Here are some items from last Sunday’s church activities:
A. It was Pentecost Sunday, so the topic was the Holy Spirit. The youth pastor talked about caterpillars turning into butterflies. Once the caterpillars are butterflies, they are beautiful and go about pollinating, resulting in the creation of fruits and vegetables. Similarly, the disciples were by initially by themselves, being edified and fed by the words of Jesus. When the Holy Spirit came upon them, however, they were empowered to go out and produce fruit in the world. I still feel like a caterpillar.
B. The pastor said that the Holy Spirit is at work when Christians who went through a problematic experience are able to help those who have a similar experience: to assure them that they, too, can get through this, with God’s help. The pastor told a story about a woman whose husband left her, and she then got to help another women abandoned by her husband. When I have tried to do that, people usually respond: “Oh, you have no idea! What I go through is far worse than what you went through!” Consequently, I rarely worry so much about trying to please God by ministering to people whom I think are going through something that I went through. That said, I do hope that my experiences can build in me more empathy and motivate me at least to try to be supportive and helpful. I recoil somewhat from that “outreach” part of the Christian calling.
C. The pastor said that God scattered the nations at Babel, but, at Pentecost, God enabled that all sorts of people could hear the Gospel in a manner that they could understand. The pastor also commented that ethnic language differences are not the only thing that create misunderstandings between people. A wife can tell her husband to do something, and she means immediately, but he interprets her to mean sometime before the second coming of Christ. I identify with this, since I often have felt misunderstood.
D. At the Sunday school class, the teacher was engaging the question of why the disciples so often did not understand Jesus when he was on earth. An answer that people came up with was that Jesus was saying something that was new to them, and they were learning it during the mere three years that he was teaching them. They were getting something new to them, in the Cliff-notes version. The Gospel of Luke says a couple of times that the disciples did not understand Jesus’s statement that he would suffer and die because it was hidden from them (Luke 9:45; 18:34). At the same time, Jesus told his disciples that they see, whereas others do not (Matthew 13:16; 16:17).
E. Ephesians 4:1 exhorts Christians to live a life worthy of their calling. This being a Lutheran church, the teacher pointed out that Christians are called first by grace, then they try to live worthily: they do not live worthily first, then receive the calling as a reward. What does “worthy” mean? One person proposed “worthwhile”: we do things that are worthwhile, in light of our calling. That is one meaning that is listed in the various lexica on my BibleWorks. But other meanings include “fitting,” “keeping with,” and “consistent with.” In short, the passage is not necessarily saying that we have to somehow live a life that deserves God’s favor after we have been called; as many Christians point out, we all will continue to fall short until death.