The Church calendar is a continuous cycle. We celebrate the same holidays and set aside the same days every year. For some, the special days that we celebrate have become a mere routine and have lost their significance to the person. For others, each year offers fresh new opportunities to celebrate these days and the events that they represent all over again. The pageantry, the gifts, the fellowship, and the significance of the days are forever pleasant in the minds of such individuals.
The Church calendar is a great teaching tool that aids in our worship and the sharing of our faith. However, it is a cycle that repeats itself year after year. The same cannot be said for the Christian faith. Nor can it be said of our own journeys as followers of Jesus Christ. As disciples of Jesus we grow, or at least should grow, in our faith. Those who are not growing in their faith are not simply going through different phases in a cycle. Instead, their faith is stagnant.
Centuries ago a group of Jesus’ closest followers sat in a room with a degree of uncertainty about the future. Jesus had been crucified, buried, and was now risen from the dead. Some of their number had seen the empty tomb. Still, uncertainty and insecurity seemed to rule the day. In the midst of this uncertainty Jesus made appearances to the Apostles and to others followers of His. One would think that these visits would ease their doubts and give a renewed sense of purpose to those that saw Him.
Yet, there was very little forward movement on the part of Jesus’ followers. For instance, several of Christ’s Apostles were found fishing on the Sea of Galilee shortly after the resurrection (John 21:1-14). Fishing was the occupation of Peter before he began following Jesus (Matt 4:18). So, was Peter returning to his work as a fisherman instead of going “into all the world” and preaching “the good news to all creation” (Mark 16:15 NIV)?
Indeed, even at Pentecost the Apostles “were all together in one place” (Acts 2:1 NIV). But, that day would turn out to be like no other day. As they sat there in that room together the Holy Spirit came upon them in a most unusual way. They were touched with what appeared to be tongues of fire, were filled with the Holy Spirit, and spoke languages that were not their own (Acts 2:3-4). From that day forward the followers of Jesus Christ would be movers and shakers. This group of unlikely candidates would go from a huddled mass to the emboldened spearhead for the spread of Christianity into an unwelcoming and frequently hostile world.
After you have read the four Gospels and move into the remaining twenty-three books of the New Testament, you will notice that there is no looking back. In much the same way we are a forward looking people. I once heard it said that God put eyes in the front of our head because we were to look forward and not backward. Yes, there is a time and a place to look back. Looking back is what keeps us grounded and true to our faith and calling. But what we cannot do is become stuck. God does not want for us to become stagnant. Instead, we are to be about the work of advancing His Kingdom wherever we are. As we move forward from Easter and look forward to the celebration of Pentecost, remember the power that has been given to us through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. Then, let us look forward and consider the ways in which we can each continue to grow in Christ this year.