Sunday, May 30, 2010

A Birthday Celebration

Robert Flowers, Clemmons, N.C.

On my first Sunday in Clemmons, NC, Centenary UMC threw a Pentecost party during the 11 o’clock service. As Rev. Barnhardt read aloud Acts 2, Nolan Hill, a talented artist in the youth, sketched the scene on a white board in front of the congregation. During the sermon, members in the right and left pews competed against each other in a balloon race. Meanwhile, the sound of toy harmonicas swept through the sanctuary. Finally, to top it all off, the members sang “Happy Birthday” as birthday cake was served after the service.

Unaccustomed to such a celebration, my initial thoughts were scattered. At first, I couldn’t understand how a full-blown birthday party fit into a church service. Isn’t church supposed to be quiet, where the congregation does not interact with those behind the alter? Second, I thought about my next 10 weeks. Would every Sunday be like this? What party am I going to throw when it is my turn to preach? In short, I “sneered” at this congregation, thinking that its members were “filled with new wine.”

Yet, as I listened to and re-read Acts 2, my doubt in the power of the Holy Spirit surfaced. Originally, I came into this setting ready to hear one language—the worship style I already understood. Now, having exposed my naivety, the Holy Spirit has transformed my discomfort into feelings of “awe.” Not only do these new feelings allow me to celebrate the different languages of worship, they create excitement—excitement for learning more about how I fit into the church’s mission.

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