Sunday, March 26, 2017

Loving Your Enemies by Rev Dr Martin Luther King Jnr

Our current Sunday morning teaching series is called "Red Letter Commandments", and takes a look at the places in Matthew's gospel where Jesus gives a commandment that we feel is still relevant to us today. Last week I preached on Matthew 5:38-42 and Jesus command to us not to take revenge, but to engage in creative nonviolent resistance.

This week I was speaking from the following paragraph Matthew 5:43-47, Love your enemies. I remembered that I had once read a sermon from Dr King on that text, and so I read it again in preparation. It is an amazing sermon, far better than I could have aspired to, and I shared that fact this morning. I quoted from one section, and said that I would share the text from my blog for those who'd like to read the whole thing. This is a transcript from a recording made November 17, 1957 at Dexter Avenue Baptist Church, Montgomery, Alabama. Right in the heat and turmoil of the civil rights movement. I pray his call to radical love will inspire you as much as it has me.


Loving Your Enemies
...So I want to turn your attention to this subject: "Loving Your Enemies." It’s so basic to me because it is a part of my basic philosophical and theological orientation—the whole idea of love, the whole philosophy of love. In the fifth chapter of the gospel as recorded by Saint Matthew, we read these very arresting words flowing from the lips of our Lord and Master: "Ye have heard that it has been said, ‘Thou shall love thy neighbor, and hate thine enemy.’ But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them that despitefully use you; that ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven."
Certainly these are great words, words lifted to cosmic proportions. And over the centuries, many persons have argued that this is an extremely difficult command. Many would go so far as to say that it just isn’t possible to move out into the actual practice of this glorious command. They would go on to say that this is just additional proof that Jesus was an impractical idealist who never quite came down to earth. So the arguments abound. But far from being an impractical idealist, Jesus has become the practical realist. The words of this text glitter in our eyes with a new urgency. Far from being the pious injunction of a utopian dreamer, this command is an absolute necessity for the survival of our civilization. Yes, it is love that will save our world and our civilization, love even for enemies.
Now let me hasten to say that Jesus was very serious when he gave this command; he wasn’t playing. He realized that it’s hard to love your enemies. He realized that it’s difficult to love those persons who seek to defeat you, those persons who say evil things about you. He realized that it was painfully hard, pressingly hard. But he wasn’t playing. And we cannot dismiss this passage as just another example of Oriental hyperbole, just a sort of exaggeration to get over the point. This is a basic philosophy of all that we hear coming from the lips of our Master. Because Jesus wasn’t playing; because he was serious. We have the Christian and moral responsibility to seek to discover the meaning of these words, and to discover how we can live out this command, and why we should live by this command.
Now first let us deal with this question, which is the practical question: How do you go about loving your enemies? I think the first thing is this: In order to love your enemies, you must begin by analyzing self. And I’m sure that seems strange to you, that I start out telling you this morning that you love your enemies by beginning with a look at self. It seems to me that that is the first and foremost way to come to an adequate discovery to the how of this situation.
Now, I’m aware of the fact that some people will not like you, not because of something you have done to them, but they just won’t like you. I’m quite aware of that. Some people aren’t going to like the way you walk; some people aren’t going to like the way you talk. Some people aren’t going to like you because you can do your job better than they can do theirs. Some people aren’t going to like you because other people like you, and because you’re popular, and because you’re well-liked, they aren’t going to like you. Some people aren’t going to like you because your hair is a little shorter than theirs or your hair is a little longer than theirs. Some people aren’t going to like you because your skin is a little brighter than theirs; and others aren’t going to like you because your skin is a little darker than theirs. So that some people aren’t going to like you. They’re going to dislike you, not because of something that you’ve done to them, but because of various jealous reactions and other reactions that are so prevalent in human nature.
But after looking at these things and admitting these things, we must face the fact that an individual might dislike us because of something that we’ve done deep down in the past, some personality attribute that we possess, something that we’ve done deep down in the past and we’ve forgotten about it; but it was that something that aroused the hate response within the individual. That is why I say, begin with yourself. There might be something within you that arouses the tragic hate response in the other individual.
...And this is what Jesus means when he said: "How is it that you can see the mote in your brother’s eye and not see the beam in your own eye?" Or to put it in Moffatt’s translation: "How is it that you see the splinter in your brother’s eye and fail to see the plank in your own eye?" And this is one of the tragedies of human nature. So we begin to love our enemies and love those persons that hate us whether in collective life or individual life by looking at ourselves.
A second thing that an individual must do in seeking to love his enemy is to discover the element of good in his enemy, and everytime you begin to hate that person and think of hating that person, realize that there is some good there and look at those good points which will over-balance the bad points.
I’ve said to you on many occasions that each of us is something of a schizophrenic personality. We’re split up and divided against ourselves. And there is something of a civil war going on within all of our lives. There is a recalcitrant South of our soul revolting against the North of our soul. And there is this continual struggle within the very structure of every individual life.... There is something within each of us that causes us to cry out with Apostle Paul, "I see and approve the better things of life, but the evil things I do."
So somehow the "isness" of our present nature is out of harmony with the eternal "oughtness" that forever confronts us. And this simply means this: That within the best of us, there is some evil, and within the worst of us, there is some good. When we come to see this, we take a different attitude toward individuals. The person who hates you most has some good in him... And when you come to the point that you look in the face of every man and see deep down within him what religion calls "the image of God," you begin to love him in spite of. No matter what he does, you see God’s image there. There is an element of goodness that he can never sluff off. Discover the element of good in your enemy. And as you seek to hate him, find the center of goodness and place your attention there and you will take a new attitude.
Another way that you love your enemy is this: When the opportunity presents itself for you to defeat your enemy, that is the time which you must not do it.... Love is creative, understanding goodwill for all men. It is the refusal to defeat any individual. When you rise to the level of love, of its great beauty and power, you seek only to defeat evil systems. Individuals who happen to be caught up in that system, you love, but you seek to defeat the system.
The Greek language, as I’ve said so often before, is very powerful at this point.... It talks about love as eros. That’s one word for love. Eros is a sort of, aesthetic love.... And it’s come to us to be a sort of romantic love, though it’s a beautiful love....
Then the Greek language talks about philia, and that’s another type of love that’s also beautiful. It is a sort of intimate affection between personal friends. And this is the type of love that you have for those persons that you’re friendly with, your intimate friends, or people that you call on the telephone and you go by to have dinner with, and your roommate in college and that type of thing. It’s a sort of reciprocal love. On this level, you like a person because that person likes you. You love on this level, because you are loved....
The Greek language comes out with another word for love. It is the word agape. And agape is more than eros; agape is more than philia; agape is something of the understanding, creative, redemptive goodwill for all men. It is a love that seeks nothing in return. It is an overflowing love; it’s what theologians would call the love of God working in the lives of men. And when you rise to love on this level, you begin to love men, not because they are likeable, but because God loves them. You look at every man, and you love him because you know God loves him. And he might be the worst person you’ve ever seen.
And this is what Jesus means, I think, in this very passage when he says, "Love your enemy." And it’s significant that he does not say, "Like your enemy." Like is a sentimental something, an affectionate something. There are a lot of people that I find it difficult to like. I don’t like what they do to me. I don’t like what they say about me and other people. I don’t like their attitudes. I don’t like some of the things they’re doing. I don’t like them. But Jesus says love them. And love is greater than like. Love is understanding, redemptive goodwill for all men, so that you love everybody, because God loves them. You refuse to do anything that will defeat an individual, because you have agape in your soul. And here you come to the point that you love the individual who does the evil deed, while hating the deed that the person does. This is what Jesus means when he says, "Love your enemy." This is the way to do it. When the opportunity presents itself when you can defeat your enemy, you must not do it.
Now for the few moments left, let us move from the practical how to the theoretical why. It’s not only necessary to know how to go about loving your enemies, but also to go down into the question of why we should love our enemies. I think the first reason that we should love our enemies, and I think this was at the very center of Jesus’ thinking, is this: that hate for hate only intensifies the existence of hate and evil in the universe. If I hit you and you hit me and I hit you back and you hit me back and go on, you see, that goes on ad infinitum. [tapping on pulpit] It just never ends. Somewhere somebody must have a little sense, and that’s the strong person. The strong person is the person who can cut off the chain of hate, the chain of evil. And that is the tragedy of hate, that it doesn’t cut it off. It only intensifies the existence of hate and evil in the universe. Somebody must have religion enough and morality enough to cut it off and inject within the very structure of the universe that strong and powerful element of love.
...And if somebody doesn’t have sense enough to turn on the dim and beautiful and powerful lights of love in this world, the whole of our civilization will be plunged into the abyss of destruction. And we will all end up destroyed because nobody had any sense on the highway of history. Somewhere somebody must have some sense. Men must see that force begets force, hate begets hate, toughness begets toughness. And it is all a descending spiral, ultimately ending in destruction for all and everybody. Somebody must have sense enough and morality enough to cut off the chain of hate and the chain of evil in the universe. And you do that by love.
There’s another reason why you should love your enemies, and that is because hate distorts the personality of the hater.... You just begin hating somebody, and you will begin to do irrational things. You can’t see straight when you hate. You can’t walk straight when you hate. You can’t stand upright. Your vision is distorted. There is nothing more tragic than to see an individual whose heart is filled with hate.... For the person who hates, the beautiful becomes ugly and the ugly becomes beautiful. For the person who hates, the good becomes bad and the bad becomes good. For the person who hates, the true becomes false and the false becomes true. That’s what hate does. You can’t see right. The symbol of objectivity is lost. Hate destroys the very structure of the personality of the hater. And this is why Jesus says hate [recording interrupted]
...meet every situation of life with an abounding love. Never hate, because it ends up in tragic, neurotic responses.... Hate at any point is a cancer that gnaws away at the very vital center of your life and your existence. It is like eroding acid that eats away the best and the objective center of your life. So Jesus says love, because hate destroys the hater as well as the hated.
Now there is a final reason I think that Jesus says, "Love your enemies." It is this: that love has within it a redemptive power. And there is a power there that eventually transforms individuals. That’s why Jesus says, "Love your enemies." Because if you hate your enemies, you have no way to redeem and to transform your enemies. But if you love your enemies, you will discover that at the very root of love is the power of redemption. You just keep loving people and keep loving them, even though they’re mistreating you. Here’s the person who is a neighbor, and this person is doing something wrong to you and all of that. Just keep being friendly to that person. Keep loving them. Don’t do anything to embarrass them. Just keep loving them, and they can’t stand it too long. Oh, they react in many ways in the beginning. They react with bitterness because they’re mad because you love them like that. They react with guilt feelings, and sometimes they’ll hate you a little more at that transition period, but just keep loving them. And by the power of your love they will break down under the load. That’s love, you see. It is redemptive, and this is why Jesus says love. There’s something about love that builds up and is creative. There is something about hate that tears down and is destructive. So love your enemies.
I think of one of the best examples of this. We all remember the great president of this United States, Abraham Lincoln—these United States rather. You remember when Abraham Lincoln was running for president of the United States, there was a man who ran all around the country talking about Lincoln. He said a lot of bad things about Lincoln, a lot of unkind things. And sometimes he would get to the point that he would even talk about his looks, saying, "You don’t want a tall, lanky, ignorant man like this as the president of the United States." He went on and on and on and went around with that type of attitude and wrote about it. Finally, one day Abraham Lincoln was elected president of the United States. And if you read the great biography of Lincoln, if you read the great works about him, you will discover that as every president comes to the point, he came to the point of having to choose a Cabinet. And then came the time for him to choose a Secretary of War. He looked across the nation, and decided to choose a man by the name of Mr. Stanton. And when Abraham Lincoln stood around his advisors and mentioned this fact, they said to him: "Mr. Lincoln, are you a fool? Do you know what Mr. Stanton has been saying about you? Do you know what he has done, tried to do to you? Do you know that he has tried to defeat you on every hand? Do you know that, Mr. Lincoln? Did you read all of those derogatory statements that he made about you?" Abraham Lincoln stood before the advisors around him and said: "Oh yes, I know about it; I read about it; I’ve heard him myself. But after looking over the country, I find that he is the best man for the job."
Mr. Stanton did become Secretary of War, and a few months later, Abraham Lincoln was assassinated. And if you go to Washington, you will discover that one of the greatest words or statements ever made by, about Abraham Lincoln was made about this man Stanton. And as Abraham Lincoln came to the end of his life, Stanton stood up and said: "Now he belongs to the ages." And he made a beautiful statement concerning the character and the stature of this man. If Abraham Lincoln had hated Stanton, if Abraham Lincoln had answered everything Stanton said, Abraham Lincoln would have not transformed and redeemed Stanton. Stanton would have gone to his grave hating Lincoln, and Lincoln would have gone to his grave hating Stanton. But through the power of love Abraham Lincoln was able to redeem Stanton.
That’s it. There is a power in love that our world has not discovered yet.... For they believe in hitting for hitting; they believe in an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth; they believe in hating for hating; but Jesus comes to us and says, "This isn’t the way."
...Because of the power and influence of the personality of this Christ, he was able to split history into a.d. and b.c. Because of his power, he was able to shake the hinges from the gates of the Roman Empire. And all around the world this morning, we can hear the glad echo of heaven ring:
Jesus shall reign wherever sun,
Does his successive journeys run;
His kingdom spreads from shore to shore,
Till moon shall wane and wax no more.
We can hear another chorus singing: "All hail the power of Jesus name!"
We can hear another chorus singing: "Hallelujah, hallelujah! He’s King of Kings and Lord of Lords. Hallelujah, hallelujah!"
We can hear another choir singing:
In Christ there is no East or West.
In Him no North or South,
But one great Fellowship of Love
Throughout the whole wide world.
This is the only way.
...So this morning, as I look into your eyes, and into the eyes of all of my brothers in Alabama and all over America and over the world, I say to you, "I love you. I would rather die than hate you." And I’m foolish enough to believe that through the power of this love somewhere, men of the most recalcitrant bent will be transformed. And then we will be in God’s kingdom. We will be able to matriculate into the university of eternal life because we had the power to love our enemies, to bless those persons that cursed us, to even decide to be good to those persons who hated us, and we even prayed for those persons who despitefully used us.
Oh God, help us in our lives and in all of our attitudes, to work out this controlling force of love, this controlling power that can solve every problem that we confront in all areas. Oh, we talk about politics; we talk about the problems facing our atomic civilization. Grant that all men will come together and discover that as we solve the crisis and solve these problems—the international problems, the problems of atomic energy, the problems of nuclear energy, and yes, even the race problem—let us join together in a great fellowship of love and bow down at the feet of Jesus. Give us this strong determination. In the name and spirit of this Christ, we pray. Amen.


Sunday, January 01, 2017

Ten Predictions for 2017

In Hebrews 13:8 we are reminded of a timeless truth, “Jesus Christ is the same, yesterday, today and forever.” 

This morning in church I shared that if something were true at the time of Jesus’ life, it’s still true today. If there was any truth in His teaching 2000 yrs ago, it’s still true today. If His life and ministry are an example, they are still an example to us now. If his death on the cross had an effect 2000 yrs ago, it still has that effect today. If His resurrection was a sign of anything then, it’s still the same sign now. If His ascension into heaven meant He was powerfully interceding for us then, and preparing a place for us, then those things are still true today. And finally that if the giving of the Holy Spirit, so liberally poured out onto humanity that Pentecost day, empowered Christians to live, serve, love and minister in the power of God at the beginning of the Church’s story then the same is true today.

Because Jesus Christ is the same, yesterday, today and forever, I make these predictions for 2017, not based on an interpretation of the news, or my best guesswork knowing partial information, but based on the never-changing nature and character of God.

So, regardless of who wins what election, or what actions are taken re membership of Europe, nevermind who sets themselves up to change the world, or just one part of it; whether we will continue to see the slide towards a world of individual meanings, and a careless disregard for facts, or whether the sun shines and we live in growing peace, here are some things that will happen for sure in 2017:

God will hear and answer our prayers
God will transform this world, one changed life at a time
God will keep His promises
God will reveal more of Himself to us as we spend time reading the Bible
God will continue to love the world, and everyone in it
God  will forgive all who turn away from their sinful life, and follow him
God will not give up on anyone
God will send us blessing if we live in line with His word, the Bible
God will keep giving you power to live, love and minister for Him

And finally -perhaps most importantly when we consider the great upheavels in the world we are living through - God will continue to be in control

Tuesday, July 05, 2016

Ask the Pastor on Periscope



Last autumn I started broadcasting on Periscope a couple of time a week, with the title "Ask the Pastor".

They were quite popular broadcasts with people from all over the world tuning in sharing greetings, prayer requests and posing a wide range of questions from matters of faith through politics, sports and general information about living in the UK.

A period of illness at the end of the year meant I stopped broadcasting and kinda got out of the habit.

I'm happy to say, in response to several requests, the broadcasts are back.

I'm aiming to broadcast weekly, and in the first instance it's most likely to be on Fridays at around 4pm UK time, that's 10am CST in the USA.

If you aren't able to join me live, then please feel free to leave questions in the comments here then watch the broadcasts later on this link to my periscope profile.

Or alternatively you can tweet questions to me on twitter where I am @baptistjon and I'll include them in the broadcast

If you do use periscope, please follow me there too and I'll follow back - I'd love to get a glimpse into your world!

Monday, July 04, 2016

Tab is Hiring!

Tab-Print-CMYK-logo-2092-x3029.jpgVacancy – Office Manager

Salary: £18-20k depending on experience

Term of contract: This is a permanent position

Hours of work: This is a full time (37.5 hrs per week) post, with 5.6 weeks annual leave.

Tabernacle Baptist Church Wolverhampton (often called Tab) is a busy, diverse multi-site church of some 250 people, with buildings in Whitmore Reans, the city centre and Ashmore Park.

We are seeking to recruit an outstanding individual to work at the heart of our church's organisation.

Supporting a large team of staff and volunteers, alongside handling enquiries from the public and managing a number of routine tasks means that each day is varied, and that the right individual will find this a stimulating and rewarding opportunity.

The postholder will need to be someone who has proven office management skills and be able to communicate effectively in person,  in writing and through the use of digital media. They will also be strongly internally-motivated with experience of office based administration and dealing with enquiries.

Because the individual will be called upon to represent the church, its interests and its mission, the postholder will need to be a dedicated disciple of Jesus with great communication skills, and able to support Baptist beliefs and practices.

Tabernacle Baptist Church Wolverhampton is committed to safeguarding and promoting the welfare of children and adults at risk. All our staff and volunteers are expected to share this commitment, which is underpinned by robust systems that seek to continuously promote a culture of safeguarding. The successful applicant will be required to complete an enhanced DBS (formerly CRB) check which must be maintained throughout the period of employment, and undergo safeguarding training.

A more detailed job and person specification is available via email: tabvacancies@gmail.com

Applications can be made by sending a CV and covering letter to tabvacancies@gmail.com or via mail:

The Senior Minister
Tabernacle Baptist Church Wolverhampton
Dunstall Road
Wolverhampton
WV6 0NJ


Closing date for applications is 5pm on Wednesday 20th July 2016, interviews will be held on Wednesday 27th July.

Friday, June 24, 2016

A word to exiles - respond with faith to the EU referendum

Today Great Britain has embarked on an uncertain journey, following the referendum on whether we should remain a part of the European Union.

Months of sharply divisive campaigning has revealed itself in a result that is far from resounding with 52% voting to leave, and 48% to remain. There are people in our neighbourhoods and churches who are struggling to make sense of the enormity of the decision, and as I write this our Prime Minister has just resigned, the Governor of the Bank of England has issued an emergency statement and our finance markets are in turmoil.

How should those of us who follow Jesus respond to these events? Is there anything for us to do other than pull up our drawbridges and try and ride out the coming storms? Whether we voted to remain or leave, is there some shared action or attitude that will help in this time of questioning and uncertainty?

I want to offer a few thoughts as someone who is first of all a pastor. My concern is to help church members navigate this different terrain we find ourselves in as faithful followers of Jesus.

I've used the idea of journey and shifting terrain, and I do that on purpose, as I think it's a really helpful way of understanding something important about our identity. The Apostle Peter, writing a letter that's included in the Bible, addresses his readers this way:

Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ,To God’s elect, exiles scattered throughout the provinces of Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia and Bithynia,  who have been chosen according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, through the sanctifying work of the Spirit, to be obedient to Jesus Christ and sprinkled with his blood:
Grace and peace be yours in abundance. (1 Peter 1:1-2)

Part of what it meant then to be a follower of Jesus was to be an exile - a person who is not living in the place of their nationality, their own nation state. For Peter's first readers this was often because the persecution that had arisen because of their faith meant that had to flee from home. 

But in a deeper sense, all of us who follow Jesus are exiles in this world. Whereas before the time of Jesus, God's dealings with humanity had been done primarily with a particular nation-state - Israel -  after Jesus all of humanity is potentially the people of God, with no need to become part of a particular nation. So, in Jesus all who follow, from wherever they are in the world, are on a different journey, and have a different sense of belonging. Yes, legally we might have nationality in a place (GB for me), but we are also citizens of Heaven, a place we haven't got to yet, but a place where our real belonging is.

The writer of the New Testament letter to the Hebrews tells a number of stories of great heroes of faith, and then includes this reflection:

All these people were still living by faith when they died. They did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance, admitting that they were foreigners and strangers on earth.  People who say such things show that they are looking for a country of their own.  If they had been thinking of the country they had left, they would have had opportunity to return. Instead, they were longing for a better country—a heavenly one.Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared a city for them. (Hebrews 11:13-16)

Exiles we are then, looking for a new home, travelling through this world trying to be faithful followers.

So, what word to exiles might encourage us, give us hope and direction right now, on this day when our nation faces an unsure future, and when deep divisions between old and young, poor and rich, native and foreigner have been so sharply revealed?

God's people have often been exiles, and in the Old Testament we see what happened on many occasions when they were divorced from the land they had called their own. So, what did they do? Did they sit and pray, or look longingly back to the place they remembered? Did God call them to resist the exile? 

The prophet Jeremiah wrote much that has become very familiar to us, including the passage in Jeremiah 29 where he speaks for God saying "I know the plans I have for you..." But earlier in that passage God gives instructions on what it means to stay faithful to Him in a time of exile:

This is what the Lord Almighty, the God of Israel, says to all those I carried into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon:  “Build houses and settle down; plant gardens and eat what they produce.  Marry and have sons and daughters; find wives for your sons and give your daughters in marriage, so that they too may have sons and daughters. Increase in number there; do not decrease.  Also, seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you into exile. Pray to the Lord for it, because if it prospers, you too will prosper.” (Jeremiah 29:4-7)

So, in that list of getting on with things, engaging with culture not withdrawing from it, we see an instruction to seek the peace and prosperity of the place where we exiles find ourselves, and to pray for it. 

Two things for us to be doing then. 

Prayer seems fairly straightforward for us, bringing to God our concerns for the place we are, listening to God for His guidance on how to pray and act. 

But more than praying, we're to seek peace and prosperity. We're to be those who look for the embers of peace and fan them into flame. We are called to find the people of peace and co-operate with them. It is for God's exiles to do what they can to see prosperity - which means dealing with issues that hold people in worklessness, and using our resources where we can to bless our locality. 

Right now, when there is a rise in far-right ideologies in our continent, and where an ugly strand of racism ran through parts of the referendum campaign, we need to be those who work for the peace and prosperity of those who are economically marginalised, or are strangers amongst us, as refugees and asylum seekers, or as those for whom immigration was a better or safer option of a bright future.

Again, in the Old Testament, Moses speaks to the people of God and reminds them:

He defends the cause of the fatherless and the widow, and loves the foreigner residing among you, giving them food and clothing.  And you are to love those who are foreigners, for you yourselves were foreigners in Egypt. Fear the Lord your God and serve him. Hold fast to him and take your oaths in his name. (Deuteronomy 10:18-20)

At a time when there's a real temptation for our nation to close borders, and to concentrate on a narrow and self-interested agenda, we, the followers of Jesus, must be those who ensure that the new Britain that emerges should be a generous one, an outward-focussed one, playing our part in caring for the whole world, not merely our own bank balances.

So, it's a word to exiles, that's all of us who haven't reached heaven yet. It's a call to pray, but more than that a call to act, a call to seek, and a call to build a peace-filled and prosperous nation.

In the middle of all the questions that are to come, I encourage you to find your identity in Jesus, not in nation, and your purpose in service, not self-interest.

Grace and peace
Jonathan

A 10 minute video version of this is available here: https://www.facebook.com/jonathan.somerville1/videos/10154359810454390/

Friday, April 29, 2016

Pentecost Message from the Baptist World Alliance

A New Creation
This is Pentecost. God effects a new creation. The old is gone; the new has come. Through a massive invasion of grace, a valley of dry bones gets a new lease of life. A dispersed and confused people find a new togetherness and speak a new language.
People drenched with fear and savaged by disappointment now experience the miracle of renewal. The dead are raised to life again. Order replaces chaos; new community displaces wayward individualism.
They thought the day of their liberation had come, but it turned into a nightmare. Then, at Easter, it became clear that they had survived the night of gloom and had arrived at a new dawn with joy. Now, with the Son ascended, what were they to expect?
They waited in Jerusalem. Passover was to be followed by Pentecost. Easter joy was to be consolidated into a lifelong blessing as, through divine empowerment, God opened up for everyone the path to new life.
The signs of the new creation are clear. The mighty wind of the Spirit is blowing; tongues of fire descend, not to consume each and all, but to constitute a new community. The gift that is given is for everyone. This is nothing less than a community transformation. This is a new creation. There is resurrection on a vast scale. The church comes to full fruition.
Pentecost is not merely about God creating new individuals. It is, instead, about the formation of a new community -- the community of the Holy Spirit. If the Son has been withdrawn, God is still present, breathing new life, strengthening bonds of love, giving abundant energy for the execution of an exciting mission. The gift that God gives is eternal life, proclaimed in preaching and signified in baptism. The illumination and empowerment given constitute the community for its mission.
Yet, do we not long to see the unmistakable signs of this gifted and vibrant community at work again -- fashioning friendship, making disciples, inspiring selfless service? Where is the joy, the love, the peace that the life-giving Spirit gives? Where is the passion for engagement in the mission on which God sends this beloved community?
This Pentecost, may the God-formed, Spirit-shaped community rise up again, claiming its heritage in Christ, discerning its unity and grasping the gifts it has received to fulfill its mission.

Neville Callam
General Secretary
Baptist World Alliance
April  2016

The message in other languages can be read at www.bwanet.org