Monday, May 24, 2010

A Thought on Pentecost

Yesterday, Christians celebrated Pentecost, the 50th day after the Passover Sabbath. It's a holy day in the Christian calendar, because it celebrates the arrival of the Holy Spirit on the gathered Christians, as recorded in Acts 2. Josh Graves, our teaching minister at Otter Creek, spoke on it in service yesterday, giving some great insights, and as yesterday was the 4th Sunday of the month, I went to the prison and had an opportunity to speak there, so I decided to speak about Pentecost as well.

I think Josh made some good points about Pentecost and you can listen to them here if you so desire. But I found something interesting as I was investigating Pentecost. One of the passages where Moses talks about the establishment of the Feast in the Penteteuch was in Leviticus 23:15-22. What's really interesting to me is verse 22. Pentecost was about giving the first fruits of what the Israelites grew back to God and to take care of the priests. But in the establishment of this feast, God also makes provision for the poor.
22 " 'When you reap the harvest of your land, do not reap to the very edges of your field or gather the gleanings of your harvest. Leave them for the poor and for the foreigner residing among you. I am the LORD your God.' "
Now, what's really interesting to me is how much this dovetails into the end of Acts 2, where we have the famous "communalism" verse in Acts 2:44

44 All the believers were together and had everything in common. 45 They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. 46 Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, 47 praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.
It's very easy for us to focus on the Holy Spirit and the speaking in tongues. If you grew up Church of Christ, you might have heard a lot about Acts 2:38, the "answer" to What Must I Do To Be Saved? But I think it's important for us to note that even in the establishment of the Feast of Pentecost, God had the poor in mind and when the Church came together, they kept the poor in mind. That should probably be something that we need to think about in our own congregational settings.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Why "We Are Nashville" Can't End With Flood Clean-Up

Just after the rains ended, Patten Fuqua wrote a blogpost that inspired a city called, "We Are Nashville." It's a great piece that you can read here:

What this simple phrase has done is unite a city behind an idea that we are more than the sum of our parts and while we are individuals, we are part of a greater whole, we have a collective identity as a city that draws us together. These are ideas that we saw in the US after the 9/11 tragedy. These are ideas that Christians need to grasp at a greater level in finding our identity as the body of Christ.

There have been bumper stickers, t-shirts, posters, and more t-shirts created as a part of this. A good friend of mine expressed some doubt about a tragedy being remembered with a t-shirt, which I think is an idea that has some merit. A tragedy where 23 people died shouldn't be souvenir-ized into a t-shirt.

But if it's not so much a souvenir, but a sign of a unity of purpose that Nashvillians can have, that's a sign of something. If it's something that galvanizes people to action to care for others, that's when it becomes something bigger.

And here's where I'm going with this. "We Are Nashville" has to last longer than flood recovery. There's something about a tragedy that brings people together. When we see our neighbors' houses flooded. We can't help but want to do SOMETHING... ANYTHING. But here's the truth. There is tragedy every day in this city. Every day, a child goes hungry. Every day, people go home to a house that is unlivable. Every day, there is hurt and pain and suffering on a scale that I as an upper/middle-class white man doesn't usually have eyes to see.

The spirit/Spirit behind "We Are Nashville" is something that can push us to a higher purpose. One that goes out and seeks what we can do to help the people who don't have, but who desperately need help. And we as Christians have to be at the forefront of this. If we're not, and we slink back into our brick-housed ghettos, then we have failed, and all "We Are Nashville" is a call to action to get ourselves back to where we were and not to help lift up our neighbors as well.

Thursday, May 06, 2010


Hopefully, most of you are aware of the devastation that struck Nashville and the surrounding areas this weekend. I know that the national news hasn't covered it as much as the Times Square bomb or the Gulf of Mexico oil spill, but I think word is getting out regardless.

The Wilsons, all facets of us are ok. Our house had a little bit of water in the garage from the deluge on Sunday, but nothing significant that couldn't be taken care of with some brooms and a sump pump connected to an outlet. My mom and dad's house was fine as well, since they are on a high hill, but much of their neighborhood was not. My sister Julie is fine, even though her house was cut off by an impromptu lake over the soccer fields where Connor plays. My brother is fine and had no issues, and my sister Sarah is good as well. We were fortunate.

Much of this city and especially the Bellevue area where we live are not good. Water got into places where it's never been before and had never been thought that it could get to. Neighbors of ours on our street had mudslides which brought significant amounts of earth into their yards and even trees onto their houses. Downtown has flooded from the Cumberland river and some of the poorer areas of Nashville have been affected as well, including a homeless encampment where Otter Creek has done work called Tent City was completely swept away.

Nashville is hurting. But Nashville is also stepping up. When volunteers for sandbagging were called for, people of all faiths and no faith banded together to save a water treatment plant from flooding and putting Nashville in even more dire straits with regards to water supply. And these sandbags were put together by inmates who volunteered for the duty to help the city where they are incarcerated. A movement has sprung up on Facebook and Twitter called "We Are Nashville." And it's not just for Nashvillians; it's for those that wish to stand in solidarity with Nashville. Those who have called it home and moved, or just those that sympathize.

But more importantly to me than Nashville stepping up, the church is stepping up. Due to many churches having experienced clean up in NOLA and the surrounding areas during Katrina, most of them know the task facing the city and how to respond. And to me that's one of the best ways that the church can be Jesus to an area that needs the church to be the Body of Christ, perhaps more than ever.

Just a couple of links.

If you want to keep up on the news within Nashville, is one of the best ways.

If you want some tangible ways to help and you're in the Nashville area, my congregation Otter Creek has a lot of options on the home page

If you're out of town and want a way to help, you can send gift cards to national store like Home Depot, Wal-Mart, Target, Lowes, etc to the Otter Creek Church office at 409 Franklin Road, Brentwood, TN, 37027 and those will be given to those who need them.

Thanks so much for your continued prayers for us.
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