Gale Force

If there is one thing we know about here on the Outer Banks, it is WIND. We are famous for it. Remember the Wright Brothers? They came here to try out their new-fangled flying machine because our winds are strong and consistent. That’s great for kite flying on Jockey’s Ridge, but not so great for spray painting a baker’s rack, which I did last week. I ended up with more paint on the grass than the metal.

When the winds hit gale force, we hunker down or leave. That is why I was so amazed this morning to read that in the face of gale force winds on the day of Pentecost, the devout pilgrims in Jerusalem ran TOWARD the sound:

Acts 2 (The Message)

1-4 When the Feast of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place. Without warning there was a sound like a strong wind, gale force—no one could tell where it came from. It filled the whole building. Then, like a wildfire, the Holy Spirit spread through their ranks, and they started speaking in a number of different languages as the Spirit prompted them.

5-11 There were many Jews staying in Jerusalem just then, devout pilgrims from all over the world. When they heard the sound, they came on the run. Then when they heard, one after another, their own mother tongues being spoken, they were blown away. They couldn’t for the life of them figure out what was going on, and kept saying, “Aren’t these all Galileans? How come we’re hearing them talk in our various mother tongues?

Parthians, Medes, and Elamites;
Visitors from Mesopotamia, Judea, and Cappadocia,
    Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia,
    Egypt and the parts of Libya belonging to Cyrene;
Immigrants from Rome, both Jews and proselytes;
Even Cretans and Arabs!

“They’re speaking our languages, describing God’s mighty works!”

In John 15 we read that Jesus prays that his followers might be one. Here again we see that the power of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost united the followers in such a way that their languages could be understood by each other. Unity is a theme in the early church. It is God’s desire for his followers. How are we doing?

12 Their heads were spinning; they couldn’t make head or tail of any of it. They talked back and forth, confused: “What’s going on here?”

13 Others joked, “They’re drunk on cheap wine.”

The cacophony of confusion was so strong, it appeared as though the people were drunk. But Peter explains that it is only nine o’clock in the morning and they haven’t had time to get drunk. Peter has obviously never been to a morning college football game.

But notice that he stands to speak to the confused crowd with bold urgency. When was the last time you spoke for God with bold urgency?

Peter Speaks Up

14-21 That’s when Peter stood up and, backed by the other eleven, spoke out with bold urgency: “Fellow Jews, all of you who are visiting Jerusalem, listen carefully and get this story straight. These people aren’t drunk as some of you suspect. They haven’t had time to get drunk—it’s only nine o’clock in the morning. This is what the prophet Joel announced would happen:

“In the Last Days,” God says,
“I will pour out my Spirit
    on every kind of people:
Your sons will prophesy,
    also your daughters;
Your young men will see visions,
    your old men dream dreams.
When the time comes,
    I’ll pour out my Spirit
On those who serve me, men and women both,
    and they’ll prophesy.
I’ll set wonders in the sky above
    and signs on the earth below,
Blood and fire and billowing smoke,
    the sun turning black and the moon blood-red,
Before the Day of the Lord arrives,
    the Day tremendous and marvelous;
And whoever calls out for help
    to me, God, will be saved.”

This foretelling of what will happen in the end times is chilling. God’s Spirit will be poured out on all kinds of people. Visions, dreams, and prophesies will abound. Wonders in the sky and signs on the earth will be hard to miss, as will the blood, fire, and billowing smoke.

All these things will announce that the Day of the Lord is at hand. It sounds terrifying. Are you ready?

Whoever calls out for help will be saved.

Wonders in the Sky by Amy Wrenn

Wildfire

We don’t speak each other’s language today. Even those who live in the same country, occupy the same neighborhood, or live right next door to each other don’t speak the same language. We can look at the tragic events surrounding the death of George Floyd and “hear” it different ways, due to the filters we all have in our ears for processing such information.

The filters that divide our attempts at a common language draw up along the lines of black and white, conservative and liberal, rich and poor, blue and red, Democrat and Republican, and ridiculously, those who wear masks and those who refuse. Somehow we have lost the ability to hear the common language of justice, compassion, unity, and humanity.

Shame on us.

In the book of Acts, the Holy Spirit came upon the people gathered there like a “wildfire.” Wildfires are uncontrollable. They change everything they touch in an instant. Everything is treated equally in a wildfire. And this Pentecost wildfire brought an incredible gift: people of every nation were able to hear and speak each other’s language:

1-4 When the Feast of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place. Without warning there was a sound like a strong wind, gale force—no one could tell where it came from. It filled the whole building. Then, like a wildfire, the Holy Spirit spread through their ranks, and they started speaking in a number of different languages as the Spirit prompted them.

5-11 There were many Jews staying in Jerusalem just then, devout pilgrims from all over the world. When they heard the sound, they came on the run. Then when they heard, one after another, their own mother tongues being spoken, they were thunderstruck. They couldn’t for the life of them figure out what was going on, and kept saying, “Aren’t these all Galileans? How come we’re hearing them talk in our various mother tongues?

Parthians, Medes, and Elamites;
Visitors from Mesopotamia, Judea, and Cappadocia,
    Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia,
    Egypt and the parts of Libya belonging to Cyrene;
Immigrants from Rome, both Jews and proselytes;
Even Cretans and Arabs!

Even Cretans and Arabs could communicate! The power of that Holy Spirit wildfire knew no boundaries. God was enabling them to share an incredible message of the Good News of Christ’s life, death, and resurrection. They could all hear and understand the mighty works of God. They were thunderstruck with the enormity of it all.

“They’re speaking our languages, describing God’s mighty works!”

12 Their heads were spinning; they couldn’t make head or tail of any of it. They talked back and forth, confused: “What’s going on here?”

13 Others joked, “They’re drunk on cheap wine.”

Then Peter stood to give some context to what was happening. He reminded them of the Old Testament prophecies that pointed toward this very day—a day when young men would see visions and old men would dream dreams.

14-21 That’s when Peter stood up and, backed by the other eleven, spoke out with bold urgency: “Fellow Jews, all of you who are visiting Jerusalem, listen carefully and get this story straight. These people aren’t drunk as some of you suspect. They haven’t had time to get drunk—it’s only nine o’clock in the morning. This is what the prophet Joel announced would happen:

“In the Last Days,” God says,
“I will pour out my Spirit
    on every kind of people:
Your sons will prophesy,
    also your daughters;
Your young men will see visions,
    your old men dream dreams.
When the time comes,
    I’ll pour out my Spirit
On those who serve me, men and women both,
    and they’ll prophesy.
I’ll set wonders in the sky above
    and signs on the earth below,
Blood and fire and billowing smoke,
    the sun turning black and the moon blood-red,
Before the Day of the Lord arrives,
    the Day tremendous and marvelous;

This passage gives us hope that one day, through the power of the Holy Spirit, we will be able to set differences aside and hear and speak a common language.

A language of love.

A language of trust.

A language of righteousness.

A language that cries out in one voice for justice for ALL the George Floyds.

Holy Spirit, we need you now.

And whoever calls out for help
    to me, God, will be saved.”

Help us, God. We need to be saved…from ourselves.

Be the Light by Becca Ziegler

Jesus Freaks

I suppose every generation has a version of religious zealots that takes on a unique persona. In the early 1800’s, the Second Great Awakening produced charismatic Camp Meetings, where fiery Revivalists converted the masses. Salvation was their focus.

In the prohibition era, we had lace-hatted ladies who marched with the Women’s Christian Temperance Union, proclaiming that “lips that touch liquor shall never touch mine.” (I had a grandmother who was a proud WCTU card-carrier.) Sobriety was their focus.

In the ‘60s, we had free-spirited “Jesus Freaks,” a counter-cultural group who shared things in common and proclaimed a message of love. Community was their focus. All these groups in their own way were Jesus Freaks of a sort, but the hippie culture may have been the closest to the original:

Acts 2:42-47 (English Standard Version)

42 And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. 43 And awe came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were being done through the apostles. 44 And all who believed were together and had all things in common.

 45 And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need. 46 And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts,47 praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved.

One of the blessings to arise from the pandemic is that the Jesus Freaks among us have revived the notion that we should share our possessions and belongings, and break bread across our community with those who are hungry due to losing jobs. Several restaurants in the Outer Banks have taken the lead with offering free breakfasts, chicken and dumplings lunches, and hearty meatloaf dinners, all free of charge. Some have set up tents for distribution.

Our local homeless ministry has extended their program during a time when they would normally be closed, and churches continue to take turns volunteering and delivering meals.

Churches are expanding their Care Ministries to include any need that comes to their attention. Last week my church had a request to help a non-member who lives almost an hour away from our location. She is hospitalized in another state with a high risk pregnancy, and her husband is struggling to care for their children on his own while working and trying to visit his wife. So my church will deliver meals for the next four weeks, because that’s what Jesus Freaks do.

In the passage above, we see that these acts of community were met with awe, which came upon every soul. This witness of sharing resulted in people coming to Christ in great numbers every day. That is what happens when people see the love of God in action.

Where is God calling you to be the evidence of his love today? Where can you invite awe into someone’s soul by sharing what you have in his name?

God calls us to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, and offer water to the thirsty. There is a need in your community that you can meet. You can produce many wonders and signs of God’s reign right where you are. Go out and find a way to be a Jesus Freak for someone today!

Free Chicken N Dumplings Photo courtesy of the Jolly Roger Restaurant

Heart-Change

It has long been said that it is a woman’s prerogative to change her mind. Any woman married to a man would probably add that it is also a man’s prerogative to change his mind. Changing your mind is not gender-specific. Changing your shoes, maybe, but not changing your mind.

As we follow along with our post-resurrection storyline, we discover the disciples continuing their work in Jerusalem, explaining and revealing the meaning and mystery of the resurrection. Peter is addressing a crowd in Jerusalem who is keenly aware of what has transpired. Not all were eyewitnesses to Jesus’ ministry, death, and resurrection, but they know the rumors and have heard the stories.

Such a crowd is listening now to Peter speak, who is inspired by the Holy Spirit:

Acts 2 (Common English Bible)

36 “Therefore, let all Israel know beyond question that God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ.”

37 When the crowd heard this, they were deeply troubled. They said to Peter and the other apostles, “Brothers, what should we do?”

38 Peter replied, “Change your hearts and lives. Each of you must be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. Then you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.39 This promise is for you, your children, and for all who are far away—as many as the Lord our God invites.” 

Change your mind. Use your prerogative. Change how you think about this, how you feel about this, and most importantly, change your life to reflect your new belief. The power of repentance to bring us closer to God can never be understated. It is the only way to receive complete and utter forgiveness of sins.

40 With many other words he testified to them and encouraged them, saying, “Be saved from this perverse generation.” 41 Those who accepted Peter’s message were baptized. God brought about three thousand people into the community on that day.

Three thousand were brought into the community that day. Can you imagine their profound relief to know that Christ had died for their sin, and they carried that burden no more?

What burden of sin are you carrying right now? What heavy load can you remove with sincere repentance? Where is God calling you to change your mind, heart and LIFE?

This message wasn’t just for Peter’s audience that day, but is a living testimony to the power of God in YOUR life. It is never too late to repent. It is never too late to be cleansed of sin. It is never too late to unburden yourself of something you have carried for years.

It is never too late to change.

Lone Fisherman by Michelle Robertson

Pitching Tents in the Land of HOPE

Every day that goes by during this pandemic brings a new set of numbers, reports, opinions, plans, sorrows, and sometimes even words of hope. Trying to keep up with all of it is overwhelming. Taking a news-fast helps, but every driveway conversation with our neighbors as we walk the dog brings new information and more speculation into our thoughts.

The lectionary passage for the second week of Eastertide absolutely nails it. Again, the ability for the lectionary to speak directly into our situation continues to blow me away. I was accused of cherry-picking my texts (which I don’t do, if you understand how the lectionary works.) But if I was a cherry-picker, honey, I’d have picked this bright red cherry for us today:

Acts 2 (The Message)

22-28 “Fellow Israelites, listen carefully to these words: Jesus the Nazarene, a man thoroughly accredited by God to you—the miracles and wonders and signs that God did through him are common knowledge—this Jesus, following the deliberate and well-thought-out plan of God, was betrayed by men who took the law into their own hands, and was handed over to you. And you pinned him to a cross and killed him. But God untied the death ropes and raised him up. Death was no match for him.

What jumps out immediately is that Jesus was following the DELIBERATE and WELL-THOUGHT-OUT plan of God. That took me back to an earlier lectionary passage where we discovered Paul’s words of encouragement to persevere as we run this race, which is “already marked out” for us. We take that to mean that this pandemic has a beginning, a course of moving forward, and a finish line. There is hope in that! Every day we are one day closer to the end, thanks be to God.

Today we are reminded that God’s plan for dealing with this is deliberate and well-thought-out. Jesus followed it. So should we.

Did you know that God’s plan includes the death of death? He untied the death ropes from Jesus, and death was no match for him!

David said it all:

I saw God before me for all time.
    Nothing can shake me; he’s right by my side.
I’m glad from the inside out, ecstatic;
    I’ve pitched my tent in the land of hope.
I know you’ll never dump me in Hades;
    I’ll never even smell the stench of death.
You’ve got my feet on the life-path,
    with your face shining sun-joy all around.

I would love for us to make David’s words our prayer. Pray this today if you need a little boost:

Gracious and Loving God,

Today I have decided that nothing can shake me. YOU are right by my side.

Knowing this brings me gladness from the inside-out!

And so today, I will choose to pitch my tent in the land of HOPE.

I know that I will not be abandoned to the hell of death, because You have my feet walking the path of light.

Father, I raise my joy-bright face toward heaven and loudly proclaim:

NOT TODAY, SATAN. Amen.

Thank you for pitching your tent next to mine. Together, we will get through this.

Sunrise in the Land of Hope by Michelle Robertson