Remember the wearing of red socks and clothing of Pentecost’s past? This year we challenge you to show your Pentecost spirit by sending us a picture full of celebration. Think flames, red, holy spirit coming down, red socks, decorations, red lipstick; you name it! Dress up or compose a picture that representsPentecost to you and send it in to the office, Pastor, or Kath. We would love to use those pictures to buoy everyone up. Let the spirit abound! Kathryn
Grace Gratitude Project
I am thankful for the Grace News and for Sue Pacelli. I enjoy her calls and the wonderful conversations we’ve had. I am also thankful for Pastor Verkouw. – Mary M.
The Gloria Bells are grateful for Cindy LaMaster and for the “Daily Jokes” she sends to them to brighten their days.—Gloria Bell members
For Alice Yerman and Jewish Family Services for supporting our outreach ministries. – Kath V.
This summer (beginning June 1) we are going to read some of the smaller books of the Bible as a congregation. Why? Because we don’t spend a lot of time on the minor prophets in the Old Testament and the shorter epistles in the New Testament.
These books are small (under 10 chapters), don’t let their size fool you-they pack mighty theological punches. Some of the books that we will be studying are Micah, the Johannine epistles, Philemon, and Malachi.
Each week there will be a devotional consisting of daily readings, a prayer to use throughout the week, and questions to ponder as you read. There will also be a weekly devotional video on our website. The devotional will be available on our website beginning June 1st and printed in the Grace News in June and August.
If you wish to receive a hard copy of the materials in July please contact the church office at 717-397-2748 as soon as possible. If you have any questions, please contact our Assistant Program Director, Angie Smith at email@example.com or 717-538-5862
From the Pastor’s Desk
The third great festival of the church year appears on the calendar this coming weekend…the second of our notable celebrations this year (along with Easter) which have come to pass in the midst of this quarantine time. Yes, some folks are already worrying about Christmas! But let us not dwell on it. Pentecost is the birthday of the church! A few basic facts: The name of the festival is not really churchy – it’s just a Greek word for fiftieth. For that matter, Easter is not really a churchy word either, it comes from an Old English word for what is now the month of April. But we digress! “Fifty what?” you may well ask, and the answer is, fifty days after Passover.
The Jewish festival of Shavuot celebrates the first harvest of grain after Passover on that fiftieth day, along with other high points of the Jewish faith, including the promise to Noah that the earth would be renewed and not destroyed again, after the flood, as well as the promise of the law, given to the people via Moses on Mt. Sinai, that would bind the Hebrews to a covenant of salvation and obedience. For the celebration of this festival, Jews return to Jerusalem from throughout the diaspora (their spreading out through the lands and cultures of the Greek/Roman empires in the centuries before the time of Jesus).
During this festival time, which follows closely upon the last of Jesus’ resurrection appearances, the disciples are gathered together once again, and the Spirit of God comes to rest upon them with startling effects. Their Spirit-filled behavior is observed and overheard by many others, leading some to think that the disciples were drunk! What were they doing? The description in the Book of Acts includes the sound of God breathing – “like the rush of a mighty wind,” the vision of flames that are burning but not consuming them resting on their heads (sort of like Moses’ burning bush?) and the understanding of those disciples praising God’s mighty acts in their own languages! (Acts 2:1-11)
The story of the earliest church continues to be told through the Book of Acts. Along with the startling special effects of the Holy Spirit’s arrival—the wind, the flames, the many languages of proclamation carried forth into understanding — the early church begins to exhibit some startling characteristics. The church is visionary, prophetic and dreaming of God’s justice for men and women, slaves and free (Acts 2:17). The church is deeply communal (I’m not going to write “communist” but in some sense it would be accurate), and resistant to any sense of private property, “selling their possessions and goods and distributing the proceeds to all who had need.” (Acts 2:43-47) The church is international, reaching beyond the Jewish ethnicity to include Gentiles in many lands. (Acts 10)
Even dis-integrated into its many parts, the church still remains the worlds pre-eminent international institution. Here and there people still speak in tongues. But it must be said that much of this startling behavior has mellowed. That radical life of early Christians, adopting in earnest the teaching of Jesus about making sure we all have enough, about not accumulating worldly possessions, about the dangers of wealth and the necessity of justice, this has been mostly squirreled away. A few monasteries and convents remain. A few radical Christians living in community, serving the poor and outcast can still be found.
“No society as a whole,” writes theologian David Bentley Hart, “will ever found itself upon the rejection of society’s chief mechanism: property. And all great religions achieve success by gradually moderating their most extreme demands.” (NYT, Opinion, Nov 4. 2017) And so the church of Pentecost has mostly become a support for life as it is in this world, rather than a model of a radically different way of life. Perhaps that’s true enough. And yet I see the Holy Spirit blowing upon people still, calling them to make sacrificial gifts to support the ministries we offer, offering up their time to serve their neighbors in the humblest ways, resisting the call of politics to protect the wealth of the wealthy by abandoning their victims and not counting the cost, or the lies.
How will the Spirit blow on us today, and use us to make the vision of God’s kingdom and dream of God’s justice come to life? How will this time of relative isolation open us to different hopes and dreams? Here’s a thought:
Please offer your prayers for these particular older ones among us who are isolated in the extreme, in care homes and nursing homes where visits have been impossible, with staff already overstretched, anonymous in masks and gowns. And then, as your prayers move you, pick up a pen and paper (or better yet an email!) and write a note to them all – tell them of your prayers, tell them a little about your life, share your own faith and hopes and dreams and fears, and help them understand that WE understand the sacrifice that they also are making. Then send that note or email to Vicki at the church office, and we will combine them and mail a special communication to them all. Thank you! And may the Spirit of Pentecost continue to rest on you and inspire you in new ways!
May 31, 2020 (Day of Pentecost)
1 Corinthians 12:13 – For in the one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and we were all made to drink of one Spirit.
A “new normal” emerging from the COVID-19 crisis might resemble the early Church. Imagine one unified body, all people welcome and affirmed, with the Holy Spirit activating our faith and equipping us to be better stewards of all God’s gifts.
Our Grace Family
Dear Members of Grace,
We give thanks for the life and witness of Esther Herr, who died Monday, May 25th of natural causes. We extend our heartfelt sympathy to her family and friends.
Please keep Esther’s family in your prayers.