I N JOHN’S GOSPEL, we learn that on Resurrection Evening (first Easter evening) the disciples are together with locked doors for fear that they too might be subject to arrest and death. That anytime they exited the upper room it was darting from shadow to shadow.
They were helpless. Lost. Uncertain. Fearful. Paralyzed. That image of cowering, hiding, crouching down in fear is the image I have carried with me until the Day of Pentecost comes and changes things.
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LUKE PRESENTS SOMETHING of a different image. Luke, as you might know, wrote not only the Gospel of Luke but also the book we call the Acts of the Apostles. In those two writings, the disciples are not idle, helpless, fearful. They are active, even in their isolation.
On Easter evening they go with Jesus and see him disappear into the heavens. The disciples worship Jesus with great joy and are continually in the temple. The disciples and close followers, both men and women, gather constantly for prayer. Peter, something of a visionary here.
The work of Jesus is not dead.
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PETER IMAGINES A TIME when the disciples, and that cast of 120 others, will be involved in ministry and mission. What that will look like, he doesn’t know — but they must be ready when that day comes. A disciple must be appointed to replace Judas.
They cast lots and determine that longtime follower Matthias will join the circle of Twelve. (Casting lots, we might say “roll the dice,” was an Old Testament way to discern God’s will. This is the last time this practice is mentioned. After Pentecost the disciples rely directly on the Holy Spirit for guidance.)
They may have been shut up, isolated, staying with their close circle of friends uncertain of when it would be safe to come out. But they were not idle. They were hard at work preparing for the day when the promised “power of the Holy Spirit” would come.
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THOSE 50 DAYS between Easter and Pentecost remind me of our last 50 days. Actually, now more like 70 days. Locked up, afraid to venture out. Isolated. And I wonder how we have spent that time. Praying? Preparing to be ready for God’s work when the time comes? Or simply binding time until an “all clear” signal is broadcast?
The disciples were ready when the Spirit of God fell on them like tongues of fire. The disciples didn’t know exactly what would happen or when it would happen but they were ready, prepared. When the Spirit of God blew on them like hurricane-force winds, they were ready for the Holy Spirit to come.
The disciples, all 120 of them, gathered that day for praise, worship and prayer were ready for a new thing to happen. And when it happened, they rushed into the streets, preaching, answering questions, praising God. A new thing, a new way of faith. There was no road map; there was no “how to” book. There was the Spirit of God falling on them from above.
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YOU MIGHT KNOW that our session — that’s our governing body — formed a task force to vision what the coming weeks and months will look like for ministry and worship at Swift Presbyterian Church. That group has done their homework, covered in prayer, planning and visioning the future.
There will be incremental steps along the way, each based on how the virus spreads or is controlled in our area. There’s no set date but we have set health and safety parameters.
Based on those guidelines, re-entry into the full life of the church might be weeks or months away. It all depends on how the virus continues to transmit through our area. When each goal is met, we will move to the next step.
With session’s final approval, we will begin to implement that plan.
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BEGINNING IN JUNE, there will be opportunities to be creative in new, smaller gatherings. I tell you, I am excited about the possibility of new, different, and creative ways of worshiping Jesus with great joy. And when we do, it will be unlike anything we’ve seen or done before.
When a final approval of our preparations comes, we will inform you through multiple means. Then your visions, your creativity, your listening to the Holy Spirit will be crucial.
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WE CAN BE PRAYED UP and ready, or not. We can have our spiritual lives in order and prepare for what lies ahead, or not. We can be joyful as we wait, or not. We can hear the Holy Spirit of God blow through our lives and offer us fresh ways of gathering and community. We can have plans in place, encourage leaders, create visions, dream dreams — or not.
We can be like those gathered in the upper room during the 50 days between Easter and Pentecost, or not. They did not sit idly by waiting for the Spirit’s arrival like flaming tongues of fire before getting ready.
They worshiped. They prayed. They planned. They prepared themselves, each one of them, for a new thing. For an exciting future. For the power from the Holy Spirit to move them into a new and exciting future.