On this misty morning, our congregation gathered for Pentecost Sunday. Pastor Nancy served triple duty serving as accompanist, messenger, and announcement giver. Well done, Nancy! On top of that, her message covered two special and noteworthy subjects–Pentecost and Memorial Day. They may seem dissimilar, however, both involve sacrifice by people who believed strongly in something that they risked their lives for it. Our military personnel, police officers, and Christian martyrs are really not that different after all. They deserve and have earned our thanks, our remembrance, and our gratitude.
Pentecost is essentially the birthday of the Christian Church, and we sang “Happy Birthday” to the church during children’s time. When the apostles were meeting in a house, the Holy Spirit came upon them with a violent wind. This is the scripture of Acts 2:1-8 that was read by Gayle Preston.
2 When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place. Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them.
Now there were staying in Jerusalem God-fearing Jews from every nation under heaven. When they heard this sound, a crowd came together in bewilderment, because each one heard their own language being spoken. Utterly amazed, they asked: “Aren’t all these who are speaking Galileans? Then how is it that each of us hears them in our native language?
After this meeting and the arrival of the Holy Spirit, followers of Christ began telling his story. It was hard, dangerous work to carry this message out into the world. Nancy spoke about three important men in the early Christian community: Peter, Stephen and Paul, who gave their life defending what they believed in.
Jesus’ disciple, Peter, was an uneducated fisherman who delivered a significant sermon during Pentecost. Peter invited the listeners to repent and be baptized. He declared the universal extent of the salvation offer, despite the audience’s responsibility in the crucifixion of Jesus. After this speech, three thousand souls welcomed the Word, met its conditions and were baptized. They joined the ranks of the apostles and disciples in the nucleus of the New Testament church. Peter undertook many missionary journeys, was imprisoned by King Herod, labored in Rome, and was crucified under the reign of Nero.
Stephen was a leader in the early Christian Church. He helped take care of widows and the poor, and he brought many to become followers of Jesus. Stephen was courageous and openly spoke about Jesus during a time when that was dangerous. He was stoned to death because of this. Stephen is recognized as a saint and the first martyr in Christian theology.
Saul of Tarsus started as one of Christianity’s most zealous enemies. When on the road to Damascus, he saw the resurrected Jesus Christ; he converted to Christianity and changed his name to Paul. The Apostle Paul become the gospel’s most ardent messenger. Paul traveled tirelessly through the ancient world, taking the message of salvation to the Gentiles, planting churches, preaching the gospel, and giving strength and encouragement to early Christians. Of the 27 books in the New Testament, Paul is credited as authoring 13 of them. Paul was martyred for his faith in Christ by the Romans.
We like to think that persecution of Christians ended a long time ago; however, that is not the case. It is still happening today. The message that Jesus lived and died for us is still relevant today. We are called to tell it. We are called to make disciples for Jesus Christ. Elkhorn Hills UMC tries to do this by sharing the love of Jesus Christ by serving others.
Memorial Day, originally called Decoration Day, is a day of remembrance for those who have died in service of the United States of America. Popular phrases like, “All gave some, some gave all” and “Home of the Free because of the brave” speak to the meaning of the national holiday. Be sure to pause and remember that your freedoms were paid for by the sacrifice or another.
In a short clip of the movie, Saving Private Ryan, a prayer by President Abraham Lincoln was read to the mother of the movie’s main character. That prayer seems appropriate to honor those families who have lost loved ones in the fight for freedom.
Prayer by Abraham Lincoln
“I pray that our Heavenly Father may assuage the anguish of your bereavement, and leave you only the cherished memory of the loved and lost, and the solemn pride that must be yours to have laid so costly a sacrifice upon the altar of freedom. “
Larry Finley Recognized
During the service, Nancy made a special announcement. Member Larry Finley will be recognized later today as a 40 year member of the American Legion. Thank you, Larry, for your service.
Special music was beautifully provided by Marlana Walla who sang Carrie Underwood’s popular song, “Temporary Home.” Carrie Underwood was inspired by the book “The Purpose Driven Life” by Pastor Rick Warren, who wrote that this world is a “temporary home” and that when we leave here, it is not the end of existence. Carrie co-wrote this song with Luke Laird and Zac Maloy .