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  • Writer's pictureSteven Marsh

Being a church the Saddleback Valley is Asking For: a Reflection on Acts 2:1-21, Psalm 104:24-34, Ge

Jesus came to create a new community, a community that is about the collective whole and its betterment.[1] Yet, bewilderment preoccupied Philip. If Philip could see the Father, then he would believe that Jesus was who he claimed to be. J.N. Sanders writes, “Men [People] hanker for the certainty which sight seems to give. But sight is not given us in this life, only faith.”[2] As the first verse in O Great Spirit resounds, “O Great Spirit whose voice I hear in the wind…O Great Spirit, whose breath gives life to all the world…hear me.”

It was the Feast of Weeks or Shavuot. Shavuot, the third of the festivals of Judaism, was a joyful one, in which the first-fruits of the harvest were offered to God. Christians, a large immigrant population, and worshipping Jews gathered in Jerusalem. And the Holy Spirit came as promised; the One who would remind humanity what Jesus taught and did. The demonstration of many languages was impressive with everyone understanding in their own “tongue.” This was not a reversal of Babel making everyone speak in one language, but an empowerment for the followers of Jesus to tell the gospel in every language.[3]

In John 14:12 Jesus says, “…the one who believes in me will also do the works that I do and, in fact, will do greater works than these, because I am going to the Father.” Human says, “I cannot depend on anyone but myself.” Jesus spoke of peace, reconciliation, and wholeness. Remembering, telling and living the way of Jesus is critical. [4] The primary concern of the Gospel is not seeing God, “but the intimacy of Jesus’ relationship with God and what that means for Jesus’ followers.”[5] Love is seen when we live our lives in the fullness of the Holy Spirit. The great Anabaptist reformer Menno Simons writes, “True evangelical faith cannot lie dormant. It clothes the naked, it feeds the hungry, it comforts the sorrowful, it shelters the destitute, it serves those that harm it, it binds up that which is wounded, it has become all things to all people.”[6]

The men and women on the plain of Shinar saw God. It wasn’t enough. Philip saw God. It wasn’t enough. But faith in God is enough. The Holy Spirit came to all people at the Feast of Weeks. The content of enough is God. “Fill-a me up, come-a Holy Spirit. So many things try to fill me up. So many things try to weigh me down. Fill-a my heart now until you stay and chase the other things away.”[7]

Let us not forget Babel, however. We’re addicted to Babel. The rugged individualist is “knighted” in Babel. Babel makes injustice thrive. It blesses the rich and curses the poor. Babel makes enemies and wars. Babel beckons us to focus on ourselves and to ignore looking to God.

Being a church the Saddleback Valley is asking for includes us, those who are addicted to Babel and welcomes us to recovery. A church likes this gathers AND scatters. Fans are turned into followers AND consumers become missionaries. Inclusion is AND people live in authentic intergenerational community. So if you’re tired of judging, critiquing, and justifying; if you’re fed up with being motivated by fear; and if you want to be a part of a group of people who love working together to do and be church differently; then we invite you to come with us. [8]

[1]Adapted from Jim Wallis’ On God’s Side (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Brazos Press, 2013), 25-42.

[2]J.N. Sanders, The Gospel According to St. John (New York: Harper & Row Publishers, 1968), 322.

[3]Gleaned from Margaret P. Aymer in David L. Bartlett and Barbara Brown Taylor, editors, Feasting on the Word, Year C, Volume 3, (Louisville, Kentucky: Westminster John Knox Press, 2010), 17.

[4]The phrase “…remembering, telling and living the way of Jesus is taken from Diana Butler Bass’, A People’s History of Christianity (New York, New York: HarperCollins Publishers, 2009).

[5]Bruce E. Shields in David L. Bartlett and Barbara Brown Taylor, editors, Feasting on the Word, Year C, Volume 3, 25.

[6]Taken from Richard Kriegbaum, “President’s Message” in Pacific, vol. 29, no. 1, 2016.

[7]Peter Choplin wrote these lyrics in Fill-a Me Up.

[8]Adapted from Hugh Halter and Matt Smay, AND: The Gathered and Scattered Church (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan, 2010), 26.

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