Well guys, I am back for a while. I am leaving for a visit home in a few weeks, and I am hoping to be able to post while there, but we'll see.
Last night I talked about Pentecost. Or more correctly the lead up to it. Jesus spends forty days with them. Talking to them of the kingdom of God. It is interesting that whenever Jesus talks about the good news, it is always the kingdom of God, not salvation, or going to heaven. Jesus secured that, but to him this is only a part of the good news. The whole good news is that God's rulership can come into the world through you! Meaning love, justice, mercy, forgiveness, compassion and much more, is now available to and through us. And that this will then effect all people, not just the individual when they die.
He tells them they are going to wait in Jerusalem for the power from on high. To wait for it. And that when it comes they will be His witnesses in their own town, the greater Jerusalem area, and eventually the entire world. The Spirit does that to you!
The disciples watch Jesus into the heavens. They are told by the angels to go and do what they were told, stop staring at the empty sky. How often do we wind up gazing longingly at the last place we saw Jesus? We try to recreate that great worship experience. Or that feeling we had when we were baptised, or maybe the sense of God's presence we felt when we fasted, or were on a retreat. But God does not live in our memories but in our now. Stop looking at the last experience, and be obedient. Do what you know is right, and you will experience even more of what God has for you.
And then we see the disciples praying, united, in a room for ten days. The way some people teach about this is flat out wrong. They act like this prayer manipulated God to send the Spirit, and the resulting mass conversion. Like if we would just do what they did then God would have to do... blah blah blah. God is not manipulated, you don't earn the Holy Spirit, or earn a succesfull altar call by unity or prayer.
Prayer changes us. The Holy Spirit was coming on Pentecost no matter what. This feast of the first fruits (the beginning of the harvest) was the sign given years before for the beginning of the church. The church started on that day, no matter if they prayed or not. Their prayer however, did change them. It changed those men and women, and prepared them for what God was always planning on doing. They were prepared for the inclusion of over 3,000 people into their community. They were prepared for the resulting persecution, for the need of the new church, for the conflicts that were coming. The time in prayer, unified prayer, was necessary for their own preparation, as it is for us. We cannot by any prayer movement, force God's hand, but we can by prayer, be ready for what is coming our way.