Canon Maria Tjeltveit
Church of the Mediator, Allentown
So, being sent by the Holy Spirit, they went….
Peter and Paul are the primary actors in the Acts of the Apostles. It’s easy to read the book that way. But, I think, the Holy Spirit is really the primary actor in this story. Jesus promises the disciples that they will be baptized with the Holy Spirit. They experience that baptism in a dramatic and public way on Pentecost, with the rushing wind, the tongues of fire, and the gift of praising God in many languages that others can understand. The rest of Acts is a kind of living out of that Pentecost experience; being sent by the Spirit to put their bodies where their voices had gone. The Spirit is often a step ahead of the apostles; falling on Gentiles when Peter is wondering if they should be baptized. The Holy Spirit calls people to ministry, sends them out, and sometimes even forbids them to do things. The Spirit fills them, inspires them, and testifies to them.
As we move into Pentecost and come to the end of the Easter season of this blog, I invite us to think about where and how the Holy Spirit is acting in the story of our diocese.
I talked with church leaders, read stories of the churches written by the Pilgrimage Shepherds, looked at websites and Facebook pages, and reflected on parishes’ mission statements as I worked on this Pilgrimage blog. I can tell that the Holy Spirit is at work among us.
The Holy Spirit is active in our diocesan Pilgrimage. Some people told me that new relationships among congregations are being explored because of the Pilgrimage. Some of these are churches who were in particular relationships before that were life-giving for a while but then became stagnant. Now, the leaders are being open to seeing what the Holy Spirit might be up to among them, in this season of resurrection and new life.
One person spoke about doing the Pilgrimage Lenten series in her church. She said, “We were having conflict at the time and those categories of the lessons hit home almost every single week with something we needed to talk about. Someone said to me, ‘This is really applicable to us.’ And I said, ‘Yeah, that’s why they sent them!’” The Holy Spirit was working.
I am grateful that I was inspired to write this blog about Acts and the churches in our diocese. I learned a huge amount, and hope that I have been able to pass on to you a little of the richness of our life and ministry in this place.
Our diocese is not without its challenges. We need to be attentive to where the Holy Spirit is leading us. We may discover that embracing the resurrecting power of Jesus Christ in our lives and our congregations may mean that some things must first die, or be let go, in order for new life to come. We are called to trust that the Holy Spirit will inspire and sustain us in these times, as the first apostles were led and sustained.
On the Eve of Pentecost, I think that our sixty-plus churches are like the disciples in that room, with the Holy Spirit rushing upon us. Each of us is speaking about God’s deeds of power in a somewhat different way. We need to keep witnessing, filled with the Holy Spirit, because there is someone out there who is waiting to hear about Jesus Christ in a language they can understand.
Come, Holy Spirit, come!