A Methodist preacher told me recently that if you put a ragged, dirty man living in a box under a highway overpass beside the most beautiful Gothic cathedral in the world and asked God which one God loves more, God would come down on the side of the man from the street.
Tending to the needs of fellow humans is the model for the church, radiating from the life and teaching of Jesus, that first-century rabbi who had a knack for ticking off leaders in the temple and for ingratiating himself to everyday sinners in his healing and teaching ministry from Galilee to Jerusalem.
Christians marked the Day of Pentecost recently. Folks in some churches came to worship wearing Holy Spirit red, the liturgical color of the season, to commemorate the day described in Acts 2 when “believers had gathered together in one place.”
This is a story with drama and mystery, including unexpected noise from the sky and tongues of fire spreading around touching every person in the room. It was like a gathering of old college friends who had come from all over with everybody talking at the same time.
Except in this case everyone was hearing in his or her native language.
All this giving rise to the big question: “What does this mean!”
Of course, there were naysayers around to make fun of the believers getting so cranked up about their religion or to say, “These folks are drunk!”
Peter to the rescue.
“Fellow Jews, listen to me! Let me tell you what this means. These folks are not drunk (it's only nine o'clock in the morning), rather this is what the prophet Joel spoke about.”
The words from Joel: “God says I will pour out my Spirit upon all folks. Your sons and your daughters will prophesy; your young men will see visions and your old men will dream dreams ...”
Thinking about Pentecost makes me wonder if I’m not serious enough about the Holy Spirit, even though at times I have felt the hovering Spirit at work. (Even in church.)
As readers already know, I'm a Presbyterian, and I have never seen Presbyterians lose their cool about Jesus.
Once, I remember thinking I would like to jump into the aisle and shout, but I held myself in check, not wanting to feel the hot breath of a staid, John Calvin-indoctrinated Presbyterian elder down my neck!
Smart remarks aside, the times I have really felt the Spirit around me were when I worshiped with homeless people who lived in the woods along the Football Highway between Durham and Chapel Hill or shared lunch on Wednesdays with them and other homeless folks looking for a friend or a biscuit.
Or when for a time I was the volunteer pianist for the worship service in the chapel at Butner where residents with all manner of disabilities gathered faithfully to sing and to praise God on Sunday.
That's where I met a wonderful woman named Sarah whose God-given talent allowed her to play anything on the organ that she had heard. Once, she played part of Beethoven's Fifth Symphony.
And Carlos, the blind man who did not speak but who could sing “The Lord's Prayer” and “O Holy Night,” never missing a word or a note.
As a local Episcopal rector said in a recent church newsletter: “Thanks to God for empowering us through the Spirit and inviting us to participate in the divine dance of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.”
Duke Chapel Sunday morning worship will feature a lineup of local preachers this summer.
The Community Voices Preaching Series aims to strengthen ties between the chapel congregation and area churches. Services, held at 11 a.m. in Baldwin Auditorium on Duke's East Campus, are open to the public.
“The Community Voices Series is meant to be a reflection of Christian ecumenism and fellowship,” said Chapel Dean Luke Powery. “It is as much about what these community leaders will preach as how we will listen and respond as a congregation.”
Here is the summer schedule:
▪ June 7: The Rev. Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove, author and associate minister at St. John's Baptist Church.
▪ June 14: The Rev. Meghan Benson, Duke Divinity School chaplain and outgoing director of worship at the chapel.
▪ June 21: The Rev. Jennifer Copeland, executive director of the N.C. Council of Churches and outgoing director of Duke Wesley Fellowship.
▪ June 28: The Rev. Susan Dunlap, chaplain at Urban Ministries of Durham and adjunct professor at Duke Divinity.
▪ July 5: The Rev. Herbert Reynolds Davis Sr., pastor at Nehemiah Christian Center Church of God in Christ and a member of Durham CAN Clergy Caucus.
▪ July 12: The Rev. Luke Powery, dean of Duke Chapel.
▪ July 19: The Rev. Carol Gregg, pastor to the Congregation at Duke Chapel.
▪ July 26: Dr. Christy Lohr Sapp, associate dean for Religious Life at Duke.
▪ Aug. 2: The Rev. Luke Powery, dean of Duke Chapel.
▪ Aug. 9: The Rev. Spencer Bradford, pastor at Durham Mennonite Church and Executive Director of Durham Congregations in Action.
St. Titus Episcopal Church, 400 Moline Ave., will celebrate the life and mission of the church at 7 p.m. Tuesday as the congregation welcomes a new vicar, the Rev. Stephanie Yancy.
Bishop Michael Curry of the Diocese of North Carolina will celebrate the Eucharist and the Rev. Marion Saxon, vicar of St. Andrew's Episcopal in Haw River, will preach. A reception on the church grounds will follow the service.
A native of the Bahamas, the new vicar holds degrees from Cornell University and The General Theological Seminary of the Episcopal Church. She was ordained in 2006 in the Diocese of Maryland where she served several parishes as interim rector. She was also interim rector at Durham's St. Luke's Episcopal in 2013 and is presently the Interim Young Adult Missioner of the Diocese of North Carolina.
The Rev. Yancy and her husband, Joseph, have two adult children and a 6-year-old grandson.
Go ahead. make Flo’s day. Contact Flo Johnston at email@example.com or call 910-361-4135.