice murmuring in advance the next verse of the song. The story that grew up around this — and perhaps it is true — was that Jimmy Reed was so absorbed in the bluesy beat and the throbbing guitar riffs of his music that he simply could not remember the words of his own songs. He needed help with the lyrics, and the woman’s voice was none other than that of his wife, devotedly coaching her husband through the recording session by whispering the upcoming stanzas into his ear as he sang.

Whether or not this story is accurate, Christians will surely recognise a parallel experience. Jesus tells his followers that the role of the Holy Spirit is, in effect, to whisper the lyrics of the gospel song in the ears of the faithful. When Jesus was present, he was the one who instilled in them the right words, coached them through the proper verses, and taught them the joyful commandments. But now that Jesus approaches his death, now that he draws near to his time of departure, now that the disciples will be on their own without him, that task is to be handed over to the Holy Spirit:

“If you love me, you will obey my commandments.” He says, “I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, who will stay with you forever. He is the Spirit who reveals the truth about God…” (John 14:15-17).

The primary task, then, of the Holy Spirit is reminding the faithful of the truth, jogging the memories of the followers of Jesus about all of his commandments so that they can keep them in love, whispering the lyrics of the never-ending hymn of faithful obedience in their ears.

It may surprise us to think of the Holy Spirit in this way, as a quiet, whispering teacher of the commandments of Jesus. Often the Spirit is advertised in flashier terms: The Spirit gives ecstasy; the Spirit evokes speaking in unknown tongues; the Spirit prompts dramatic and miraculous healings.

Indeed, the Holy Spirit of God does perform such deeds, but these are all derivative of the one, primary activity of the Spirit — reminding the children of God about everything that Jesus taught and commanded (John 14:26), whispering the gospel lyrics into the ears of the forgetful faithful.

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Pentecost

Pentecost

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June 3, 2014 · 22:30

Alpha Experience

by “Recovering Agnostic”
April 5, 2013

My Alpha experience – why I consider the course to be cynical and dishonest

The Independent recently ran an article gushing with praise for the Alpha Course, calling it “British Christianity’s biggest success story“. I can understand that in a world where results are what gets you noticed, but having attended an Alpha Course once upon a time, I still find it both appalling and wryly amusing that the church is putting so much weight on a course that’s so fundamentally dishonest.

I went on the course at a time when I was feeling uncertain of my faith, the best part of ten years ago. I thought a return to the basics might be just what I needed, so I booked myself in and prepared to ask my questions.

Before I go any further, and to forestall common defences of Alpha, I want to emphasise that I was under no illusions about the theology of the course, but that was what I wanted at the time, and I desperately wanted to believe. I also know that courses vary massively in tone and content, even though this is against the wishes of Nicky Gumbel and Holy Trinity Brompton, but the course I attended worked through the standard videos and books. What I experienced was the very core of Alpha.

The first couple of weeks were pleasant and inoffensive. Gumbel’s video talks were relatively vague and platitudinous, but our group had some interesting discussions. Some knew nothing about Christianity, some knew quite a lot, and one guy was always asking about Islam, which was a bit odd, and suggested he was probably attending the wrong course. The one thing that puzzled me was that no one was prepared to correct obvious errors and misunderstandings.

That all started to change soon enough. When Gumbel introduced the Bible, suddenly all the fluff was moved to one side. A couple of weak, hackneyed arguments about the provenance of the Bible were rushed through as if they had a train to catch, and from that point on, it was expected that any question could be resolved by appealing to the Bible as an infallible book of rules.

It was also about this time that the course organisers started to get far more involved. From not correcting misunderstandings, suddenly they were pretty obviously starting to tell everyone what to think. I’ve since read Gumbel’s book on running an Alpha Course, and this is what they’re told to do – avoid correction or criticism for the first few weeks, then start hitting them hard with the party line. It’s a deliberate strategy.

When I’m asked to describe Alpha, the phrase I use most often is bait-and-switch. The whole thing is based on the idea of friendly discussion, but quickly becomes an RE lesson. We have some old fragments of parchment containing copies of Biblical texts, therefore we can assume that it’s all 100% true. We’re just going to talk about some issues, except for when we go off on the Holy Spirit Weekend!

The what? Yes, you read correctly – the Holy Spirit Weekend.

I could say a lot of things about the Holy Spirit Weekend. It’s undoubtedly clever, but I think it’s also deeply cynical and manipulative. Everyone goes away somewhere to learn about the Holy Spirit. Why do you need to go away for a weekend? Because the unspoken intention is that the new hothouse environment will facilitate a spiritual experience that will get you hooked. One session is even called “How can I be filled with the Holy Spirit?”

Clever churches get some church members to come along as well, ostensibly to help out on a more intensive weekend, but it also has the handy advantage of helping to create the right atmosphere. A bunch of confused Brits aren’t an ideal group if you want to encourage ecstatic spiritual experiences, but throw in a few people who know the drill (trust me, there is one) and it tips the balance considerably.

The weekend is at the heart of the entire course. The first few weeks deal with some basic housekeeping and weed out timewasters, and then they want you to be hooked as soon as possible. So they take you off somewhere strange, fill the place with music and people speaking strange languages, and wait for the payoff.

After that, the rest of the course seems slightly dull, stacking additional layers on top of what’s previously been discussed. If you’re in by this point, you’ll lap it up. If not, it’s just more data on what Christians believe, which will probably leave you cold, but might possibly be enough to convince you to “graduate” to church at the end of the course.

You might have gathered that I’m not a fan. I think the course is dishonest in its advertising and its arguments, sometimes manipulative, and always cynical. Finding out quickly moves into being taught, and then into emotional exploitation in unfamiliar group settings, all step by step, like a frog being boiled alive.

If a recognised cult was behaving like this, you wouldn’t be surprised.

About Recovering Agnostic
I’m Christian by upbringing, agnostic by belief, cynical by temperament, broadly scientific in approach, and looking for answers. My main interest at the moment is in turning my current disengaged shrug into at least a working hypothesis

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Vatican Pigeon

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July 21, 2013 · 10:45

Pentecost

Toruń, church of St. James, Descent of the Hol...

Toruń, church of St. James, Descent of the Holy Spirit (Pentecost) painting, early 16th century (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

On July 4, 1776, the Declaration of Independence was signed in Philadelphia With this action, the American Revolution was launched and a new nation was born. It is ironic that on that very day King George III made this entry in his diary: “Nothing of any importance happened today.”

On the day of Pentecost, in the year A.D. 30, 120 followers of a man named Jesus were gathered together in Jerusalem. Suddenly the Spirit of God filled each one of them and marked them with tongues of fire. On that day the Church was born. But no historian of the time saw anything significant in that event.

Those followers were just a handful of rather ordinary men and women, Yet through these ordinary people God built a Church which has lasted now for over 2,0000 years.

In less than 300 years, that small, insignificant Jewish sect became the official religion of the entire Roman Empire and today the Church of Jesus Christ circles the globe and numbers some one billion members.

How did they do it? What happened to those  followers in the year 30 A.D. on the day we call Pentecost? Those  followers came in contact with the Christian’s unknown God.

They came in contact with God’s Spirit, or the Holy Spirit. For many Christians the events of Pentecost, the events of God’s spirit coming to this earth is like what King George said on the day the Declaration of Independence was signed, “nothing of any importance happened today.”

Pentecost  is  a major festival of the church year – just as important as Christmas, just as important as Easter, but for some unknown reason, this festival in the church year goes by almost unnoticed. Why is that? Maybe the Holy Spirit is our Unknown God, also.

Maybe because we have a difficult time getting a handle on the Spirit of God. Maybe, we don’t understand what exactly happened on this day. And maybe, talk about the Spirit is not so enthralling as talk about a baby born in a manager, angels singing in the heavens, gifts being passed about and shepherds tending their sheep on quiet hillsides.

But, this festival, this holiday is very important for the life of the church, for your life and my life.

The Spirit of God is not something we should fear, nor something we should ignore, but the Holy Spirit is God’s presence in this world.

It is the same presence that was moving over the face of the earth when God created this world in which we live. It is that same presence that took the form of a baby born in a manager in Bethlehem, it is the same spirit of God that walked the earth for 33 years, teaching, healing, proclaiming the love of God for all people. And now, today, it is that same spirit that is with us, it is God’s spirit alive and well on this earth, working through his people, the church, to bring his love into the brokenness of this world.

It is this Spirit that comes into our lives, into the church to allow us to spread God’s message of love to all people. It is this Spirit which points not to itself, but to Christ. It is this Spirit which allows us to point not to ourselves, but to Christ. It is this Spirit which makes the church, the Body of Christ, the most unique organization on the face of the earth.

We are part of  a global enterprise. We have branches in every country in the world. We have our representatives in nearly every parliament and board room on earth. We’re into motivation and behaviour alteration.

We run homeless shelters and orphanages, publishing houses, and nursing homes. We care for our clients from birth to death.

We perform spiritual heart transplants. Our original Organizer owns all the real estate on earth plus an assortment of galaxies and constellations. He knows everything and lives everywhere. Our product is free for the asking. (There’s not enough money to buy it.)

The church is the most amazing organization in the world! And we are part of it, not because we did anything, but the Holy Spirit calls us by the Gospel, enlightens us with His gifts, makes us holy and keeps us in the true faith

pentecost-simonmarshSimon Marsh – Artist

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How do you explain this – sociologically and theologically?

In 1949, in the village of Barvas on the Isle of Lewis something rather unusual happened. It all started with a ceilidh in the village hall. Young people were gathered together enjoying an evening of music and dancing.

As the evening wore on, people became aware of a most unusual sensation – the air tingled with the presence of God. Abruptly, the music ceased and people left the hall and hurried to the church.

In other parts of the village, men, women and children, many of whom were asleep in bed, all shared the same experience.

Awakened, they quickly got up, dressed and with haste made for the church. There had been nothing in the way of advanced publicity. No special event had been planned, but now 600 were eagerly standing outside the church, waiting to get in.

It was to be a full house that night – every pew taken and folk standing wherever they could find

Towards midnight a visiting preacher, the Rev Duncan Campbell, arrived and made his way to the pulpit. As he walked down the aisle he was aware of people weeping and praying. The service continued until 4 o’clock in the morning, when the visiting preacher retired to the manse.

That incident took place in what has become known as the Lewis awakening or the Lewis revival. It is  not myth or fairy tale. It is a historical fact, and it happened within living memory.

The last recorded revival in mainland Britain took place in 1904 among the mining communities of South Wales. And there are well-documented stories of the miners at the end of the working day attending outdoor services at the pit-heads  with their faces blackened by coal dust being washed by their tears.

The Welsh revival even caused a drop in coal production because the miners stopped swearing and cursing at the pit ponies. The poor creatures simply didn’t understand what was going on!

What or WHO was behind this…….?!!

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