The first Christian Pentecost (Pentecost is a Jewish holy day, fifty days after the Passover celebrations) must have looked and sounded like chaos. With no warning and no time to prepare, there was the sound of a tornado outside and there were what looked like tongues of fire on each believer. Every one present was filled with the Holy Spirit, and they spoke in languages that they didn’t know. Those who came to see what was going on heard and understood languages that they spoke.
There is a LOT to say about this birthday of the church. Just sit and think how chaotic this scene is. Holy Chaos, for no one knew this was coming… a God moment that would make these first Christ-followers something they never imagined they would be; and they would do what no one had done before, on fire for the Lord, proclaiming the gospel for everyone. Remember to wear something RED on Pentecost, May 23.
It was Pentecost 40 years ago, in the Old Chapel of historic Bethlehem when I had a Pentecost experience when Bishop Jimmy Weingarth led me to vow to the Lord that I would vigilantly apply myself to the study of scripture, and prayer and declare all the counsel of God. Then as I knelt before him and he laid hands on me, I knew I was called, chosen, and empowered by His Spirit. Pentecost!
The next day offered some chaos, for it was time to pack up the U-Haul truck and trailer and head to Ohio and see, for the first time, the house we would call home, aka the parsonage.
With a profoundly grateful heart, I am beyond thrilled that God called me to be a pastor. With only one life to live on this planet, I would do it again if I could. For where else do you get to preach and teach and sing the greatest good news: Jesus loves me, this I know, for the Bible tells me so?! Where else do you get to welcome new born babies to this world and celebrate with their families the miracle of life?! Or sit with the dying and their families, and in their grief help them to see God’s hand in what they’re going through?! In reality they have more often helped me to refill my empty cup of hope, as they through their letting me into their brokenness. For, you see, pastors are given privileged access to the lives of people. All this and sooo much more, I’m grateful to God that He called me, and I picked up the phone and received my filling of the Holy Spirit. I have not batted a perfect batting average of 1.00, maybe .200 if I’m lucky. But if I helped us take God a bit more seriously and a lot more joyfully, I am glad.
My ministry doesn’t end on May 23; it changes in almost every way, though. I won’t be your pastor, and am not the one to go to about a wed-ding, funeral, baptism, etc. But we are still brothers and sisters in Christ. And we’re happy to be staying in our Lititz home.
Actually, I have never been your pastor, just your sheepdog, for the Lord is my shepherd, as He is yours. I anticipate my seeking Him in new ways as I look forward to this next phase of life… beginning with some extended time off to unwind… and find more time, at last, to enjoy family, some travel, and whatever.
Each church I have been part of has taught me, and stretched me and I trust has helped to make me a better pastor. My first call in 1981 to South Moravian in Dover Ohio, a small church that could only afford a ¾ time pastor showed me a depth of dedication and sacrifice to their congregation. They didn’t have a lot of people to do a variety of programming, but they loved you and loved their little church. Bud and Emma Smith, with no children of their own, treated Liz and I as family and welcomed our first born with their love.
Sharon Moravian in Tuscarawas Ohio was where I had a summer internship in 1979 and where Martha Rolli showed us the gracious gift of hospitality for the whole summer, even including letting us bring our dog. Imagine, that for three months we had two Bible studies for youth every week! They opened a ¼ time new ministry position for me, in 1981, helping that larger church in its Christian Education and Youth Ministry ministries. Paul Couch, Bishop Blair’s father, was the full time pastor, giving me my first team ministry experience.
Midway Manor Moravian, Allentown, 1984-1990, was an ideal place to be parents of young children, as there were small homes built for the baby boom now being sold to young families. This church called me with the charge to pastor the church as if it were a new start, known as a Redevelopment Church. They had a “Can Do” attitude that helped grow that congregation, or it faced closure. I learned lessons of leadership and joy in ministry and in our six years there the average attendance grew to over 100 per week.
Covenant, in York, 1990-2005, was another small church struggling to grow. God blessed our efforts enabling the church to do two building expansions, and, for two consecutive years to be, unofficially, the fastest growing Moravian congregation in the Eastern District. Covenant was a place for both adults and their children to make lifetime friends who still get together as friends.
Lititz, 2005-2021. Yes, I’ve been your pastor for as much as 15½ years the longest pastorate since (who do you think? The first to call the church office with the right answer wins a prize).
Which brings us to where we are today: Lititz, such a long time, and Pastor Mark will likely be the longest pastorate in memory here about a year and half after I retire next month. At the very least, the long pastorates tell me that we’ve been privileged to share many more blessings than trials, more Pentecost celebrations of God with us than time in Lenten somberness. Put simply, frequent changes of pastors tend to divert or interrupt the direction of the ministry we share. It takes time to get to know and trust one another, at least two years. Then, building on that trust enables the pastor and church leadership to work together in a Pentecost spirit of unity, purpose, and mission.
Lititz Moravian Christ- followers, it has been a singular privilege of mine to be part of a church with many blessings, to be a church giving many blessings. Here as a healing place for a hurting world are signs that the focus of the healthy Post Pandemic Church will be more doing than watching others do, more hands on than just listening, more clearly a Missional Church than a Maintenance church. We should be known not just as the church with a great Christmas service, but as the compassionate church working to be mindful of knowing our neighbors where they live and work and recreate, so that we can help them where they are in need.
Pentecost Happens! Every church has its havocs and its happiness, its weaknesses and its strengths, its problems and its possibilities. Yet, still churches are part of God’s calling, and part God’s chaos. For where the Lord leads, there are still waters and green pastures, and there are sounds like a tornado and tongues as of fire.
I’m honored to have been part of the healing winds of happiness, bringing a healthier, happier church than it was for some years. This congregation went through some difficult times of havoc, and has now gotten used to a happier time of shared peace.
I praise God and thank you for this journey we have shared. “(Lord), continue to transform us, heal, reconcile, empower. Turn lives around. Fill emptiness. Give drifting hearts direction. Vitalize your wavering church, forging unity, giving new vision. Spirit of God, fall afresh on me.”