Pentecost for a Stuck World:
A Bible Study for Asbury's Worship
(June 5)
by Rev. Lee Johnson
June 5, 2022


I spent part of Memorial Day Weekend visiting the cemetery in Minden NE. My parents, and other relatives, especially from my dad’s family tree, are all buried in Minden. Many of their long-time friends are buried near-by, too. For their “marker,” my parents pre-selected a bench. Central to the bench, right there in the middle, is The United Methodist Cross and Flame, signifying their life-long association with the Methodist faith tradition. In 1968, upon the merger of the Methodist Church and the United Brethren Church, the Cross and Flame was designed to recognize the birth of the new United Methodist Church, pointing to two faith traditions coming together as one, both rooted in grace and good works. From the cross comes faith in the grace proclaimed by the cross. From the flame comes believers “ablaze” with good works inspired by the gift of grace. That’s the Methodist tradition. My parents spent much of their lives quietly “doing” the good works of grace. Seeing the cross and flame on their “bench” last Monday, reminded me so. They never asked me, but I am pleased the cross and flame are on “their” bench. In James 2, the writer asks, “What good is it, if you say you have faith but do not have works? What is your response to the question posed in James?  


You might say the earliest Christian believers experienced a 50-day period of mourning. That’s the number of days between Easter Sunday and Pentecost, the coming of the Holy Spirit. During those 50 days, believers gathered to eat and pray together, remembering Jesus. Within those 50 days, all four Gospels report differing appearances of the resurrected Jesus. The focus was clearly upon the cross and the events that took place surrounding it. The days were a time to mourn and remember the earthly presence of Jesus. But after 50 days, all that changed. In the gust of wind and, you guessed it, flame, the Holy Spirit arrived inspiring believers to move from their loss. The Book of Acts records the moment, “Awe came upon everyone,” as believers “sold their possessions and goods and distributed the proceeds to all, as any had need.” Everyone, says the story, “ate their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having the goodwill of all the people.” The Holy Spirit worked to move believers from a time of mourning to action, from the cross to the flame, from grace to good works. Have you ever experienced a prolonged period of mourning?  What “inspired” you to move from it?


In John 14, on the night before his death, Jesus gathers with his disciples. He tells them they will not be alone in the “work” they are to do. Instead, he says, God will send an “advocate,” a helper. Pentecost becomes the revelation of that helper. The disciples were not to be forever stuck in their grief and sadness. Likewise, we are not to be stuck, in our sadness and daily conflicts and disagreements. The Holy Spirit will advocate for us. It is good to recall Jesus’ promise because right now there’s a lot of “stuckness” in the world. Our country is stuck in a cycle of gun violence. Our world is stuck in conflict and war. Our United Methodist Church is stuck in disagreement. Our relationships and families know what it’s like to get stuck, too. And we are all stuck in the tension of economic worry. What might help us move beyond this epidemic of “stuckness?” Generally it takes good works. The promise of Pentecost has unusually good timing this year. Should that be a surprise? Begin this season of Pentecost praying the Holy Spirit will intervene through the good works of others, even ourselves, to move us beyond that which keeps us stuck.  


James 2.14-17; Acts 2.1-5, 43-47; John 14.25-27


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Beginning Sunday at 11 a.m. for Live Stream or 5 p.m. for recording.


"Inspire me to do good works, Lord."

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