Dear Andrew—the Church, the Flame

Today was Pentecost, and in our church that means everybody wears something red. It was like a garden of multicolored carnations, and you were in your red t-shirt and jeans like a big boy. You were pretty well-behaved throughout the service (and made up for it by whining the whole way home, but…)

So the story of Pentecost is this—the disciples are all praying, and all of a sudden fire comes out of heaven and lands on their shoulders. And they start to speak…to preach to people in the city. People from all over. And they all hear the disciples speaking in THEIR languages. It’s weird, and clearly a miracle.

Then Peter (you know Peter, from Easter; he’s the disciple everyone loves to talk about because there’s so much material to work with) gives this great speech to everyone there. And then, the church goes out.

Jesus told them to go out to all the world, and now they have everything they need.

It’s a cool story in a lot of ways: first, because Jesus told them He’d send His spirit, and this is how it’s done. There’s no confusion about it. Second, because of the beauty of how it works. The Old Testament talks about the Tower of Babel and how God separated people with different languages so that they couldn’t unite in their sin. Languages have divided humanity since then, and we sometimes feel that weird isolation when we’re listening to people talking but we can’t understand a word. But when those people are baptized, they take that spirit with them, back to their own homes, in their own languages. And the world is set alight.

Church, according to CS Lewis, might seem like a parochial, poor, small place full of normal, boring people. But in reality, the Church is a magnificent army, stretching across the globe, down the centuries. And on Pentecost I think about that. I wish I could tell you about it all…

Church, for you, is mostly a series of snacks interrupted by songs. I make you come to church because I want you to feel like church is for YOU. That’s why I love that there are so many kids at ours. If you’re a follower of Christ, no matter how old you are, there is a job for you to do. God wants your voice in those songs as much as mine, as much as the priest’s. If YOU stay in the church, you’ll begin to see yourself in those stories.

We’ll read you the stories about God’s people—the ones that faced down the giants and sat up all night with lions and prayed from the belly of the fish. And those are all your stories, but they will grow with you. As you face your own giants, your own struggles, you’ll get the subtext of those stories. You’ll realize all the things that go through a person’s head when they step up to the moment where their faith is tested. And you’ll know that it CAN be tested because it’s FAITH, not sight. Did David hesitate for a second there? Did Daniel wonder if maybe just capitulating to Nebuchadnezzar wouldn’t be easier? You’ll find yourself connecting with the less glamorous prophets like Jonah, the ones who didn’t get it right, though they knew everything they were supposed to do. You’ll hear God speaking to them in stories, and in between the lines, He will speak to you.

I know you get bored, and I know it takes a long time until it’s our turn to ‘get the bread’, but Andrew, I just hope someday you feel how I feel when we walk down that aisle. Old, old songs are played, and I see face after face and hear voice after voice…Daddy holds you or the three of us hold hands, and it’s like heaven…what heaven will be like when we all meet there again. Only it won’t be 100 people in Texas sharing the song, it will be millions and millions of Christians, all singing, all reliving the glory of their salvation, every tribe and nation and every obscure dialect that’s formed in the thousands of years since those guys in Israel were touched with fire. It will be awesome.

I get very emotional when we get to the Eucharist—to the line that goes up the aisle to receive the body of Christ. Because you’re so glad to ‘get the bread’, and when I tell you to say “body of Christ”, you say it with a grin.

The church is the body of Christ. I’ll explain it when you’re older…it’s a tough concept. If you’re His body, you get everything He got when His body was here—sometimes people look at you in wonder, sometimes miraculous things will come from you to heal a hurt. But more often, you’ll get stared at like you’re crazy and you’ll have weird, false things said about you. And you may get kicked around—you’ll certainly be misunderstood. Don’t be surprised.

Mom and Dad spend a lot of time talking about Christians in dangerous places—when you can read the letters from Open Doors, you’ll know why. The world does NOT like Christians.

The world will expect you to be perfect. You won’t be.

The world will say mocking things to you. Don’t respond.

The world will try to embarrass you out of your faith. Don’t let it.

The world will offer you all sorts of things that seem so nice and convenient. Don’t take them.

The world will try and get you on their side because their side can be terribly lonely.

People need what you have. And sometimes, that need will be plain to see, and you’ll want to help right away. But more often, you won’t realize what somebody needs. So just assume that they need love and go with that.

I know you’re little, and I know it will be a long time before we talk about this. I can’t force you to want to be part of the church. I can only keep bringing you back, week after week, until the day you bring yourself. And I can put the words in your mouth until they mean something to you.

May the Spirit fall on you, and may you spread the light.


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