“And he made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their dwelling place, that they should seek God, and perhaps feel their way toward him and find him. Yet he is actually not far from each one of us, for ‘In him we live and move and have our being’; as even some of your own poets have said, ‘For we are indeed his offspring’” (Acts 17:26-28 ESV).
In Pentecost, the Spirit upholds the faithful. It is a time for growth and flourish in Christ’s church. For the Old Testament people of God, Pentecost was an agrarian festival; they praised God for the growth of crops. Growth should be paramount for New Testament people of God. In this respect, there is nothing “ordinary,” or unexceptional, about the summer months. The Holy Spirit has generated the church by the proclaimed Word, so the church can grow. The Church goes forth into the world in the power of the Word-given Spirit.
The 21st century world seems barren soil. How does the Church remain “green” and verdant in the face of so much opposition from an unbelieving world? The answer is the Holy Spirit comes to live in each Christian individually and stays. The Spirit doesn’t simply come to empower certain favored individuals, only to depart, leaving them to their own resources. Such an “in and out” movement isn’t congruent with the “bold speech” that the Holy Spirit worked in the chief Apostles – Peter and Paul. Early church leaders’ acts were the Holy Spirit’s acts. As the Holy Spirit propelled the apostles to the far reaches of the Roman Empire, they “were God’s offspring.”
Just as God was with the early church apostles and fathers, God is close at hand for Christians in his Church today. While our work isn’t identical to that of the great Apostles, we are sent (the meaning of the Greek apostello), and never sent alone. We are sent by and with God the Holy Spirit and must remain in him to perform the dunameis – the mighty works – that God has prepared for us. This is why Trinitytide is so important. During this time, we don’t celebrate empty doctrine, we celebrate the One God in Three Persons, who is the source of our truly “green” life.
“I am the vine; you re the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing” (John 15:5 ESV). Vines grow and produce fruit. Do you want to be a living tendril of the Vine? Do you desire the works of power that proclaim God’s Kingdom? Commit yourself to learning and remaining in the work of the Triune God.
Reflection: Too often, the idea of Christian action equates to Christian education, or catechesis. That is a mistake. Unless we are firmly rooted in the ground of true Life in Christ, we won’t thrive, we won’t become powerful green vines in the Kingdom of God.
* Written by The Reverend Christopher Porter, Senior Pastor, Advent Lutheran Church, Winchester, VA.