On Pentecost Sunday this year I preached a sermon about spiritual revival. I have reprinted it in full for you here. You will hear some stories of spiritual growth and revival in this Epistle. I would love to hear from you about the topic. Our growth in Christ may be in a new season as we move from a summer of many people gathering for the first time in person to the fall season with human behavior and the new variant of COVID-19 causing more people getting sick, which leads to more concern and changes in our lives. The well of Living Water does not run dry. I pray you will find the Epistle encouraging as well as grounding for you. – Pastor Diane
Preached on Pentecost Sunday, May 32, 2021
Scriptures of the Day: Acts 2, Ezek. 36:26-27, John 14:15-17; Romans 5:5b, 1 Cor. 2:13-14
Such a change we have all gone through! And as we begin to turn a corner on immunizations, more gatherings of friends and family will take place. I’m going to see my CA family in August!
I’m blessed to have a strong relationship with my family, and it is always renewing to be with them. We will laugh together, share stories and opinions on all topics, and sit close under a big blanket on the couch with popcorn to watch some great movie. I’m safe, I belong and am well-loved. For me, that’s what it is to go home. It’s healing, renewing.
I wonder how many of you are looking forward to reunions with friends or family. I wonder how many don’t have a safe and loving place to “go home” to.
GOING HOME SPIRITUALLY
On Pentecost Sunday, it is appropriate for us to consider what it means to “go home” spiritually. I’m not referring to dying to this life and “going home” to the presence of God in heaven. I am speaking of here and now, while you are yet in this world, having an intentional RETURN to the living God. For some it would feel like a return, for others it would feel like a REBIRTH to be in connection/communion with God. Return, renewal, rebirth, spiritually going home – this is all good news for an individual’s spiritual life. But when a whole congregation returns, renews and is reborn — and when this impacts the neighborhoods around them – then we’ve got a REVIVAL!
FINAL FOUR GROUPS COMPLETE
“TESTIMONY: VOCABULARY OF FAITH”
What people said about “Testimony”:
Who is God was so special to me as I reread the scriptures in the Psalms 27 and 145 explaining God’s compassion and presence in each phase of my life. He has always been there for me. I could not have gotten through without him. Also, the chapter on Love has special meaning to me in Mark 12: 28-34 to love God with all your heart, soul, understanding and strength and love your neighbor as yourself. We should never forget that God knows and sees all and is forever with each and every one of us.
Testimony: Vocabulary of Faith has been a great experience. I am more comfortable discussing my faith with others. Also, sharing personal stories and views with other group members helped me learn more about them and our deeper Christian beliefs.
Testimony was a study in exploring our faith that had direct questions concerning God’s role in different aspects of our lives and asked for direct answers. Upon examination it helped bring to light and enhance beliefs – including questions. It was a sharing experience of ideas, beliefs and questions as we talked with others about their views and interpretation of their faith, which is something not often done on this level. These discussions influenced my thoughts also. Who is God? To me–God is a spiritual entity who has a role in all aspects of our lives—personal commitments (His and ours)–our actions and our communal lives. This study has stimulated much thought. Thank you for the opportunity.
Testimony reminded me, in every lesson, of the six churches I was part of in my life, from birth until now. Each church was a community that taught God’s love and encouraged me to show that love to all God’s creation- people all over the world, other animals, plants, and God’s entire creation. Each church taught God’s word and reminded me of the responsibility to use my talents to show God’s love.
The Testimony Class reminded me to love and pray for my enemies and that I had to learn to hand over a related, major project I was involved in TOTALLY into God’s hands no matter the timing and no matter the outcome. The timing was perfect because it had calmed my mental sanity and, in constant prayer, my serenity was restored.
Testimony’s focus on Jesus’ Teachings about Christian Community Involvement was special to me. Jesus wanted the small children to come to him and learn from him about God and his teachings and not be left out. He gathered disciples around him to spread the word to the people of the world that they might open peoples’ minds to the power of the Holy Spirit. And Jesus’ teachings spread throughout the world, enabling many people to follow him.
Testimony’s lesson on Christian Community really spoke to me. It reminded me that the Beatle’s song “All You Need is Love” is the embodiment of the Christian community.
The testimony series has really helped me, particularly during this very strange, uncertain time because it was equally strange when we read Scripture and look anew at Jesus and his disciples 2000 years ago.
Importantly, Testimony’s lessons gave me an additional connection to my Christian community. As messy as our world is, we all are learning to walk with Jesus, trying to find common ground with those who are “other” and be a friend, even to those whom we find difficult to love. It’s those universal messages of forgiveness, acceptance and grace that has carried us through the ages, so we can continue to build his Kin-dom here and now.
For me, our Testimony group came together at a time I needed it most. I lost my mom, and I felt needed an outlet to make me feel closer to God. I needed some sort of sign that I wasn’t alone. These women became my outlet. I could cry just thinking about it. During our meetings, there was no judgment- no pressure – only love. My favorite takeaway has been this ongoing, underlying theme which was the simple gesture of kindness and love—and if we take the time (even if it’s 5 minutes) to devote ourselves to something bigger than all of us with truth and love and good intention, goodness will come from it, because we let God in.
Testimony group was especially important for the fellowship, in light of the isolation of the last year and a half. As we shared our thoughts and reactions to scriptures, the presence of the Holy Spirit was very strong, and we were together in that presence. There are so many things to think about and address as we begin a transition back into a time of more togetherness. Keeping Christ in the center and reflecting on how we can share his light in a wounded world can help lead to a new sense of hope. I treasured the chance to be with such a fine group of people!
”O give thanks to the LORD; call upon his name; make known his deeds among the peoples!”
– 1 chronicles 16:8
MYSTERIES OF THE BIBLE
An exciting Zoom series on the Mysteries of the Bible is coming this September. Even though there are 66 books in the Bible of various genres and written by multiple authors over centuries, have you ever considered the Bible as having one unified message from Genesis through Revelations?
The theme of this series will be God’s Salvation Plan of the Human Race.
Our leader will be Jack Irwin, older brother of Doug Irwin. Jack is a Mechanical Engineer concentrating on forensic engineering when there is a suit between a contractor and a contractee. He is a lifelong Presbyterian, received his Masters in Divinity from Fuller Theological Seminary and has developed and taught many adult educational courses.
The series will be 5 or 6 weeks long. Each session will be on Zoom and last about 1½ hours. They will probably be held Sunday or Monday evening at 7pm starting either September 19th or 20th. Being that it will be on Zoom, you can invite your friends and relatives to participate.
Jack plans to be here at that time and will attend Sundays worship service. We could also plan on having the first class held in the sanctuary and broadcast on Zoom for those who cannot attend in person.
For more information look forward to future Epistle articles or contact Doug Irwin.
Your “Post-COVID” Spiritual Renewal
Practice: Pray. Choose or adjust your daily time, place and method of prayer.
Scripture: “But this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope: The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.” Lamentations 3:21-23.
Session has a Plan A for worship this fall, and that is to have our music director Mike Kabash return to the sanctuary after Labor Day! Of course, we will watch to see how the Delta variant and human behavior will impact our ability to gather in person. Online worship will continue as an option for those who are uncomfortable or unable to gather in person.
GATHERING ON THE GREAT LAWN
This summer we will have fellowship gatherings on the LPC’s Great Lawn on the following Thursday evenings starting at 6:30pm: August 5th & 19th. Come, bring your dinner or desert, listen to some music, have great conversations with friends. You may invite your friends and neighbors to enjoy the evening.
Your “Post-COVID” Spiritual Renewal
Practice: Reflect. What did you experience during the past 15 months and how were you changed from it?
Scripture: “He will cover you with his pinions, and under his wings you will find refuge; his faithfulness is a shield and buckler. You will not fear the terror of the night, nor the arrow that flies by day, nor the pestilence that stalks in darkness, nor the destruction that wastes at noonday.” Psalm 91:4-6
Not all denominations approach the Bible the same way. The following is a resource describing the Presbyterian Church (USA)’s outlook. For more reading, see the link below.
BIBLICAL AUTHORITY AND INTERPRETATION
A Resource Paper of The United Presbyterian Church of America, 1982, p. 34-35
Interpretations of Scripture are never once and for all but must be continually renewed in the context of changing circumstances. The dynamic nature of faith thus requires a regular and continuing study of the written word and an openness to finding in that word new meanings in response to the new questions that life presents.
Such a dynamic process is not without pain, however. One grows accustomed to viewing the meaning of the word in one way, becoming familiar with its content and its demands. Faithfulness to God is bound up with an individual’s faithfulness to what is understood to be God’s word. When presented with evidence contrary to one’s view, one may tend to ignore it or accommodate it as much as possible. At some point, however, one may discover that one’s understanding is seriously deficient, and faithfulness demands the difficult process of coming to a renewed understanding of what God is saying.
In times such as these, when revolutionary changes are occurring in both the theological and practical life of the church, there is need for an abiding trust in the biblical God who sovereignly acts through individual lives as well as through historical events. Only when such trust permeates the church and its members can one be released from the fear that paralyzes dynamic interactions and from the despair that makes one give up the attempt to work toward a fresh unity in the Spirit. There is need to hear from God as well as from each other and from the world at large. Personally and corporately, there is the need to allow God to confront and correct distortions and incomplete views of the Scripture, the church, and its mission.
One cannot expect to use the Bible in a positive way for guidance and direction in the midst of controversy if one is not accustomed to using it for guidance and direction in daily lives, both individually and corporately. In fact, a more faithful and constant reading of Scripture might provoke more and not less controversy. Nor should this be something to be afraid of. Controversy is a part of life and growth; it may give us the experience of struggling together with Scripture in an authentic and helpful way.
For more on this topic, see the whole position paper that came out of General Assembly in 1982. Here is the URL. https://www.pcusa.org/site_media/media/uploads/_resolutions/scripture-use.pdf
(continued from above)
Christian revivalism can be defined as an increased spiritual interest or renewal in the life of a congregation or society, with a local, national or global effect.
There is an interesting history of Christian revivals in our country and the world. Spiritual revival has roots in the Scriptures, with the Hebrew people who, after a national decline or crisis, would experience a revival.
I have been watching an online conference on revitalizing churches, and in it the speakers spell out the facts about the decline in American churches, and how this was already well on its way when COVID hit, and which sped-up the process. The conference speakers are also inspiring and pointout that stagnant or declining churches need spiritual revival. “Just as God can save any person, God can save any church.” It is up to us to be willing to receive the gifts and love of God, and then to not hoard, but share this love with our local community. it’s not about doing mission projects first, it’s about revival first. Once our spiritual foundation is solid, the fruit of being missional will come.
THOSE WHO ARE SPIRITUAL
We read this morning words from Paul who had stayed with the Corinthians to teach them about Jesus Christ. He writes:
And we impart this in words not taught by human wisdom but taught by the Spirit, interpreting spiritual truths to those who are spiritual. The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned. 1 Corinthians 2:13-14
Friends, I don’t know how confident you are in your spiritual discernment. As your pastor I can support you in this and assure you that the Spirit speaks to each of us differently, but she DOES speak. (“She” is the pronoun for Spirit both in the original Hebrew and Greek. Even though God is without gender I like to throw in the “she” pronoun to counter the default “he” when speaking of God – a reminder of how language impacts us).
Although the American culture is turning away from institutionalized religion, our culture is very interested in spirituality. That’s because we are human – whether we pay attention to it or not, to be fully well as a human requires being connected to the creation and the Creator. Christians refer to this as spirituality.
Fr. Drek Sakoski writes:
To be truly human is to grow our whole life long. Our human existence is dynamic, not static. We are freely invited by God to become who we are. We are created in God’s own image and likeness, and called to receive love freely and give love freely as we grow in communion with God and each other. We are intended to love and be loved with ever-greater depth and fullness and fruitfulness.
Father Derek Sakowski
I love these straight-forward words. One need not trust in God to discover that life is for giving and receiving love. God has placed in the human heart knowledge of God’s realm. And by that I mean the realm of love. We all know people who are not intentionally working on their spiritual growth, or have no interest in pursuing it, and yet they are loving spouses and parents, caring classmates or neighbors. They know a certain dimension of love.
But for those who desire more, there is much more to know. It’s not required, but it often takes hardship before we are willing to draw close to God, and it is then that we start to understand who the Holy Spirit is. One cannot grasp what it is to fall in love until you’ve fallen head over heels. The Holy Spirit is only a concept if you read about her. But when we turn to God with open and humble hearts, God won’t disappoint.
WHAT ABOUT US?
If our congregation is to be full of life as we come out of this pandemic, we need a revival. And revivals of congregations can’t happen without spiritual renewal in individuals. My spirit discerns that we need TLC and healing as part of our revival.
Congregations are revitalized when the individuals are, and at the same time, we need to be together. We need to tell our stories to one another. We need to gather in the flesh.
REVIVAL REQUIRES COMMUNITY
The Judeo-Christian faiths are dependent on God who created us to be communities. One cannot come to know the Holy Spirit by oneself. It is in the breaking of bread that the risen Christ was recognized, remember? it is in the sharing of our lives that we enter into the dimensions of love and life in the Spirit.
You may recall the story of an Ethiopian eunuch, an officer of the queen. In Acts we read:
The Ethiopian eunuch had come to Jerusalem to worship 28 and was returning, seated in his chariot, and he was reading the prophet Isaiah. 29 And the Spirit said to [the disciple] Philip, “Go over and join this chariot.” 30 So Philip ran to him and heard him reading Isaiah the prophet and asked, “Do you understand what you are reading?” 31 And he said, “How can I, unless someone guides me?” And he invited Philip to come up and sit with him. (Acts 8:27-31)
After this conversation the Ethiopian is baptized into the family of God – an affirmation of his belonging to a community like he had never experienced before.
WE ARE SENT SO THEY MIGHT KNOW
We have lived through the global crisis together, and people’s desire to “go home” to God may have become stronger — more on the surface of their awareness.
And where can they, like the Ethiopian, get the needed guidance and community they need? From those who are in a vibrant community of Christ already. Us!
Mike taught our choir the anthem, “Carry the Light.” The lyrics go,
How will they know that Jesus loves them, and he died to save them? Carry the light. Go and tell the children they are precious in God’s sight. Carry the Light.”