Today’s Scriptures: From the Book of Common Prayer
Psalm 118, 145
How can we worship and serve with the zeal of the early apostles?
Pentecost Sunday gives us the opportunity to break a bit out of the normal, stoic worship experience and worship with zeal. We cannot talk about Pentecost without excitement – and that makes me wonder why we do not still worship and live with the forceful exuberance of the early apostles. If they can do it, why can’t I?
Like many of our Holy Days, Christian Pentecost coincides with the Jewish Pentecost or Festival of Weeks that occurred fifty days after Passover (hence the name derived from the word meaning fifty). For the Hebrews, it was a harvest festival celebrating the bringing in of the harvest. While the harvest for the Christian faith does not come in heads of grain, Pentecost does represent a harvest of souls through the opening of the Church to all people.
The Deuteronomy passage describes the festival of weeks as a time for everyone to celebrate – family, slaves, Levites, strangers, orphans, widows. The community presented the grain tithes from the harvest as well as free will offerings above and beyond the required tithe. The festival served as an opportunity to celebrate the harvest and to remember the days enslaved in Egypt despite now being safely in the land the Lord provided.
Acts describes an event much like the one Jesus described in last Sunday’s passage from Matthew 10. The apostles had been threatened by leaders, yet they continued to speak boldly with the power given to them by the Holy Spirit. They came out of the experience and continued to tell the works of Jesus with such fervor that the Holy Spirit shook the building where they worshipped. They experienced all these things first hand and courageously followed Christ’s commission to them
We have their first-hand accounts.
We have the Holy Spirit with us even today.
How often do we act with this much boldness even with the same tools? The apostles preached boldly when their lives were on the line for every statement they made. Very few of us today live in a place where our lives are jeopardized for belief in Christ or the proclamation of that belief. Certainly we sometimes face mockery and disdain from people who do not believe, but rarely is life or livelihood put at risk. Following the examples of the apostles, we learn that absolute reliance on God, and God’s presence with us in the Holy Spirit, allow us to do everything he desires. In the John passage, Jesus tells the woman at the well to worship God in spirit and in truth. Psalm 145 promises all who call on God in truth will be heard. The same promises continue for us today – and we will see the same results when we take courage and fully believe in the assurances from God and listen to the message of the Holy Spirit.
Let us be as emboldened by the Holy Spirit as the early church to worship with zeal, preach with confidence, and believe completely.