What A Difference A Day Makes

A message about the birthday of the Church

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Pentecost is a puzzling element in Christianity.  What happened and why it happened are not very clear to most of us. We call this day the birthday of the church because the first disciples were empowered and inspired to continue and expand the message of Jesus Christ. Jesus said to the first disciples: “I have said these things to you while I am still with you. But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Creator will send in my name, will teach you everything and remind you of all that I have said to you. Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I do not give as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not let them be afraid.” (John 14:25-27)

Jesus prepared his friends for Pentecost by asking them to believe that, though he is leaving their world, he will always be with them as the Spirit, the Holy Spirit.

The first disciples of Jesus must have felt a little like I did when I was eleven and broke a church window. The one they knew as friend and leader announced he would be leaving soon. They wanted to go with him, but he said, "Where I am going you cannot follow, at least, not yet". Peter, the arrogant one, tried to convince Jesus, "Lord, I'll go anywhere with you. I'll even die if I have to." Then Thomas, the questioner, asked, "We don't understand what you're talking about, exactly where are you going?" Serious and dependable Philip demanded, "Please, Lord, show us God. If we could see and touch God, everything would make sense to us." Finally, Judas (not Judas Iscariot), spoke up, "Why us? Why are you showing yourself to us, and not to others? How can we possibly go on without you?" Pentecost is about believing that Jesus kept his word. Believing means loving Christ and loving implies action. Some folks seem to think that the Holy Spirit came so we could form an exclusive club -- where only those who had the same experience would be welcome. In some churches everyone thinks alike, looks alike, and sounds alike. They cannot tolerate differences of opinion and consider themselves superior to those who do. Love and tolerance and acceptance are absent whenever we try to make the Holy Spirit a prisoner of our prejudice.

The first disciples were filled with fear, frustration, and fallacy. Jesus patiently addressed their needs. "My love for you will always be there. Hold fast to the things I've taught you. God's presence will come in a new way. My spirit will always be alive as Helper, Comforter, Teacher, and Advocate. Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid." In this one sentence Jesus sizes up our human condition and proclaims God's good word to us. No matter the cause of your troubled heart, that word is "do not be afraid". It was heard by Hebrew patriarchs and prophets; it was heard by shepherds tending their flocks; it was heard by the apostle Paul along the Damascus Road. God calls, God understands our weakness, and God gives us courage for the journey.

The Holy Spirit did not come on the believers so they could sit around and congratulate themselves on their piety. The Holy Spirit came to them so that they could continue the work that Jesus had begun. And we are to do the same. We are not called here to share in some special privilege through the presence of the Holy Spirit, but to serve. That is the real sign of the Holy Spirit: service.  Pentecost is the birthday of the Church. It was a single day in history when the Living Christ came in power and mystery to reign over God’s people on earth. It was one day that made all the difference for every day.

“What a diff'rence a day makes...twenty-four little hours brought the sun and the flowers. Where there used to be rain my yesterday was blue, dear, today I'm part of you, dear. My lonely nights are through, dear, since you said you were mine.

“What a diff'rence a day makes...there's a rainbow before me. Skies above can't be stormy since that moment of bliss, that thrilling kiss. It's heaven when you find romance on your menu.
“What a diff'rence a day makes...and the difference is you.”    This romantic ballad speaks to God’s love affair with God’s people and the Christ who lives forever in his body, the Church.

Since 1999 I’ve traveled Nebraska visiting churches. I’ve marveled at the art and architecture I’ve seen. I’ve explored the cultural expressions found in towns and cemeteries. In more recent years a DSLR camera has gone with me into these houses of worship. I have over 12,000 pictures of art glass windows, statuary, furnishings, and church exteriors. I’ve decided to share some of these in a Nebraska church tour. These are some “churchspeak” abbreviations I've used:
        1. AG - Assemblies of God
        2. AME - African Methodist Episcopal
        3. COGIC - Churches of God in Christ
        4. Ev. Free - Evangelical Free churches
       5.  ELCA - Evangelical Lutheran Church in America
        6. LCMC - Lutheran Congregations in Mission for Christ
       7. LCMS - Lutheran Church, Missouri Synod
        8.  RC - Roman Catholic
       9. UCC - United Church of Christ
       10.  UMC - United Methodist Church
      11. WELS - Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod