Greetings family and friends of MSLC,
Happy 4th of July! We are already halfway through summer? and it feels great that the state has finally caught up with everyone else and opened up. As I was sitting in church on Pentecost, I realized that I have the tendency to listen to scripture, but not necessarily “listen” to it. This year was the first time I’ve heard that there were more than the disciples with Jesus when he ascended. By the account in Acts, there were approximately 120 followers present when he ascended. There is once again the statement about some falling away, and the question about restoring Israel to power as has been taught them by the Jewish clergy. Jesus responds, ‘that is not why HE came’, some fall away, and the followers are directed to wait for the Helper in the upper room. I first believed that followers left the mountain dazed and confused by Jesus’ instructions, but one biblical version of ascension reports that Jesus breathed on them the Holy Spirit, and there was rejoicing and worshipping of God.
Pentecost came and the Christian church was about to be born. As the Holy Spirit entered the room, fire could be seen on the tops of the followers’ heads and some began to speak in different languages. The Festival of Weeks was going on, so there were Jews from all over gathered in Jerusalem. Those from different countries were surprised to hear someone speaking their country’s language. Peter began to preach the Good News to them and 3000 were added to their number that day. The truth about the Messiah became known and many followed. There were several people that received the Holy Spirit and yet, God’s chosen servant to the people of the Mediterranean would first be murdering Christians.
There were some key instructions that had been given by Jesus from the first time HE sent them out, that I believe are very relevant today. HE reminded them that the world hated HIM, so the world was also going to hate them and us. I also recall instructions by Peter on how to go about witnessing— always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect (1 Peter 3:15b ESV). No baseball bats or frying pans. The other instruction that comes to mind is from Paul’s lettter to the Romans —Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect (Romans 12:2 ESV).
Pentecost is that time of year when we think about the start of the Christian church and its growth, but also to reflect on how it is doing in our present world. I believe that Jesus gave us an interesting standard by which to measure success or failure in our witnessing endeavors both as individuals and as the church. If the world, secular media or similar, hates what they’re hearing, then you’re on the right track. If they agree or praise you for the direction you’ve taken, stop and pray. The largest Christian organization in the world was praised for the new leader they elected, because he was very concerned about several of the world’s issues. Our sister synod was praised for the inclusion of homosexual and transgender clergy in their order.
Paul’s letter to the Romans instructs us on being transformed rather than conforming to the ways of the world. As I sit here typing, I remember what God told Ananias when recruiting Paul, that God would show Paul how much suffering he would endure for HIS name.
We don’t like to be hated. It’s not a standard that we try to live up to, but it is Jesus’ when it comes to sharing the Word with anyone. They may accept you, or they may not. The church is in a similar position. Leadership of any church must make sure that it remains a place of transformation where the Good News is proclaimed, but where Christian Doctrine is adhered to.
Catholic leadership is thinking about presenting a document, denying communion to members of the church who are politicians who are pro-choice. As I read the article, my mind came to this article that I have written. Whatever church you belong to, the expectation is that you will adhere to the churches theology 100%. The reason for denominations was the different specific beliefs that the Reformers had.