Mighty winds and crowded bathsPublished 5:39pm Saturday, October 26, 2013
by Brandon Robbins
It was springtime, some 2000 years ago, and Jerusalem was packed to the brim. The city was filled with thousands of pilgrims who had all come to celebrate the Jewish holiday of Shavuot, also referred to as the Feast of Weeks.
Shavuot celebrated the moment at which Moses received the Ten Commandments on Mount Sinai – the covenant that would forever link God and the Jewish people. It occurred 50 days after the Passover celebration (another important Jewish holiday) and was one of the three Jewish holidays that required all people of the Jewish faith to worship at the temple in Jerusalem. This particular year, however, Shavuot was much different than in the past.
At around 9 a.m., thousands of Jewish pilgrims would have entered the temple for morning worship. But outside, something even more exciting was happening. A man named Peter stood in front of the large crowd and began to speak about his deceased rabbi, a man named Jesus. As he was speaking, a mighty rushing wind blasted through the crowd. And, suddenly, everyone in the crowd began to speak.
The speech throughout the crowd, though, was no mere mindless rambling. This crowd, composed of people from different countries, speaking an equally diverse number of languages, all began to understand one another. Regardless of what language others were speaking, they heard it as if it were their own.
Somehow, in an instant, this incredibly diverse crowd was unified by a holy spirit in their midst. And what’s even more amazing, at least 3,000 of these people were moved in the moment to begin following Jesus. In the following hours, hundreds upon hundreds of people were baptized in nearby ritual baths.
As Christians, we refer to this day as Pentecost. It is the fulfillment of Jesus’ promise to ask God the Father to “send the Holy Spirit who will teach you everything and remind you of everything I have told you,” so that we will, “do the same works [he has] done, and even greater works” (John 14:12, 26). The mighty wind was God’s Holy Spirit. And the baptism of over 3,000 new followers of Jesus marked the beginning of the “even greater works.”
Because of the significance of this day, Christians celebrate Pentecost each year. Just as Shavuot marked the annual celebration of the birth of the covenant between God and the Jewish people 50 days after Passover, Pentecost marks the annual celebration of the birth of the church 50 days after Easter. It serves as a reminder of our history, but also a promise for the future. Each year, we recall the powerful moments that transpired that spring morning, while still believing that the Holy Spirit will do “even greater works” through the church.
Likewise, this Sunday at Courtland United Methodist Church, we will be remembering our history and looking forward to the promise of our future as we celebrate our 125th anniversary! Just as Pentecost marks the birth of the church, this marks the birth of our congregation. We will be inviting back several of our former pastors, showing interviews with long-time and recent members, presenting a video history of the church, and much more. It will be a celebration, recalling the powerful moments of God’s work over the past 125 years, while also hoping that God still has “even greater works” yet to do through our church.
I believe that as churches and as individuals, we need to have days like these. We need to celebrate special events and anniversaries. It is important for us to take time every now and then to stop and reflect upon our past. For, it is far too easy for us to let time slip by without recognizing all of the amazing work God has been doing in our lives.
But anniversaries like this are also important because, to some degree, they challenge us not to get lost in our past. They encourage us to look closely at our present situation and live in the moment, honoring the past, but not trying to recreate it. They inspire us to believe that our best days are not behind us, that God’s work is not yet done. Anniversaries remind us of who we are, while also illumining for us who we can be.
I praise God for the amazing work God has done through Courtland UMC over the past 125 years. And I feel honored to be a part of its future.
May you take time this week to do the same in your life. May you reflect upon past moments in your life when you’ve seen God’s hand truly at work. And may you believe that God’s work is not yet done in you. The same power God displayed at Pentecost is still alive in this world. The only question is: Have you stopped long enough to see it?
BRANDON ROBBINS is the pastor of Courtland United Methodist Church. He can be contacted at 653-2240 or firstname.lastname@example.org.