Pentecost, Reflectionary

In your camp (a Pentecost reflection)

We’re all aware of the level of exhaustion for clergy who have added active online ministry to their already full schedules. Conversations about that weariness online are less a gripe session and more a confession. Wow, yes, this is hard. My wife has been calculating how to get a break for her hardworking staff when all their contributions have become crucial to getting the weekly video worship service put together. We know that seeing the faces and hearing the voices of the pastors, music director, and C.E. director has been comforting to members of the church community, not just a reminder of what was but a promise that the church is the people wherever and however we connect. The crucial measurement is this, I think: to find the line between holding things together and thinking we are the only ones who can hold things together. 

In Numbers 11 we find Moses and the people of Israel in the wilderness, at a moment when the Lord gave a bit of the Spirit granted to Moses to 70 elders in the community, empowering them to prophesy. They were away from the main camp. Perhaps caught by the stray wind of the Spirit, Eldad and Medad prophesied in the camp, instead. Scripture tells us a young man ran to complain to Moses, but Moses did not mind.

But Moses said to him, “Are you jealous for my sake? Would that all the LORD’s people were prophets, and the the LORD would put his spirit on them!”

Numbers 11:29, NRSV

Would that all the people were prophets! Or would that we could hear them.

In Acts 2, all the people were. Not only were they empowered to speak, they understood one another clearly. These Pentecost stories offer a promise to God’s people, and I believe they offer both a caution and a relief to faith leaders. We may all know colleagues who are struggling to find time for a break, but we also know some who relish having their indispensability amplified right now. (We may be looking at the latter every time we brush our teeth.) It’s more than okay to step back and let someone else speak. 

Who is prophesying in your camp? They might be healthcare workers, parents juggling work and schooling at home, elders with more time on their hands than feels helpful, new graduates whose lives have been paused awkwardly, or people living with higher-risk medical conditions. Within your faith community, or in your adjacent circles, consider whose voices would be meaningful for your congregation to hear.

Ask them:

  • How are you experiencing God’s Spirit in this time? 
  • Where have you seen the Body of Christ doing good in our community?
  • What dreams are you dreaming for the church in this new day?

And if technology precludes including their voices live or on a video recording, ask anyway and let the prophets in your camp inform your preaching this week. I feel confident the Spirit is at work among them. 

Preachers, my prayers are with you. I hope you can get a break, whether by sharing worship with a colleague’s congregation, or inviting someone else to lead worship some Sunday soon.


I also wrote about these texts for The Christian Century’s Living By the Word (about John 20:19-23 and the retaining of sins) and their Monday email, Sunday’s Coming (about 1 Corinthians 12 and the new gifts we are uncovering in this time). 

Pentecost, Prayers for Pastors, Reflectionary

Great Composer (a prayer for pastors)

 
Creating God, You are the Great Composer. You have made all things, all the raw material of humankind and the natural world. You write us into being. Guide us in the choices we make. May we be respectful of your gifts to us and make the most of them, for your sake.
 
Saving Christ, You are the Great Harmonizer. You came into the world and showed us how to live in community. You taught us to love not only our friend but our enemies. Help us to find the ways we are most alike in following you and to praise you together.
 
Sustaining Spirit, You are the Great Improviser. Give us the courage to be playful and free as we wander through life, stopping to see beauty, to love kindness, and to live out your grace and mercy.
 
Gracious One, You are the Great Conductor. You set our parts before us, giving us gifts that can work together for good if we will follow your lead. Focus our eyes on your baton, that we may make beautiful music together as your church in this time and place.
 
We offer our prayers for those we hold close in our hearts and the things they face,
for those worrying about illness and injury in their families and congregations,
for those discerning how to follow you faithfully despite human voices that deny their call,
for those wondering how and where to serve you best.
 
On this Pentecost Sunday, call us together as you called your first followers. Give us the power to understand each other beyond boundaries of language, culture, and habit. Grant us the humility to see the things we don’t know in full, to learn from one another, to hear each other’s stories, and to find a common tongue in loving and serving you. Amen.
Books, Children, Pentecost

The Day When God Made Church ( book review)

Paraclete Press, 2016
Paraclete Press, 2016

The Day When God Made Church is a new children’s book from Paraclete Press, and it went to press just in time for the celebration of the holiday it describes, Pentecost. The author is a Presbyterian Church (USA) pastor, the Rev. Rebekah McLeod Hutto. The lively illustrations are by freelance artist Stephanie Haig.

The text of the book begins with the people who followed Jesus waiting to see what will happen next. Those gathered include men, women, children and animals, a microcosm of creation. The first-person plural narration draws the reader or listener into the story, as one hopes to do when reading to young children.

The animals notice something first, and then the people feel the wind of the Spirit. They respond with joy and with a range of verbal expressions:

Some with LOUD sounds,
some with quiet WHISPERS;
words like DRUMBEATS,
words that TIPTOE through the air.

The narrative continues through Peter’s sermon, which is paraphrased for a youthful understanding. We are all called upon to share the good news. The story includes references to Jesus’ ministry, and the illustrations amplify the telling with familiar symbols like loaves and fishes, a lamb, and the empty tomb.

Haig’s illustrations bring the simple text to life with swirls of color and texture. A variety of human and animal figures populate the pages, and the human – males and females across the age range – include a number of skin tones, hair colors and facial features, further embodying the idea of the book that all people are welcome to be part of the church God made and to share the good news with the world.

A photo I took of two of the pages. Don't you love the quizzical dog?
A photo I took of two of the pages. Don’t you love the quizzical dog?

While I don’t find it hard to tell the Pentecost story, and therefore haven’t looked for books to use with children, I really like Hutto’s approach, both theologically and pedagogically. It would be a great book to use for a children’s message in worship or in a Sunday School setting, and certainly appropriate at home as well. The illustrations are fun. They invite curiosity. I particularly appreciate the quirkiness shown by including animals throughout. They are a great way to keep children engaged with the overall story.

As is always true with books from Paraclete, the quality of the book is beautiful. Although it is a paperback, the paper is nice quality and feels good to hold in your hand.

I recommend The Day When God Made Church for church and home libraries, as well as the bookshelves of pastors and Christian educators.

*****

I received a review copy of the book from Paraclete in exchange for my honest assessment. This review originally appeared at RevGalBlogPals.