Have you ever had the power go out in the middle of the night and reach for a flashlight only to find the batteries dead? When it’s not needed, the flashlight looks fine. But if the batteries are dead, it has no real value. Sad to say that seems to be true of many churches today. They look okay on the outside. Sunday morning finds cars in the parking lot and people sitting in the pews. But when people’s lives are challenged by crisis and problems they don’t know what to do. In my seminary days, I worked with other seminarians at the local hospital. One day a little baby was brought into the ICU after an accident at home. The baby had received massive head injuries. The parents were devastated. Their pastor arrived to make a visit and have a prayer. We saw him walking the hall and thinking out loud…”What can I say to the family? What should I do?” We couldn’t understand how a pastor would have nothing to say. He appeared to be “without his batteries.”
Can that be said about Christians? We go to church and say the right things. We appear to those around us that we are pillars in the religious community–people of strong faith. But then something happens. We encounter an illness. Something happens to a loved one or we experience some setback. All of a sudden we find ourselves questioning God and his love for us. Does God really promise to be there for us and does he really answer our prayers? Some well-meaning Christians may even lose their faith. They are like that flashlight without batteries – they have no power.
Well, what do you do to make sure the flashlight works when you need it? The answer is pretty obvious. You make sure the batteries are charged! Before Jesus was taken up to heaven he told his disciples to go and make disciples. But first they were to go to Jerusalem and make sure their batteries were charged. That day is remembered in the church as Pentecost. It was the day the disciples were gathered together and heard a sound like a rushing wind. Tongues of fire appeared in the room and were distributed over the heads of each of those disciples. They began to speak in various tongues and the people of various nationalities and languages hear the Gospel in their own native language. Two thousand people became Christians that day and the Church was born. That never would have happened had not those disciples been filled with the power of the Holy Spirit.
That pastor in the hospital ICU did find the right words to say to the grieving parents. His prayer was a comfort to them. On his own, he was like that flashlight with no power. But God provided the power. He gave him the power of the Holy Spirit. That is a power He gives to all Christians. Sunday worship is the time we gather around Word and Sacrament to have those batteries recharged. Through Word and Sacrament we are connected to the Holy Spirit. We are strengthened and empowered for the week to come. May the Lord bless our time together in worship and may we remain connected to the power of God through the working of the Holy Spirit!
Pastor – Rev. Dennis W. Bottoms