Sunday, May 27, 2007

"When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place."

(The Acts of the Apostles, 2:1, RSV)

"The sanctuary's not air conditioned," I reminded my mom on the phone as we discussed meeting at a Chinese restaurant for dinner before church.

Well, the folks that designed the "prayer stations" tonight really capitalized on that one...

One station had a prayer, When I'm afraid, Holy Spirit refresh me. When I'm tired, Holy Spirit refresh me. And then when you were done, you were to take a drink of cool water as a reminder of the refreshment of the Holy Spirit.

Another station was a fan positioned behind a card table. (This station was duplicated on each end of the Great Hall.) On the card table was a reminder that the Spirit is like the wind, it goes where it wishes. (John 3:8). It felt really good to stand in front of the fan, and one wonders why the fans were turned off for the rest of the service...

Another station was a table, and on it was a bowl of ice. The prayer was something like this: Our hearts are frozen, we are cold: to God, to others. To symbolize our desire to melt, to be open to God, to others, we poured hot water onto the bowl of ice. The visual, seeing the water melt even a little portion of ice, was a reminder that God does melt our hearts of stone.

I wandered from station to station and ended up sitting on the toy carpet by Alyssa's mom, chatting a bit.

And the sermon was like an old camp revival exhortation: "You are the gospel to your neighbor, your co-worker, your friend." Why do people need Jesus? Because they are sinners. Why do people need the church? Because we can't go through this life alone, as forgiven sinners. IT'S HARD!! God is a missionary God, THEREFORE, we are a missionary people. Maybe you think of a missionary as someone in Africa, or South America. When God thinks of a missionary, he sees your face.

Giving the sermon was the pastor of the Pittsburgh Presbytery. Who before he started his message, told us how much the Pittsburgh Presbytery loves and supports the Open Door, because we are trying new things.

At the end of the service, as folks were folding up tables, I approached him and said, "Thank you for coming, it was encouraging." He said something and I said, "We get discouraged." And he said, people care about this church. People are praying for you. It was good to hear. I needed to hear that.

Lilly was there, and sat by us in the beginning, and later, with a veteran, who walked in just as BJ was saying "The Holy Spirit is an eclectic person." The veteran, wizened and looking a little spaced out, held a flag, which he waved. Lilly knew him, which didn't surprise me, she knows so many people, and went and sat by him, and encouraged him. Even the pastor, as he preached, came up to the veteran and thanked him for his service to our nation.

Oh, and John presented our graduation gift to BJ: a gift certificate for a bike. (BJ graduated from seminary on Thursday, woo hoo!)

And I am encouraged. I am encouraged for having spent time with my family, having folks meet my family...and as I am listening to the PBS Memorial Day special on WQED behind me, I am encouraged. I am crying as I listen to an actress do a monologue of a mom who lost her 20 year old son, who writes a in a journal every Sunday sitting at Arlington National Cemetary.

I hope you are encouraged as we enter this season of Pentecost.* These are not easy times, these times in which we live.

As the poet Gerard Manley Hopkins wrote, in his poem "God's Grandeur,"

Generations have trod, have trod, have trod;
And all is seared with trade; bleared, smeared with toil;
And wears man’s smudge and shares man’s smell: the soil
Is bare now, nor can foot feel, being shod.

And for all this, nature is never spent;
There lives the dearest freshness deep down things;

Because the Holy Ghost over the bent
World broods with warm breast and with ah! bright wings. (1918)**

*Pente=50, so 50 days after the Passover and now in the Christian tradition, 50 days after Easter.
**First published January 1996; published July 1999 by; © Copyright, Inc


daisymarie said...

The prayer stations sound so neat.

Sarah Louise said...

They were cool (hee) and actually some of the best ones we've had. The visual of the ice melting really got me.

John said...

Thanks for sharing about your encouragement - it is an encouragement to the rest of us.