As I sit to write this blog, I am aware that there is a big bolt of bright red fabric on my desk. It is there be-cause Terry Flanders found it in the midst of her spring cleaning. She knew that Pentecost Sunday is coming……and RED is what you do at church on Pentecost Sunday! My mind is going in all different directions. I’m not sure exactly how, I do know that the Sanctuary will be transformed on May 28 to remind us of fire……. and of the very real presence of the Holy Spirit burning in our life together!
I don’t know about you, but I sometimes (actually, all too often!) forget about the promise that Jesus made. Jesus is not a guy to break promises, so I know the disconnect is on my part! And I can feel it when I get disconnected. Jesus said that he had to leave the earth, but he was not about to leave us alone. And, sure enough, wham!!!, just when they were least expecting it, the disciples were filled with this new energy, this new assurance that everything was different! That the world was living itself out in friendly fire—that it was a world filled with hope and love all tangled up together, even if you couldn’t see it all the time. And there was nothing, nothing that could put it out! And because of the power of Christ in them, the disciples passed the flame on to others. And others. And others. Right up until this day, the church lives in the smoldering fire of love.
One of my fondest memories of the church continuing to pass this good Spirit news on is campmeeting. Historically, this was a time the church gathered together during “lay up” or that time when the fields had been plowed, the crops had been planted, waiting for the harvest and canning and preserving time to come. My mother tells wonderful stories of how families would come to the church arbor ( a big, homemade tent) for at least a week. They would bring their cast iron for cooking, their cows for milk and their mules for transportation. Come supper time, the preachers had to stop preaching, because nothing could be heard above the mooing and whinnying and braying of the animals waiting for their supper!
It was a time to catch up on how folks were doing. To see what wayward farmer might come to the altar. It was a time for preaching and singing and praying and visiting and eating watermelons that had been cooled in the creek. And it was a time for serious revival. To slow down , to breathe deeply, to laugh (and maybe cry) together and look back on the year. Maybe while you were going through it, it seemed terri-ble and hard. But, once you had time to stop and think, you realized that, even though life was tough, it could have been worse. You realized that while you felt so weak and helpless at the time, you came out of it a little stronger and a little more willing and able to forgive others. And, right there in the middle of the third verse of “Revive Us Again”, you realized, I am not alone. Jesus’ promise of a Comforter is real. I know this because I experience it every day!
For us at Whitesburg, we will borrow some of the campmeeting spirit to slow us down……to remind us of the gift and to revive us again. Each Sunday of June, July and August will be a bit less formal than the rest of the year. (So wear your shorts!) There will be guest preachers, testimonies from church members, time to have conversation and to remember that we are God’s people called into this world to spread love and peace and a little fire when it is needed.
Hope you will come to church on Pentecost Sunday. The Sanctuary will be alight with the fire of the Spirit!
And then, all this summer, come and catch glimpses of that same fire on Campmeeting Sundays! It might be in the nervous voice of someone sharing their testimony; it might be in a song; it might be in a prayer or a scripture reading or a sermon or a laugh or a hug or a memory. It might even be in a piece of water-melon shared with a friend. However you get burned, do not fear! You will not be harmed………you will be made new! Revived! Once again!
Come, Holy Spirit, come!
Peace and Joy!