My friend and colleague Erik Heen, a New Testament scholar, reminded me that at the first Pentecost, all those gathered together were Jews, as were all the first followers of Jesus. They had come to the holy city Jerusalem from all the ends of the known world, speaking every imaginable language. In dramatic fashion, with tongues of flame and streaming winds, the Holy Spirit formed these diverse people into a single new community. Miraculously, they all seemed to speak the same language. Ancient divisions were overcome. In an instant they were one body, called together by the Holy Spirit, sharing one commitment to the risen Christ.
At first the movement was inward, getting to know one another, strengthening. But soon enough that Spirit could not be contained. The Spirit spread, like flames on the wind, and soon Gentiles –anyone who was not Jewish – were welcomed into the community. The flames spread, the beloved community grew, no limits, no membership dues or entrance tests. All shared the Spirit.
It struck me that we at Old First are like that early church. Living in the Spirit, we begin by welcoming and nurturing each other. Worship unites us. There are no tests conveniently located in the pews to see if you can stay for worship. We speak a common language, but there are many dialects. Passing the peace is a babble of many happy tongues, greeting, welcoming, feeling the Spirit, sharing the peace of Christ.
But the Spirit cannot be contained within even so wonderful a community as Old First. Those flames need to leap out of the sanctuary, to reach out to others. Old First does reach out. Beds appear on the social room floor for men without a home. Food is on the table on Saturdays and clothes for every season. Through organizations like POWER we participate in the life of our city, seeking justice for hard workers on short wages. Five dollar blankets travel to the ends of the earth Old Firsters walk against hunger. Old First forms itself into a community of the Spirit and then that Spirit expands our community. Everyone we meet as Old First becomes a part of our community. Again, there are no tests, no entrance requirements, no exclusion clauses. Just the opposite. We rejoice in diversity, the many gifts people bring. WE welcome all in the name of the Spirit. The Spirit calls us all together, into one common community, with one common voice. At Pentecost we receive the Holy Spirit anew but we live in its power to form a new and blessed community the whole year long. Praise the Spirit of God!
See you in Church,