Morning! It’s Jenny this morning, back after a few much-needed days away from work. Despite my rigid routine, it’s much harder to keep a mental separation of work and home-life when it all takes place under the same roof.
I’m taking a break from David and his Psalms too, to delve into Pentecost a bit today. It just so happened that immediately before our Pentecost service started yesterday – and quite appropriately – I was trying to decipher a tricky language. Any guesses where this stamp might be from?
It was a bit of a mean question really, because it’s what’s known as a ‘cinderella’ stamp in philately. It was a stamp issued by the self-declared government of ‘White Russia’ – a region of Belarus – and because it wasn’t actually a proper country, with it’s own postal system, the stamps had no postal value. It took me quite a long time to track this fact down though, as the catalogues don’t help you identify stamps that aren’t really stamps.
If that stamp had feelings, it might be feeling a little sad now. It hasn’t been laid out on a page with a country name at the top, and then carefully fixed with a stamp hinge next to the other stamp of the same design in a different value. It hasn’t become part of my collection. It hasn’t even made it into an envelope to be passed on to another collector. Instead it’s been put into an envelope of other cinderellas, unofficial issues, suspected reprints, fiscal/tax stamps and postal labels that I don’t know what to do with.
The disciples did have feelings, and we can imagine that they were feeling a little sad. They had been on a rollercoaster of emotions. After giving up everything to follow Jesus, they had followed him into Jerusalem and seen him hailed a king, but within a week the mob had turned and he’d been executed. They had then had the joy and confusion of seeing him raised to life again, only to see him taken from them again, up into heaven. They had lost the man they followed.
They were also probably feeling a little like my stamp – they had no place. They could go back home and pick up their old lives, but that would mean turning their backs on the last three years, and everything that they’d seen and learnt. They could try and integrate into life in Jerusalem, but they were known as followers of a man who had been crucified. They were ‘cinderellas’ with no place or purpose.
It’s no wonder that they clung onto some Jesus’s last words in Acts 1: 4 – “Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about.” Cast adrift, his instruction was an anchor.
This period between the ascension and Pentecost tells us so much about what it means to ‘wait’ on God. Perhaps you’d like to read over Acts 1:12-26.
Waiting is an active thing – not passive. We’re all waiting at the moment. Waiting for numbers of cases to come down, waiting to be able to see family, waiting for life to get back to normal. But it is an active waiting. For each of us, that looks different. For some (like me with my stamps) its getting on with long put-off projects. For others, its making the most of the time with their children and making good memories. For my mum – amongst other things – its been a chance to spring-clean, washing down walls and paint work.
For the disciples, waiting meant meeting together. It meant praying together. It meant studying the scriptures.
But while it might of looked like waiting to the believers….. to God it was work.
In meeting together, sharing their individual stories of Jesus, they built community, encouraged each other’s faith, learnt about aspects of Jesus that they may not have personally encountered.
Take a moment now to thank God for your Christian community who can support, encourage and teach you about God from their experience.
In praying together they were following the example of Jesus, who prayed so often to his Father. We don’t see a lot of evidence of the disciples praying in the Gospels – in fact they were better known for falling asleep – but now they are joining together constantly in prayer. They were developing that personal relationship with God that they had seen Jesus have. That must have been quite a leap for them – a shift in their understanding.
Thank God that we can come to him in prayer, no matter what our prayers are about and know that he will hear us and listen. Thank him that, like Jesus, we can call him ‘Father’.
The disciples were finally getting their heads around the scriptures and trying to apply what they knew. In a short space of time, it’s like the veil that had limited their understanding at times in the Gospels has been lifted. Suddenly everything that Jesus said has fallen into place with the scriptures, and opened their eyes to understand them.
Let’s thank God that no matter how well we know them, the scriptures always have something new to say to us.
“When the day of Pentecost came…..”. It always feels to me that Pentecost is presented as an event that springs up from nowhere, but it doesn’t. Yes, the wind and the flames suddenly appear, and the gift of tongues comes out of the blue, but the ability of these people to share about Jesus with those around them doesn’t. God has been busy equipping them – through their fellowship, prayer and study – all while they were ‘waiting’. Peter’s address to the crowd hasn’t just come to him. It is underpinned by the time they have spent ‘waiting’.
God won’t be wasting this time of ‘waiting’. Whether we are aware of it or not, he’s busy working, preparing the ground, equipping his people.
This track always makes me think of Pentecost – even though its EBM and not Christian in a conventional sense. I’ve been in a massive arena with thousands of people when this has been performed, and I know God was there too.
The disciples were ‘cinderellas’. They had no place or purpose, but God, on the day of Pentecost, used that and made them people of everywhere. Let’s pray that he’s doing the same with us.
Have a good day.