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Jun
28

The Day of Pentecost (Part 1)

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Last weekend my family make our annual pilgrimage to Northeast Missouri for our family reunion. For the last several years, my mother has done her best to assemble all of the relatives to share a meal and catch up with each other. Notice I mention the meal first. My mother is 84 years old, but hasn’t lost her touch in the kitchen. Having grown up during the great depression, she learned at an early age that if you have an iron skillet, some lard and flour you can make anything delicious. The serving table looked something like that old Rolling Stones album cover Beggars Banquet. Most people get up from the table and say “excuse me.” I got up from the table on Saturday and said, “forgive me.”

There’s something about food that brings the people of God together. Baptists are notorious for using (and maybe abusing) food at gatherings. Do you have something to celebrate? Let’s eat! A new baby? A wedding? A promotion? A good dental check up? By all means, let’s eat! But we also eat during times of sadness. When word circulates that an illness or hospitalization has been incurred, Baptists come to the rescue armed with casserole dishes. Should someone from the church family pass away, one of the first questions asked is, “Who will serve the meal?” I think Baptists believe they have cornered the market on food. But I am aware of kindred denominations that perform the same regiment with equal discipline.

Interestingly enough, we didn’t invent this phenomenon in the last few decades. God is big on food and has been for thousands of years. In fact, God was the first to suggest that his people use food during times of teaching, celebration, sadness, and memory. The Old Testament explains seven feasts that the people of God were to conduct during the year. Each one of them was with purpose. Each one of them was God’s idea.

Three of the seven feasts were pilgrimage feasts. That means that the people of God were required to return to Jerusalem to observe them. The first one was the feast of shelters (or booths). This feast was given to remind the people of God of God’s great protection during the wilderness wanderings. As they lay in their booths at night they were to look up to the stars and remember that God is their protector. The second major pilgrimage feast was Passover. Passover is probably the most familiar of the Old Testament feasts, and was instituted on the night the death angel passed over the land of Egypt and the Israelites were freed from slavery and bondage. Jesus was crucified during Passover, a celebration at which scholars estimate 120,000 lambs were sacrificed in Jerusalem.

Fifty days following the Passover was the Feast of First Fruits. This harvest celebration commemorated the first portion of the harvest and dedicated it to God in anticipation of the remainder of the harvest that would soon be gathered. On God’s calendar, Jesus was crucified on Passover and the Spirit was given fifty days later on the Day of Pentecost…during the Feast of First Fruits. Interesting, isn’t it? Someone has said that the average Christian and the average church are somewhere bogged down between Calvary and Pentecost. They have been to Calvary for pardon, but they have not been to Pentecost for power. I think all of us agree that we need to recapture that power that was manifest in that upper room on the day of Pentecost so that we can be the church Jesus desires us to be and do the work Jesus desires us to do. Tomorrow I’ll get into the thicket of last weekend’s message from Acts 2:1-21. In the meantime, have something to eat.

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