Donate to St. Paul's and Help Us to Help Many! Use PayPal or your credit card here to share your love securely.
At St. Paul’s: “Our primary mission is to relate to, and minister to people who are living on the edge, who seek God’s will for their lives, struggling to find direction and purpose in a society that can be violent, insensitive and money-grabbing.”
Being a Pentacost Community
Have you ever traveled to another part of the country, or another part of the
world, and you don’t speak the language there? And you have to try to ask
for a bathroom and they laugh at you? You ask – Donde esta el Bano? My
accent is terrible. And the people in the gas station point to the pond.
Sometimes I think that walking into St. Paul’s Church is like walking into a
different country. There are all these strange people; there’s a bulletin the
size of a notebook, there is guitar music, children running around and the
sanctuary is usually filled with people of all shapes, sizes and colors. If I
were a stranger, it might be a little uncomfortable. And then if the person
next to you has questionable hygiene, it might be downright irritating.
If we are to survive as a church community, our primary focus MUST BE on
welcoming the stranger, being open to the new gifts that each new person
has to offer. And it does not matter if they speak our language. Every
time a new person comes in the door, we must welcome them. Every
time someone joins the community, we should flex and compromise to
incorporate him or her into our group. After all, we are all on this journey
together called life.
But that is not to say we have to like everyone. We may love our neighbor
as we love ourselves, but we might not like them. Who was it? George
Carlin, I think, said it best: “Human beings are a dear, hateful, sweet,
barbaric, tender, vile, intelligent, confused, virtuous, evil, thoughtful,
perverted, generous, greedy species.” And in a U2 song, Bono, said: we
would get along so much better if we weren’t so much alike. Sometimes
the things we dislike most in others are the things we hate about ourselves.
But, at least we know this: we know that God is struggling to get our
attention, and most often, God communicates with us through people.
Throughout the Judeo-Christian Scriptures, the stories and commentary
tells of human beings struggling to find God, and God is usually right there
in the midst of them.
So today we celebrate Pentacost. Pentecost, a Greek term meaning "the
fiftieth day", is celebrated 50 days after Easter Sunday. Historically and
symbolically, Pentecost is related to the Jewish harvest festival of Shavuot
which comes ironically, fifty days after completion of the Exodus, on which
day God gave the Ten Commandments to the people at Mount Sinai.
So, Pentecost started as a celebration of the end of the spring harvest
season. Pagans, Jews, people of all faiths and no faith came to the center
of their known civilization, Jerusalem by the hundreds of thousands,
not only to sell what they had harvested, but to go to the Temple and
present offerings of bread, fruit, and oxen to the priests. It is interesting
to comment here that all of the disciples were Jews, Jesus was a Jew and
that Jesus did not intend to start a new religion, per se, but he intended to
just make Scriptures come alive for the people who heard his sermons and
followed him. Religion piled on top of religion piled up on religion.
Today, our Pentecost celebrates the outpouring of the Spirit where the
faithful people of the community were empowered to take the Gospel of
the Lord Jesus Christ to all nations. Millions of Christians have, over the
centuries, been ordained to preach, teach and heal; in essence, called and
commissioned to go out into the highways and byways to “fish for men.”
The outpouring of the Spirit gave the disciples the courage and mental
fortitude to boldly confront the world, to edge out from behind the protection
of locked doors and to walk, talk, and move about society and find new life.
The powerful changes went well beyond the immediate disciples, as the
story goes, and affected others in a massive way; 3000 were baptized on
the first day alone. But the most dramatic work of the Spirit wasn't merely
an internal or individual act—the whole rapidly growing community of
believers acted as if the Reign of God was truly at hand.
The community formed by the Pentacostal Christians was a radical,
strange bunch. They held all money and things in common; they sold their
possessions and goods and distributed the proceeds to all, as any had
need. They prayed and broke bread together, with glad and generous
hearts (Acts 2:44-47). They were intimate, friendly and joyful. Small
wonder, with lives like that, that they had "the goodwill of all the people,"
and that many sought to join them.
Part of what makes Pentecost such a great story is that the Spirit
is poured out on a people regardless of what native language they spoke.
Regardless of their comprehension, God was still speaking to them. people
had come from all nations and cultures—"Parthians, Medes, Elamites;
etc. . . Jews and proselytes; Cretans and Arabs"—and in their own
languages they heard each other speaking about God's mighty deeds and
Luke says that everyone was amazed and wondered, "What does this
mean?" Others who were less charitable scoffed at the members taken by
the spirit of the moment because they looked as if they were “drunk on new
wine." Peter, obviously recovered from his worst fears of being humiliated,
stepped courageously forward and demonstrated some much-needed
leadership. “Listen up,” he said, “these people are not drunk, as you
suppose. They are fulfilling the prophecy of Joel, who said that God would
speak through all flesh, that our sons and daughters would prophesy, that
our young people would see visions, and that our old people would
dream dreams. And in effect he said, these people are visionaries. Prepare
for the kingdom of God which will blow your mind.
Peter and his other leaders, now numbering in the thousands, built the
church in a rapid pace. God not only spoke to them, God spoke through
them, to the world around them, in a variety of languages. There continue
to be people in every generation of the Christian faith who wonder whether
God is still speaking in their time and place. It might go against the grain
for some because they believe in the inerrancy of scriptures, that God has
already said everything that we ever need to know in scripture, or through
some church figure head, or in some church document, and that all we
need to do is to read it, and embrace it. But God is not finished with us.
There is still more to do.
'In the last days, God says, I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons
and daughters will prophesy, your young men will see visions, your old men
will dream dreams. Even on my servants, both men and women, I will pour
out my Spirit in those days, and they will prophesy.
So even if you have heard this all before, God is still speaking and you
better be listening. Even if you have a hard time relating to your fellow
human beings, your vision of the future is important to building God’s
community. Even if you are exhausted from your job, or your life, especially
if you are tired of being taken advantage of, treaded on, beaten down,
laughed at, scoffed at, bullied there is a way for you to be born again, to
gather your strength and courage, to redirect your spiritual gifts so that our
community benefits from your wisdom and compassion. God is still working
and speaking to us. The Holy Spirit is still moving and motivating God’s
people to do their part to invite people to a better way of life.
The Church Council and other leaders met on retreat Friday and Saturday.
And our focus scripture was the LOVE PASSAGE. I would like to ask each
person who is here today, to maybe say a word or two about how St. Paul’s
Community church is building God’s community, here and in the city and
1 Corinthians 13
If I speak in the tongues of mortals and of angels, but do not have love, I am a noisy gong or a
clanging cymbal. 2And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge,
and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. 3
away all my possessions, and if I hand over my body so that I may boast,[a]
4 Love is patient; love is kind; love is not envious or boastful or arrogant 5 or rude. It
does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; 6
wrongdoing, but rejoices in the truth. 7
things, endures all things.
8Love never ends. But as for prophecies, they will come to an end; as for tongues, they will
cease; as for knowledge, it will come to an end. 9 For we know only in part, and we prophesy only in
part; 10 but when the complete comes, the partial will come to an end. 11 When I was a child, I spoke
like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child; when I became an adult, I put an end to
childish ways. 12 For now we see in a mirror, dimly,[b]
only in part; then I will know fully, even as I have been fully known. 13And now faith, hope, and
love abide, these three; and the greatest of these is love.
If I give
but do not have love, I
it does not rejoice in
It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all
but then we will see face to face. Now I know