Greetings from the Moderator JUNE 2020
The Still-Blowing Wind of Pentecost
June 1 brought our liturgical calendar back into Ordinary Time, as we count (order) the Sundays after Pentecost until the first Sunday of Advent. “Ordinary” Time does not mean “commonplace”, but refers to the ordered or counted weeks outside the liturgical seasons of Advent, Christmas, Lent and Easter. Ordinary Time celebrates our call to follow Christ into our everyday lives.
Ordinary Time 2020 is about as un-ordinary as can be. Our daily lives are still constrained by the coronavirus pandemic, but with the spread and risk of new cases reduced to a more manageable level, we’re finally moving toward a new, different normal. We rejoice as our churches plan and resume in-person worship - at the right time for each congregation. At the same time we hold our breath, hoping and praying that our new procedures will be effective and that society in general won’t abandon all precautions and trigger a resurgence of the virus.
Pentecost is normally one of our most festive Sundays, with celebrations involving symbols of wind, flame and dove. Scripture tells us that God’s Holy Spirit suddenly broke in on the disciples ’gathering as a noise from heaven “like a violent, rushing wind, and it filled the whole house.” (Acts 2:2 NASB) I can imagine that wind surprising and startling the disciples, blowing cobwebs of confusion from their minds and filling them with wonder and new power. Tongues of fire rush into and about the room, spreading to every person. The room is filled with excitement, confusion, and joy!
Many of us had a different Pentecost this year. I missed the joy of being together for worship with red paraments, of looking out from the choir loft at a joyful sea of red; I missed bright Pentecost banners, special choir anthems and spirited congregational singing. A virtual service with all the right colors and hymns, and maybe even a virtual choir, just wasn’t the same. Instead, we had to sing the Lord’s song in a foreign (coronavirus) land (Psalm 137:4).
Uh oh. . . that sure didn’t sound like “rejoice always” and “in everything give thanks.” (I Thess. 5:16-18) I recently heard a pastor assert that it’s time to stop focusing on what has been lost, and instead remember what we still have - especially God’s abiding presence. God’s abiding presence is the central message
of Pentecost: the Holy Spirit was sent to empower, teach, and comfort the disciples and to stay with them always. More than that, God sends the Holy Spirit to be with all believers - even me, and even when I complain about life in coronavirus-land.
So let’s take another look at Pentecost 2020. Does the Holy Spirit still blow through us this Pentecost? The answer is a resounding “Yes!” Since mid-March, I’ve seen the Spirit blow away long-standing assumptions about how, where, and when we worship. I’ve seen the Spirit startle us out of our comfort zone, breathe “can-do” attitudes into our church leaders, and whisper encouragement as we try new ways to worship and reach out. The Spirit is pushing church members to take on new tasks and learn new skills which enable us to continue worshipping “together” in this time of physical separation. The Spirit is with each of us in our isolation, kindling flames of greater empathy with the loneliness of members who have been homebound or shut in for much longer than 2-1/2 months. I’ve watched the Spirit gently blow on a spark of creativity and fan it into the flames of new ways to function - virtual session, committee, and congregational meetings, virtual choirs, new ways to receive donations, online Bible studies, etc.
Yes, the Holy Spirit is still working through God’s people in this un-ordinary Ordinary Time! I give thanks for teaching elders, ruling elders, and deacons at all levels of our denomination who are fulfilling their ordination vow to serve the people with energy, intelligence, imagination and love: for the imagination and love of the Board of Pension in offering to waive 3 months of dues for smaller congregations; for the energy and intelligence of GA agencies, synods, and presbyteries as they develop and share guidance for re-opening our churches; for the intelligence and imagination of Central Florida pastors who share their technological expertise to improve the worship experience of other churches; for the energy and imagination of church musicians and technicians who are finding new ways to make a joyful noise in virtual worship; for the energy, intelligence, imagination and love modeled by our Central Florida Presbytery staff as they continue to connect with and support our churches.
The Holy Spirit is still working in our Presbytery and in our congregations. I am especially thankful for the creativity and detailed planning of our Presbytery Staff in preparation for our Summer Presbytery Meeting by Zoom. I invite you to join us in that adventure - another new song.
Rejoicing as the Spirit continues to blow through us,