One of the blessings of our Family ministry is that we are very involved and intentional in the ecumenical and in the interfaith communities. Case in point: A week ago we had another session in our Jewish Christian Dialogues with Congregation Ohr Shalom…something we have been doing for 20 years now. It was a great night with over 80 people coming from our two congregations and beyond, including a large group of people from Lantern Hill, to see the powerful documentary Joachim Prinz: I Shall Not Be Silent, the story of a Newark Rabbi, and refugee from Hitler’s Nazi Germany, who stood at the forefront of the Civil Rights Movement. Then this last Tuesday, Pastor and I met with Father Andy and his Pastoral Associate Margaret from the Roman Catholic Church of the Little Flower, to plan another year of ministry together to mark the 500th Anniversary of the Reformation. We’ll be having more dialogue sessions, a joint Staff Retreat, a joint congregational service day at the New Jersey FoodBank, a picnic and of course, time to worship together. Who’d have ever thought? And the wonderful thing about these ministries is that they get us out of our own little box…to work and to act and to talk beyond our comfort levels.
Some congregations refer to Pentecost as the “birthday of the church.” One of the congregations that I did Field Work in actually had a cake with candles. More accurately, though it’s a time when the church celebrates the coming of the Holy Spirit. A time when we’re reminded of our connection to the life and the ministry of Christ. It’s a day that also reminds us of who we are as people of faith. The Holy Spirit comes to each of us, as we continue to grow and to change throughout our lives. God’s voice speaks to each of us in the quiet breath of the Spirit – both in our words and in our actions.
On this last Sunday of the Easter season, our lessons take a look back just before Jesus’ crucifixion and forward at what lies ahead as we glimpse the coming of Pentecost. In our reading from Acts, we’re left like the disciples at the Ascension – with our heads tilted back looking up at the sky. But, it’s Jesus who reigns us in, bringing us back to earth in the prayer that he shares in the Gospel. In the prayer he speaks not only from the perspective of the risen and ascended one, but as the Word of God, now made flesh. He speaks as the one who has lived among us. As we overhear Jesus, we learn that God’s character and purpose are identical to those of Jesus. Jesus who has fully and completely, made God’s name known. No longer do we have to wonder about the nature of God – God’s purpose and love have been made known in Jesus. At the same time, the reading teaches us a bit about ourselves, about God’s people. Jesus’ prayer frequently mentions the “world”—the world at once hostile to God and God’s anointed; and yet also the world that is truly beloved by God. Central to Jesus is not just that we know about his work, but that we know God through his life and his ministry.