There are many things Jesus said that challenge me, that vex me, that give not comfort, but trouble my soul. Among them is, “Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” (Matthew 5:48) Be perfect? Seriously, Jesus? It seems utterly impossible to strive for perfection. It actually seems a little brazen, don’t you think?
Watching my retirement savings dwindle and the grocery and gas bills soar is a little unsettling. All indications point to an economy with higher interest rates and prices, a bear market for investments, and a cool-off of the real estate market, and that is but the beginning. The result is fear.
“The human being is an animal who has received the vocation to become God.” – Basil the Great, 329-379 AD
What if God’s whole plan is to make us into divine partners in the work and wonder of creation? One of the greatest teachers of the Church taught exactly that. The vocation, the calling, of every Christian was to allow the Holy Spirit to so consume us that we become divine with God. How’s that working for all of us?
Though she had watched many years go by in her long journey of life, she possessed a gentle and joyous spirit. The wrinkles and creases of age in her face framed normally sparkling eyes and a quick laugh. She was one of the saints. She exhibited the “fruits of the Spirit” Paul talked about (love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. - Galatians 5:22-23) as naturally as anyone I knew. Yet, in this visit, she appeared troubled. When I asked why, she looked at me and asked, with great sincerity, “Pastor, am I saved? I mean, will God let me into heaven?” I answered, “Without a doubt. God loves you.”
This week we will celebrate the Festival of Pentecost, the culmination of the season of resurrection which began on Easter Sunday. Some think of Pentecost as the “birthday of the Church.” Luke the Evangelist, writer of the gospel that bears his name and of a sequel, the Book of Acts, certainly helps that along a bit. The prayers, expectations, and announcements of the first chapter of Luke and the first chapter of Acts set the scene for God to break into human history. First, in the birth of the Messiah, fulfilling the prophecies of Jewish scripture. Then in the events of Pentecost which are the fulfillment of the prophet Joel’s vision.