Today was a birthday, but not in the traditional cake-with-candles way. We attended worship at the First Parish Congregational Church, UCC, in Saco, Maine this morning, where we learned that today is Pentecost Sunday, which is sometimes known as the birth of the Church. I don’t mean the specific, bricks-and-mortar church building, I’m talking about the community known as “Church.” Dr. Timothy Larsen, the Carolyn and Fred McManis Chair of Christian Thought at Wheaton College in Wheaton, Ill., explained to The Christian Post, "Pentecost is the day that the church was born. On that day, the Holy Spirit came to fill believers. Jesus had ascended, but he sent the Spirit so that believers could have the comfort, guidance, and empowerment of God’s presence." No cake (though we did have balloons during worship), no candles, no singing, but a birthday nonetheless.
Entirely appropriate, then, that after worship, we began the ride of a lifetime, celebrating the 5th anniversary of the Fuller Center for Housing’s Bike Adventure, or, if you will, its birthday. Again, no cake, no candles, no singing the Birthday Song, but a celebration nonetheless.
I found a couple of items in this morning’s worship bulletin that spoke directly to me about this amazing experience and the work we’ll be doing when we arrive in New Jersey. The first thing I read was a quote by Ralph Waldo Emerson (one of my favorite philosophers): “What lies behind us and what lies before us are tiny matters compared to what lies within us.” I think Emerson is trying to reassure me that no matter how I perform on each segment of this ride, the only thing that matters is that I’m doing it.
Another thing I read was the prayer of invocation: “Gracious God…you spread before us many pathways in this world of wilderness, and give to us the freedom to choose. In our choosing, most glorious God, lend us guidance. In our moments of despair, encourage us and broaden our perspective. In our moments of failure, empower us with the strength to try again. In our moments of victory, teach us humility.” Again, I truly feel God saying that it doesn’t matter whether I finish each segment quickly or slowly, or even at all, but rather that I’m doing what God has asked me to do. God laid the pathway from Saco, Maine to Tabernacle, New Jersey, and all I had to do was choose it.
Happy birthday to you, church! And happy birthday to you, as well, Bike Adventure! We’re celebrating both in high style.