2014 06 08 Road of Riches (John 7:37-39 Believers shall be fountains of living water; Acts 2:1-21 Pentecost)
Story of Chris Koch:
We have many gifts, many abilities. Imagine being born without arms or legs. What would you be able to do?
Here is a small part of the story of Chris Koch who lives in Nanton south of Calgary.
–the 35-year-old farmer
–Being born without limbs, accomplished more than most able-bodied folks do in a lifetime.
— learned to golf, ski, snowboard and play the piano,
— put in countless hours as a volunteer,
— degree in psychology and history,
— volunteer work with such charities as War Amps Canada
— three-month solo journey through Europe where he navigated the historic sites on his skateboard.
— as part of a fundraiser for the Calgary Zoo, he climbed all 802 steps of the Calgary Tower in less than a half-hour. He topped that feat a few months later by climbing Toronto’s CN Tower, raising more $2,000 for the United Way by climbing 1,776 steps in 50 minutes, 34 seconds.
“I want to use my life to inspire and motivate others,”
The Cathedral of Hope in Dallas, Texas will have been full this morning as people eagerly waited to see what fiery drama has been planned. When I showed Bonnie a Youtube video which showed a little bit of past services, not even the best parts, her response was that kind of service could cause some people to have heart attacks.
The evangelist who wrote the Gospel of Luke and the Book of the Acts of the Apostles has bystanders claim the apostles were full of too many spirits, rather than full of the Spirit.
The story of Pentecost divides people into many different camps including the following.
There are those who believe it happened exactly as described in our reading from Acts, and believe that experience can still happen. The Pentecostal Churches were founded on this belief and they are the fastest growing churches in the world today. Within one or two generations, there will be more followers of Pentecostal churches than any other form of Christian churches. Phyllis Trickle, one of the speakers at Epiphany Explorations used them as an example for her belief that we are now in the age of the Holy Spirit, an age she expects to last about another 400 years before we enter the age of the Trinity. Other people are also seeking that kind of experience.
There are those who believe in the event described in Acts, but believe it was a one-time only event. Most of these also believe the Holy Spirit can affect our lives today, but not the same way.
Some people believe the community of disciples had an Ahha! moment which one evangelist chose to describe this way.
This group is split between these people do not believe the Holy Spirit actually interacts with people, and those who do, but not in outwardly visible ways.
I am naïve enough to believe that an event something like what was described happened, but that the nature of the event was beyond the capacity of the people involved to describe it adequately. The literal details are not important to me – the drama of the event is.
Pentecost speaks to what church can be: dramatic, unpredictable, exciting, inspiring, surprising, empowering, much like the whole of the ministry and teachings of Jesus. Immediately after the event, so goes the story in Acts, the disciples poured into the streets where they started sharing the good news that Jesus had for them. I try to imagine a church service that was followed by the participants exciting going out into the streets, telling all the people they met about the wonderful news they had to share. That I will never see. What I do see, and will see is how experiences of the Spirit bring people’s lives to a rich fullness.
The author of the Gospel of John has Jesus claiming that believers will have rivers of living water pouring from them.
Engaging the Spirit opens the gate to incredible gifts. The early community experimented with new forms of community. Hope and excitement became parts of the lives of people who, until then, had little to hope for their lives. As the community spread creating new communities around the Mediterranean and to the East and South, to India and Ethiopia, the intersection between Spirit, Story, and traditions resulted in the creation of a diversity of communities, some of which, such as the Syrian Orthodox churches, survived persecutions, and the rise and fall of numerous empires over the centuries.
There are Christian communities in India that trace their origins to the work of Thomas.
Prodded by the Spirit, people have produced advances in Mathematics, Sciences, Arts including Music and Drama, government, and business. There are many charities whose roots lie in faith and belief.
On a personal level, Spirit-filled lives meet obstacles with determination and confidence, needs with generosity, hate and fear with love and compassion.
Life with the Spirit brings riches resistant to corrosion, theft, and financial meltdowns.
The pot hole in the Road of Riches started by Pentecost is the desire for control. Lack of trust in the power of God to make things right prompted, and prompts, leaders to make decisions that squelch the Spirit, close the gates. Walter Farquarson, as a meeting of Saskatchewan Conference, gave a keynote address which included his plea for the church to get out of the way of the Spirit. I discovered that this plea seemed to have been missed by most of the people at that meeting—possibly an example of cognitive dissonance. Too many people believe church has to be a certain way, and anything else is not really church. No matter how much evidence they encounter that goes against this belief, they are unable to accept it.
This is why churches have a reputation for being boring and strict places to be. It is sad that desire for security, comfort, and control has so strongly marked the church that was born when no one present had control: wind and tongues of fire, speaking in tongues, preaching in the streets. Traditionalism puts traditions on pedestals and turns a deaf ear to calls to live out the excitement of Pentecost in changing people’s lives.
Patriarchalism confiscated the church to protect the status of white males.
Greed for status, wealth and power had church leaders becoming allies with political leaders, turning the church into the opposite of what Jesus preached.
This is part of our church history. It does not have to be part of our church future. The church was born in the midst of chaos. Chaos may be what is needed to give birth to the new church needed today by the world. There is resistance to this chaos.
Fortunately, the Spirit will always burst forth, disrupting what is not of God to make space for what does come from God. Today, churches are dying and churches are being born as this disruption continues.
New churches provide places for people to receive, enjoy and share their riches. These riches will be different for each person, and the focus will be on the church liberating people and their gifts, not on people keeping the church alive.
Tomorrow, whenever that might be, the church will fully again be a place where everyone finds the keys they need to open gates to rich lives on roads of riches that really matter. In the process, they will use some of their riches to support the ministry of the church to others. And we will continue on the way where Jesus leads us, one step at a time. Thanks be to God.