"Twenty years ago, I was on a Pastoral Search Committee, and one of the questions we asked the ten candidates we interviewed in the first round was to tell us their three favorite passages of scripture. I loved hearing the variety of verses quoted and even learned some that I didn't know, such as the last line of one of this week's lectionary passages:
In no particular order: (From biblegateway.com--all New Living Translation)
1. Acts 2:1-13
1 On the day of Pentecost all the believers were meeting together in one place. 2 Suddenly, there was a sound from heaven like the roaring of a mighty windstorm, and it filled the house where they were sitting. 3 Then, what looked like flames or tongues of fire appeared and settled on each of them. 4 And everyone present was filled with the Holy Spirit and began speaking in other languages, as the Holy Spirit gave them this ability.
5 At that time there were devout Jews from every nation living in Jerusalem. 6 When they heard the loud noise, everyone came running, and they were bewildered to hear their own languages being spoken by the believers.
7 They were completely amazed. “How can this be?” they exclaimed. “These people are all from Galilee, 8 and yet we hear them speaking in our own native languages! 9 Here we are—Parthians, Medes, Elamites, people from Mesopotamia, Judea, Cappadocia, Pontus, the province of Asia, 10 Phrygia, Pamphylia, Egypt, and the areas of Libya around Cyrene, visitors from Rome 11 (both Jews and converts to Judaism), Cretans, and Arabs. And we all hear these people speaking in our own languages about the wonderful things God has done!” 12 They stood there amazed and perplexed. “What can this mean?” they asked each other.
13 But others in the crowd ridiculed them, saying, “They’re just drunk, that’s all!”For the last few years, we've had a moment in worship on Pentecost Sunday, where several members of the church who speak various languages all stand and read the same passage in their specific language. I've written about it before. It is a powerful reminder, for me, that God, Jesus, the Holy Spirit came for all nations, all people and not just for my little corner of the world.
2. Micah 6:8 (New Living Translation)
8 No, O people, the Lord has told you what is good,
and this is what he requires of you:
to do what is right, to love mercy,
and to walk humbly with your God.
My friend Jolynn brought this Scripture to my attention on a Mississippi trip. We used it as our theme verses for a subsequent trip. The simple words are seemingly easy to understand and yet so hard to undertake at the same time. When General Assembly was in CA a couple of years ago, that was their theme. Being on the "inside", I was able to get a print out of the artists rendition of that verse. It's on the wall in my office, reminding me of what God is calling me to do every day.
3. Proverbs 3:5-6 (New Living Translation)
5 Trust in the Lord with all your heart;
do not depend on your own understanding.
6 Seek his will in all you do,
and he will show you which path to take.
In 1990 or 1991 I chose these verses for a testimony I gave in church. I didn't know but it turns out that those verses were the lifeline G.G. would needed to get through that year and the years after my Boompa's (grandpa's) death from cancer. Trust, seek and God will show up. Simple and hard...a common theme I find in the Bible.
4. Psalm 22 (just the first few verses to give a hint) 1 My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?
Why are you so far away when I groan for help?
2 Every day I call to you, my God, but you do not answer.
Every night you hear my voice, but I find no relief.
3 Yet you are holy,
enthroned on the praises of Israel.
4 Our ancestors trusted in you,
and you rescued them.
5 They cried out to you and were saved.
They trusted in you and were never disgraced.
Over the years I've been more and more convinced that we, in the church, don't allow people to lament, grieve or petition God. When people express doubts as to how God could allow X, Y or Z, we quickly label that person as "losing their faith". And yet the book of Psalms is filled with laments and petitions. I was first really introduced to this Psalm through an Out of the Grey album and have connected with it deeper through the years. I find comfort and safety in a God whom I can cry out to when my heart is hurting and lost, who I know is there but whom sometimes seems so far away. The whole Psalm confirms that I can lament to God without losing my belief in God.
5. Luke 8:40-48
40 Now when Jesus returned, a crowd welcomed him, for they were all expecting him. 41 Then a man named Jairus, a synagogue leader, came and fell at Jesus’ feet, pleading with him to come to his house 42 because his only daughter, a girl of about twelve, was dying.
As Jesus was on his way, the crowds almost crushed him. 43 And a woman was there who had been subject to bleeding for twelve years, but no one could heal her. 44 She came up behind him and touched the edge of his cloak, and immediately her bleeding stopped.
45 “Who touched me?” Jesus asked.
When they all denied it, Peter said, “Master, the people are crowding and pressing against you.”
46 But Jesus said, “Someone touched me; I know that power has gone out from me.”
47 Then the woman, seeing that she could not go unnoticed, came trembling and fell at his feet. In the presence of all the people, she told why she had touched him and how she had been instantly healed. 48 Then he said to her, “Daughter, your faith has healed you. Go in peace.”
This story has captivated, fascinated and encouraged me for a few years now. Jesus didn't just feel the power flow out from him, he stopped to recognize the person, to confirm the healing, to affirm that the woman's desperate faith was enough. I fully admit that may be my own reading into it. I also admire the courage of the woman to speak up, even though she faced rejection and humiliation from the crowd. A part of me relates to the woman's hope to be healed unnoticed and I am challenged by her to speak up when Jesus asks.