“Sparks Flying – Spirit Dancing”
May 27, 2018 – Pentecost – Year B
Imagine that we are at Manitou Park for our annual picnic. The park is crowded with folk from Penticton United Church, St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church, St. Saviour’s Anglican Church, Oasis United Church, and Naramata Community Church. And there are all sorts of other people you don’t recognize. It is a full park. Speaking was a preacher, who with a convincing voice cried out quoting from the prophet Joel. He talks about dreams and visions.
Hold on! Dreams and visions – really! Is it not enough that our picnic is inundated with all these strangers? They probably won’t help to pay the bills of our respective churches, we mumble. Look at all the litter on the ground. Who is going to pick it up? And what is with this wind, whipping through the park! Suddenly, there are tongues of fire, resting upon each one of us, but not consuming us. What IS going on?
This is a picnic like no other. Bunched together, elbow to elbow, we are up close and personal. And amazing things are happening. Penticton United Church folk are dividing up and sitting with folk from the other 4 churches and are encouraging the visitors to join them. Instead of sitting in cliques, we have true community.
The smell of hot dogs and hamburgers and veggie burgers fill the air. We see able bodied scrambling to help those less mobile. There is no rush to be first in line. There is no complaining that there is a bit of wait because of the crowd. The Naramata community grocery store flings open its doors so that more food is available to feed the crowd.
It feels like a party – but with a difference. The fruit pickers from Quebec are speaking in French and are being understood. Those who learned Dutch as a first language are speaking it with delight and are engaging in meaningful conversations. Young people, in numbers like we haven’t seen since the 1950’s and 1960’s are out playing together and talking about how “cool” this picnic is. New friends are being made.
The most amazing thing of all is that Richard Canning and his supporters are offering to help Dan Albas and Dan Ashton campaign in support of the Kinder-Morgan Pipeline. We see the supporters of the National Park in the South Okanagan passing out hot dogs to the opponents of the National Park. We see hunters and fishers passing out drinks to the anti gun lobbyists. Justin Trudeau and David Suzuki, arm in arm, are passing out bannock to Penticton Indian Band folk. Talk about dreams and visions coming alive!
What does Pentecost mean to us in 2018? Is it just a dream or vision? Or are sparks still flying and is the spirit dancing? Can you imagine our church so invigorated that I would not be criticized for choosing contemporary praise music, interpretive scripture telling, and dramatic sermons. Yes, that is acceptable once, but certainly not a regular diet of such extreme contemporary worship, you say. Imagine that we had a praise band offering music leadership. Picture dancing in the aisles. In fact, imagine that we got rid of the pews and had chairs that could be positioned in circles, or arches, or any other pattern that enhanced the particular worship service. Imagine that our service appealed more to our senses and less to our heads. I am not saying that I want to make such radical changes. It certainly would not be respectful to our current congregation. But – if we truly want to grow, we need to risk. Perhaps a first step is to invite Linnea Good back to lead a worship service in her amazing contemporary style. Perhaps we need to try having a praise band every 6 weeks on a Sunday afternoon, just like the Anglican Church does the Jazz Vespers.
How do we attract young people, you ask? Every church, temple, mosque and meeting hall are asking that question. There are no easy answers. Surely some of the response begins in the family home. When the spirit of Pentecost is alive at home, the family will want to nurture it by including faith formation opportunities for their children. We have people like Cindy Garnum, Pat Fraser and Jean Sherwood who are passionate about Christian Education for young folk. We have a Worship Committee willing to try new styles of worship, as long as the congregation will support and not criticize. In the past I have offered inter-generational worship that has been well received. Some of those ideas have been published and are easy to duplicate. But, are we willing to put the energy required to get that kind of ministry off the ground? Children, youth and young adults will come if we are on fire with the Holy Spirit. But, that means we must fund and staff that ministry, for it takes much energy, time and resources. Just as we have chosen to fund and staff Senior’s ministry, we could make the choice for Children, Youth, and Young Adult ministry.
Pentecost means daring to dream about our future as a church. In just over a year and a half I will be retiring. You will be seeking a new direction in ministry and a new person to walk with you in that journey. If we limit our dreams and visions to what is, we are engaging in a slow march to closure. However, if we dream of possibilities the vision is endless. Just imagine if we were to work cooperatively with other United Churches in the region. We currently have several sister churches that do not have a called minister. What might happen if we were to partner with 1 or 2 other United Churches and share ministerial leadership? What about visioning a shared relationship with a church of a different denomination? The “Daring to Share” workshop that many of us attended last month, brought helpful information on shared ministry. Becoming a United Church and other denomination Shared Ministry can be life giving for the new congregation.
Pentecost flames around us reminding us that cut backs need not be the answer to the future church. In fact, as Pentecostal people, we are ablaze with a vision of endless possibilities. We are certain of our priorities of ministry and how we are to achieve them. Our eyes are open to the community outreach needs of our community and around the world. We dare to dream of pastoral care offered to everyone who needs and is receptive to it. We envision our congregation participating in worship experiences, both on Sunday and at other times. We yearn for faith formation opportunities that enlighten, encourage, and challenge. We dream of our church meeting the needs of the people of Penticton who seek community, welcome, and the Good News of Christ. We pray that the young and the elderly can learn from and with each other. That is the message the dove of Pentecost brings.
Pentecost is an exciting season. It fills us with hope and enlightenment. We are proud to be Pentecostal people, on fire with the Good News. May we share it with delight. Amen.