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Pentecost 2018 Foreword
Surely in these dangerous and disordered days the church in the US needs the pentecostal blessing of both the “gifts of the Spirit” and the “fruit of the Spirit.” In I Corinthians 12: 1-11, Paul writes to a divided and quarrelling church and reminds it that while followers of Jesus have a variety of gifts, they are all gifts of one Spirit for building up the church. And in Galatians 5:22-26, Paul writes to a church in danger of being seduced by a false piety and points to the fruits (virtues) of the Spirit. Can we look at the church snarling and snapping at itself, or can we feel sickened by a fake evangelical piety trying to cover racism and sordid sexual harassments, or can we look at our own self-righteous indignation without knowing how much we need the gifts of the Spirit and the fruit of the Spirit? So Pentecost approaches, and we feel a deep hunger for it not so much as a season of the liturgical year as an outpouring of the Spirit that will ﬁll the church with new courage precisely because it knows Jesus is Lord.*
In an introductory essay for this issue, Raj Nadella explores why the preaching of the apostles so disturbed the political and religious authorities of the ﬁrst century. Matt Skinner’s focuses on the character of the community created by the Spirit at Pentecost. “The ligaments of the Holy Spirit,” he says, “hold together many kinds of people, not by stripping away their differences but by welcoming and valuing them.” The gospel will not belong to one kind of people. “No single cultural framework or uniform mode of expression can ﬁnally deﬁne the gospel or establish a core Christian culture. The church’s core is Christ, and nothing else.” Jason Bayassee reads Acts 2 in light of the remarkable transformations of the church taking place in the Global South—perhaps a particularly difﬁcult task for “progressive Christians” in the Global North.
Four sermons follow—Mark Ramsey’s Pentecost sermon, “What If Jesus Meant All This Stuff”; Lib McGregor Simmons’ “The People’s Choice: How Can the Stories of the Kings of Israel Shed Light on the Politics of Today?”; Walter Brueggemann’s “Getting Your Sibilant Right: The Evangelical Shibboleth”; and Leigh Stuckey’s “All Happy Families.” Together they provide resources of heart, mind, and will not only for Pentecost preaching but also for the long stretch of Ordinary Time.
Small town pastor Lisa Culpepper spent ten days last year working among Syr- ian refugees on the Greek island of Lesvos. No stranger to Syria or to the sorrows of the region, Culpepper returned to her small South Carolina town and her tiny but remarkable congregation with new insights about and commitments to ministry in our divided and war-torn world. Joe Phelps reﬂects, in the Protagonist Corner, on “A Holy Exhaustion” after forty-two years of a “full and meaningful life” as a Baptist minister. And in his essay, “Once When We Were All White,” Nibs Stroup reviews three books that deal with the alienation of working class whites and then reﬂects on their implications for our preaching ministries. Surely in such a context the church and we preachers need the pentecostal blessing of both the “gifts of the Spirit” and the “fruit of the Spirit.”
* See Journal for Preachers Pentecost 2016.