On this Pentecost celebration of the church’s birth, I invite the prayers of Disciples in the United States and Canada for our upcoming General Assembly. Our theme, “Lord, teach us to pray,” comes from the gospel story of Jesus’ disciples returning from an astoundingly successful mission of preaching and healing. They saw lives change as they preached the good news that God is in our midst working to heal and transform the world. Their experience in mission helped them see that this new thing God is doing in the world calls for a transformed way of thinking and acting, a distinct way of relating to God and to one another. The disciples were not new to the faith. They were mature in their piety. Yet, this experience of God’s power as they engaged in mission let them know they still had something to learn: “Lord, teach us to pray!”
The people gathered in Jerusalem on Pentecost also experienced a demonstration of power that changed everything. When Peter stood to proclaim the good news that God’s reign on earth had begun in the vindicating resurrection of Jesus, Jews from all over the world were gathered. At the feast of Pentecost, scattered, warring nations came together. People of various cultures and languages saw this Galilean fisher speak in his native tongue, but they heard his words in their own languages! They heard a common message: God is in our midst, making the world whole again. Out of this experience, this coming together of nations and peoples – all-too-often torn apart – the church was born.
That experience of unity arising from glorious diversity defined the church on the day of its birth. That common experience of the healing, reconciling power of Jesus Christ offered a foretaste of the ultimate destiny of the world even now being brought into being by God.
As we pray for the Church this Pentecost day, as we prepare to gather in General Assembly in Orlando, this same vision of God’s healing, reconciling power is what draws us forward. We live in a hurting, often violent world. It’s not surprising that more and more of us find it easier to cloister ourselves, to huddle with people who look and think and act as we do. In our world, fragmentation is increasingly the comfortable norm. But God has a different vision for the world, and a church that bears the birthmark of Pentecost is called to bear witness to that dream.
We bear witness to God’s dream of reconciliation and wholeness when we remember our own Church’s vision based on Micah 6:8: What does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God. We bear witness to God’s dream when we unite in a practical, visible way to care for the poor and hungry, speak up for women and children, welcome the immigrant and care for God’s creation. We bear witness to God’s dream as we partner in mission in the name of the risen Christ – whether by serving soup or addressing the roots of poverty through social change. Though we approach mission in creative and different ways, in the spirit of Pentecost, we are one in Christ. Whatever our personal experience of brokenness, as a Pentecost Church, we exhibit the radical hospitality of Christ, who welcomes all to the family of God. For our ultimate goal is the same, to bear witness to the healing power of God through Jesus Christ.
Because God has a dream, revealed on Pentecost, we Disciples of Christ set an open table where all are welcome. We are a movement for wholeness in a fragmented world, a witness to the final destiny of a world transformed by the love of God, a world which, by the pouring out of God’s spirit on all, is beginning to take shape in our very midst.
For our faithful witness in a time such as this, Lord, teach us to pray!