June 8, 2014
Point of Order, by Pastor Fred
In those days, it says in the book of Acts. That’s how simply the story starts! In those days – that is, the 10 days in between the ‘Ascension of Jesus’ and the ‘Day of Pentecost’ – In those days, Peter said, ‘I call this congregational meeting to order!’ and immediately, he went to the mike, asking for “a Point of Order!”
This was technically, pre-Church, prior to the coming of the Spirit at Pentecost, and strictly an in-house meeting. They had one constitutional requirement to fulfill, electing a replacement for Judas, who had died suspiciously, after having betrayed Jesus to the authorities, which, of course, had started the ball rolling on his arrest. And now, In those days, they understood how important it was that there should again be 12 Disciples – representing the 12 Tribes of Israel, all of God’s chosen people, if they were to be ready for the next step of their organization. Acts notes that there are about 120 people in attendance for Peter’s Congregational Meeting. So, you have to wonder, was this the Quorum count? A record of the voting members, inserted like a kind of first Minutes of the Early Church? It also makes for a good round number for any small church, then or now! And, of course, it’s also exactly 10 times the 12 Tribes of Israel and 12 Disciples of Jesus.
There were two nominations from the floor: “Joseph called Barsabbas, who was also known as Justus, and Matthias.” Both were qualified. And so, according to their polity, a tradition, it seems to me, more rich than voting, in a way, they cast lots, which basically means, rolling dice, or drawing a name out of a hat! But first, they had a prayer about it – Peter asking God to show them who should be chosen – and, after all, if both were qualified, the only decider I guess, IS God! And that’s how Matthias got picked. And then they adjourned the meeting. And Matthias took Judas’ vacated spot, as the new 12th Disciple, and they all went back to waiting for the Spirit to come.
“You will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you…” Jesus had promised them before leaving. But still, they had little idea what was about to happen. Gathered in the Upper Room, in Jerusalem, waiting, pilgrims from every country were flooding into The City of David for the Wheat Festival called Pentecost, to offer a tithe, or two loaves of leavened bread, in the Temple.
Pentecost was always the second festival of the year, 50 days after Passover, held sometime in the third month. It was probably just a one day celebration, instead of the usual week, but still, was well attended. And so, when the day of Pentecost had come, they were all fiercely on task, waiting together in one place, focused on their mission, though, truth be told, a bit afraid of speaking out publically, and being arrested as followers of Jesus, and mostly unsure of what to do next. While thousands of pilgrims flooded the city of Jerusalem, the ‘organization in waiting’ was huddled away from all the festival goers and their festivities.
Today, we remember this day of Pentecost, not because we are Pilgrims going to Jerusalem, or farmers bringing a thank offering of our crops, but as 21 century folks, maybe a little fearful of what it means to be a person of faith in today’s world, and unsure where God is, or what God is up to, and how to explain it! And yet, at the same time, I detect there is a trustfulness, and a hope, and a mounting courage for the task, our Unity Lutheran congregation has been given to do in the world, and especially a thankfulness, today, that we are receiving four new members as a part of our Gathering.
Gathered together on Pentecost Day in Jerusalem, the Twelve waited – for what, they weren’t sure – when suddenly from heaven there came a sound like the rush of a violent wind. Like a twister coming down Tornado Alley, perhaps? And yet, there was no destruction of property or life, even though the wind, or spirit, filled the entire house where they were sitting. Deafening! Disorienting! Divided tongues, as of fire, appeared among them, and a tongue rested on each of them.
The Holy Spirit had come in the very way, so as to remind everyone of the other tradition celebrated at Pentecost, the giving of the 10 Commandments on Mt Sinai, which was a windy, smoky, fire and lightening storm, overcoming the mountain, also showing forth the presence of God, before Moses and all the people gathered there!
Like the Covenant that God wrote on the stone tablets for Israel, God at Pentecost, gave miraculous words to speak, to the 12 Disciples. The Holy Spirit filled them, and they began to speak in other languages, so that all the pilgrims who had arrived on the holy mountain in Jerusalem from around the world, could understand in their own native language. No more would they have to listen to the Mass in Latin, but they could understand in their own tongue – in Urdu or Ghanaian or Arabic, in German or Norwegian, in Spanish or Swedish – and know the Word of God plainly and intimately!
Pentecost was a sign of the New Covenant God was making with all the followers of Jesus, not written on stone tablets, but written in their hearts: “you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth”
As usual, the reaction to these phenomena, was mixed. Some believed and some didn’t. They were either amazed or perplexed. Some asked, “what does this mean?” While others sneered and said, “they are filled with new wine!”
Have you ever been given a perplexed look, or even sneered at, when a friend found out you go to church? Do they ask, why would you do that? Or worse, look puzzled like you’re high on something – filled with new wine!
Today, we rejoice in the gift of God’s Holy Spirit, in Christ Jesus, poured out on Joe, and Pat, and Robert and Sandy, who courageously stand in the circle of faith with all the rest of us, to state publically, yes, I do intend to continue in the New Covenant God made with me in holy baptism… and I ask God to help and guide me. We have all made such a promise at some time, whether at baptism or confirmation or new membership, but it’s always a moment that – internally – seems like the rush of a violent wind blowing through us, and as if tongues of fire are burning on our heads, because we know, this is real, this is vitally important – this is our lives, this is life and death!
God comes to us, interrupting our lives, and our well planned organizations and meetings, with a divine Point of Order. God’s new covenant overpowers our agenda’s and breaks down all our human made barrier’s, and includes people of all nations, both men and women, young and old, even servants and imprisoned. Like a tornado and fire, God’s Holy Spirit is all consuming, without destroying a single pane of glass or wall of plaster, yet entering our lives deeply and irrevocably, building up the Body!
Today – in these days – the Spirit of Pentecost has arrived and is alive and well. We see it in our New Members, and we see it in all of us, gathered here, a hungry band of disciples, with lots of questions, with a passion for love and grace, peace and justice, right now, here in our world and community, for our families and neighborhoods. We desire to be on fire with the ‘truth and the life’ – and so we say, we do, and we ask God to help and guide us!