I grew up in a world much different than today. I am thinking about the world as it was when I was in 4th and 6th grade like Carleigh, Kailynn, and Macie. The world has changed so much in just about 30 years. I’m too young to be nearly 30 years older
I had one TV in my house. We got 5 or 6 channels; to get some of them, my dad had to adjust the antenna. We had a channel guide that came in the weekly newspaper. We had one corded phone with no voice mail or call waiting and everyone could be found in the phone book. When my dad rented a movie, he also rented the VCR from the video store. I had a computer on which I played “Where In the World Is Carmen Sandiego.” My brother had an Atari with 2 or 3 games. All the neighborhood kids played outside until our dads came home from work. We’d eat dinner as a family then all the kids would go back outside to play until dark – there were no street lights. I didn’t have homework from school.
Today, there are multiple TVs in most homes. Many of us have cable or satellite service so we have 100s of channels. Our channel guide is on the screen
and we can scroll through 100s of channels in seconds. Many families don’t have
a home phone only cell phones with call waiting, voice mail, texting, and internet connectivity. We have DVD or Blue-ray players or watch movies through NetFlix.
We have computers, laptops, iPads, tablet PCs, and Kindles. We play on the internet and Facebook and check our e-mail. We have Wiis, Xboxes, and Play Stations with lots of games and controllers and we play games online. I can’t imagine what the next 30 years hold.
In those 30 years, the religious landscape of America has changed, even more if we look back 60 years. When some of you grew up, most Americans went to church. To be American was to be a Christian. Church was not only about the fellowship of believers. There was a social aspect of recreation with your neighbors.
In my childhood, many of my friends did not go to church. I’d say about half went to church. And, those who did go to church didn’t talk about it. Probably most of these girls’ classmates do not go to church. The percentage is probably a little higher in a small town like Bethany than in a larger town. Being an American today does not necessarily mean one is a Christian.
In the past, some people went to church because that’s what everyone else did. These girls come to church despite their friends not going. They will continue to come to church and make it a priority as long as worship is meeting their spiritual needs and there are opportunities for them to serve their neighbors. In order for the church to remain a priority in their lives, the church must offer something of significance.
In 30 years, the church hasn’t changed much. Clearly, the Gospel of Jesus Christ has not and will not change. The way it has been delivered over 2,000 years has. But, in the past 30 years, it has changed little. We have some technology in the sanctuary. We send our children to Children’s church for faith formation. We still have Sunday school and committees and a Board. Our neighborhoods change. The needs of our neighbors change. We have not changed.
The girls today became members of this congregation and the body of Christ. They join a church with more than 2,000 years of tradition beginning at the Pentecost experience when the Holy Spirit was poured out upon the community of faith gathered. Today, the Holy Spirit has been poured out upon Carleigh, Kailynn and Macie at their baptism and it has been poured out upon our church. Today is a new Pentecost.
There have been many Pentecosts since the first Pentecost. In the remaining chapters of the book of Acts, there are several other Pentecost events when the Spirit is poured out upon the community. For example, in chapter 8 when Philip baptizes the Ethiopian Eunuch, or Paul’s conversion in chapter 9 or Peter’s conversion to a universal gospel in chapter 10.
The day of Pentecost was the initial outpouring of the Holy Spirit. The Spirit continues to come throughout the history of the church. For example, when monastic communities developed in the middle ages, or the Protestant Reformation, the revivals of the first and second Great Awakenings. One such event in the history of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) is the Cane Ridge revival in Kentucky.
All of these events are times when God poured out the Spirit upon men and women to blaze a new trail and birth a new era in the church. Today is a new Pentecost with the gift of the Holy Spirit to renew the church in our age.
Today is a new beginning. We have new members who have received forgiveness, received the Holy Spirit, and received spiritual gifts. These girls are excited about Jesus. They want to read their Bibles and learn about Jesus. The church that these girls need is one that helps them grow in their faith and their knowledge of the Bible. They are looking for sermons that are spiritually challenging, worship that is experiential, and small groups for faith formation. They are looking for a community that will journey with them as their lives are transformed by Christ. Over their lifetime, they will discover their spiritual gifts and be matched to ministries that suit their gifts and their passions. They will partner with the Holy Spirit to do amazing things.
Today, the Holy Spirit has fallen afresh on us. We can begin to dream dreams about how the Spirit will work in us and through us to transform lives. We can see visions of what we can be and do. Next week, we are going to celebrate the past 3 years. The Holy Spirit came upon this church and gave it a vision of what it could be. Next week, we’ll celebrate how successful this community has been in living into that vision. This celebration will not be a reflection on or comparison of the great work that has been a part of the church’s history. Next week, we will celebrate the work that has been done over the past 3 years as part of the ministry plan. It is important to celebrate how we have successfully partnered with the Holy Spirit the past 3 years as we begin to discern God’s vision for the next 3 years. That discernment starts with the outpouring of the Holy Spirit today.