When the day of Pentecost had come the disciples were all together in one place, when suddenly there came from heaven a sound like the rush of a violent wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. The disciples were together in one place, and they were waiting. They were waiting together. They were not waiting by themselves. Of course, a disciple is a disciple among disciples and a believer is a believer among believers. So, there is individuality, but there is also a focus on community. God chooses to pour out his Spirit, not just on a single individual, but on the church, the community of believers. Now that’s the principle in the book of Acts 2, on the Day of Pentecost.
The principle of community is something that is throughout the New Testament, the letters, the book of Acts, and the Gospels. However, each one of us has an individual journey, and that is evident in the way that Jesus called each one of his disciples, by name, one at a time. Pentecost does not diminish the message that each person is unique and special in the eyes of God, but magnifies the unity of one church, many members, and one body.
Pentecost is about the birth of the church. It’s the birthday of the church. The church becomes the vehicle by which God chooses to continue the work of Christ in our world. Through the Holy Spirit, we now share in the personification of Jesus Christ. We are now the Body of Christ and Christ is our head. Saint Teresa of Avila penned in the year 1555:
Christ has no body but yours,
No hands, no feet on earth but yours,
yours are the eyes with which he looks
Compassion on this world,
yours are the feet with which he walks to do good,
yours are the hands, with which he blesses the entire world.
Yours are the hands, yours are the feet,
Christ has no body now on earth but yours.
This concept of many members yet one body; the parts make up the whole is prevalent at Pentecost. The body though many members are one body. The Holy Spirit relates to us individually, in distinctive ways. I don’t want to downplay that because it’s so special. Your life has meaning. You have meaning. There is nothing more complex than a single person. The Spirit comes to us individually, but also collectively. However, there is but one Holy Spirit.
It’s not like 60 to 80 spirits ministering to us on this Day of Pentecost. The Holy Spirit is God, a unifying presence just as Jesus is one with God, and there is unity in the Godhead, so the Holy Spirit unifies us into one flock under one shepherd; one body under one head. We who are many are one.
There is a diversity of individuals, personalities and talents among us, even in this small church. In fact, sometimes it’s easier to recognize and appreciate that more in a small church than in a larger church. What truly amazes me is the power of the Spirit that pulls all different and unique personalities and people together here in this place to form one church.
There is a mineral heated swimming pool in Glenwood Springs, Colorado, about the size of a football field. The pool is open 12 months of the year, and people can be seen swimming in this pool, even when there is snow on the ground. When I was a child there was a bus that took people to the swimming pool from neighboring towns every day in the summer. On any given day, you could see people in the shallow end of the pool walking or just sitting with their feet in the water. In the deep end of the pool, some people would be swimming laps, others playing and splashing, or jumping into the pool from the sides.
At the very deepest part of the pool were diving boards, a low dive, medium and high dive. This is where I learned to dive. My buddies and I competed with our dives. The biggest feat was seeing how many times we could flip before hitting the water. It became a spectator’s sport for everyone that liked to dive. The water that met everyone in the pool, whether in the shallow side, the deep side or the divers was the same water. It reminds me that the water that everyone in the pool wherever they were at, reminds me of the Holy spirit in the church.
You may be on the outer edges of the church in your mind, while someone else may be right in the center of church activities, but you’re still a significant part of the community, wherever you are, because the Spirit, like the water in a big swimming pool, touches all of us at the same time. The more visible members of the church, like the high divers in a pool, may get more attention, but that does not mean they are the most important. On the contrary, St. Paul says to show more honor to those members that are not so prominent. The heavy lifters may be in a different part of the church, areas that are not so obvious to most people.
We just finished our Imani classes on Wednesday evenings. In our last class, we talked about all the ministries of St. Alban’s that we could think of, and there were so many it took up all the paper on the easel I was writing on. It was a good exercise, and we were overwhelmed that a small congregation has so many active people, seven days week. And, many of these ministries are not in plain view. Yet, I think it’s important that we recognize the members that are utilizing their gifts.
It’s hard to put a category for many of these gifts, but I think we can categorize them somewhat as the ministry of helps. This includes, people that maintain the buildings and grounds, the saints that water and care for our prayer garden, and the same goes for those that care for the Circle Community Garden. It includes money counters, the Treasurer that keeps records of the church finances, those that write checks and those that sign checks, the altar guild, and we could go on. I challenge you to take out a pen sometime and start writing all the ministries of this church that you can think of, both visible to all, and those that are behind the scenes. You are not required to act or be like someone else, and neither are they required to be like you. Wouldn’t it be boring if everybody in the church was just like you or me?
What Does Pentecost Mean For the Church? Christ Has No Body but Yours.
The Reverend Dr. David Madsen