Room For Everybody

A Sermon on Acts 2:1-21

“When the day of Pentecost came, all of them were together in one place. Suddenly, a sound like the roaring of a mighty windstorm came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. They saw tongues like flames of fire that separated, and one rested on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance.”

(Acts 2:1-4)

Yes, it’s the Feast of Pentecost again, the birthday of the church – the day we remember that very significant event that took place in Jerusalem that started with wind and fire and so much chaos, and concluded with the Apostle Peter standing up and explaining, “No, we are not drunk. It’s only 9am in the morning” (the implication being, of course, that had it been a little later in the day, well…).

Even so, Pentecost is a very significant event in the Christian calendar and, as far as Christian feasts go, it’s my personal favourite of the entire ecclesiastical year!

I appreciate that this puts me out of step with the commercial world that has managed to find in Christmas and Easter major marketing opportunities for the sale and distribution of useless gifts and unhealthy foodstuffs respectively, and yet has failed thus far to get a foothold in the Feast of Pentecost (as far as I know).

And I appreciate that this might equally put me out of step with many of the faithful, for whereas Christmas and Easter focus on Christ – on his birth, death and resurrection respectively – the Feast of Pentecost is all about us, the church – who we are and where we came from – and hence an emphasis on Pentecost may seem relatively impious.

And yet my feeling is that we, the church, tend to be less confused about who Christ is – ‘Son of God and Son of Man, with reasonable soul and human flesh subsisting’ (that’s for those of us who are fans of the Athanasian Creed) – than we are about who we are.

Who is the church? What are we supposed to be on about? What’s the point of meeting together like this each week when there are so many other things we could be doing?

You only have to look at the history of the church and at the tensions within the church around the world today to realise that there is a great deal of confusion surrounding the question of who we are and what our role in this world is supposed to be.

I read an excellent article this week, written by someone who I see as one of this world’s greatest living saints – the former Archbishop of Cape Town, Desmond Tutu – who has just published a new book with the provocative title, “God is not a Christian!” And in this book he talks about the sad history of the church:

“We are supposed to proclaim the God of love, but we have been guilty as Christians of sowing hatred and suspicion; we commend the one whom we call the Prince of Peace, and yet as Christians we have fought more wars than we care to remember. We have claimed to be a fellowship of compassion and caring and sharing, but as Christians we often sanctify socio-political systems that belie this, where the rich grow ever richer and the poor grow ever poorer,…”

And his point, I believe, is not simply that we are so regularly hypocritical, but more so that we are often confused – confused about who we are and about what our role in our community is supposed to be! Indeed, if you look at the history of the church over the last 2000 years, so much of it seems to be about empire building! We’ve been the religious end of imperialist expansionism – inspiring the soldiers of the empire and forgiving the atrocities of colonialism!

Look at the history of the church in this country. Christian clergy came on board the first fleet with a specific purpose – to keep the convicts in line! Our identity from the first was as moral policemen to the community and we’ve continued to play that role ever since.

Many of you might have noticed yesterday the article in the Sydney Morning Herald where our Archbishop forthrightly put his foot down on gay marriage, which is exactly what you’d expect from the moral policemen of our community! Is that really the sort of thing that the church should be doing? The answer may well be here in Pentecost – in the wind and the fire of Pentecost.

Now admittedly, if you didn’t look beyond the phenomena of fire and wind, you could be forgiven for thinking that the role of the church is to blow hot air, but in fact the crux of the Pentecostal experience came after the wind and fire seemed to have died down:

“Now devout Jews from every nation under heaven were living in Jerusalem. When that sound came, the crowd rushed together and was startled because each one heard the disciples speaking in his own language. Stunned and amazed, they asked, “All of these people who are speaking are Galileans, aren’t they? So how is it that each one of us hears them speaking in his own native language? We are Parthians, Medes, Elamites, people from Mesopotamia, Judea, Cappadocia, Pontus, Asia, Phrygia, Pamphylia, Egypt, the district of Libya near Cyrene, and visitors from Rome. We are Jews, proselytes, Cretans, and Arabs. Yet we hear them telling in our own tongues the great deeds of God!” All of them continued to be stunned and puzzled, and they kept asking one another, “What can this mean?” (Acts 2:5-12)

What we see taking place here is a miracle, and it’s a miracle of communication, and it’s a miracle that functions to bring people of different races and language groups together. And the list of those different races and language groups is extensive to the point of tedium: Parthians, Medes, Elamites, Mespotamians, Judeans, Cappadocians,… (and so the list goes on) concluding with ‘Cretans’ (for whom I think the more politically correct term was ‘Phoenicians’) and Arabs! Everybody was there. “Yet we hear them telling in our own tongues the great deeds of God!” the crowd wondrously proclaims!

And Luke, the author of the book of Acts, was evidently making a point, as he evidently believed that God had been making a point in the way that the Pentecost event had been divinely organised and ordered, and that point was that the church, whatever else it was, was, from the first, a multicultural experience!

You don’t have to read the passage through more than once to realise that this is the whole thrust of the passage. Everyone was there at Pentecost – the whole world, so it seemed. And indeed if you go through that list of people spelled out by Luke you’ll find some people there who were a real surprise, most obviously the Medes and the Elamites!

The issue for the Medes and the Elamites was that they didn’t just have to travel a couple of hundred miles to be there but a couple of hundred years as well! The kingdoms of Media and Elam were long gone by the first century AD!

And while most scholars would suggest that Luke was simply referring to the homelands of these visitors by their ancient names, I think it’s also fair to say that, again, he was making a point, namely – that what was going on there that day, in the formation of the church, was something that was bigger than any one time or place. The formation of the church was in fact an event of cosmic significance because it was in fact the reversal of that ancient curse spoken of in the book of Genesis – the curse of Babel!

If you’re familiar with the book of Genesis (or if you’ve heard me before at Pentecost) you know what I’m talking about. If not, I won’t go through all those ancient stories that make up Genesis chapters one to eleven, but suffice it to say that they are a very ancient collection that includes such favourites as Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, Cain and Abel, and Noah and the great flood.

And those great stories culminate with a story in Genesis chapter eleven about the first time human beings ever really united together for a common purpose. And it turns out to be a sinister purpose – a quest for power and self-aggrandisement. And so God curses the people of Babel by confusing their language so that they can no longer understand one another, and so the people fragment and are divided.

And whether we take this story literally or not does not matter. What is clear from the story, whether we take it literally or not, is that the division of the nations into different races and language groups was always seen in the Bible as a curse, and hence as something that God would one day overcome. And what is clear in the Pentecost experience, in the miracle of cross-cultural communication that took place there, was that God, in the very formation of the church, was undoing that ancient curse!

Just as the human community had been confused and pulled apart through linguistic diversity way back at Babel, so now the Spirit of God heals those divisions and starts bringing the races and language groups back together in the founding of the church as a truly multi-racial, multi-cultural and multi-linguistic community!

As St Paul would later say, “Christ himself has brought us peace by making Jews and non-Jews (and all the myriad nations that are included there) one people. With his own body he broke down the wall that separated us and kept us enemies.” (Ephesians 2:14) And what God has brought together, let not man put asunder!

Now I’m not saying that this Pentecost experience in itself tells us everything we need to know about who we are as a church and what we are supposed to be doing in this world but it certainly does tell us that whatever it is we are supposed to be doing we are certainly supposed to be doing it together, in loving association with people of every other nation and culture and language group.

Rather than one group dominating and oppressing another, in the church all groups come together as one, and all the different races and cultures and language groups come to understand and respect each other, because this is the work of the Spirit of God in the church and this is the essential nature of Christian community!

Now I don’t really want to make any other points this morning as I don’t want us to lose our focus on the wonder of Christian community, as conceived at Pentecost through the miraculous work of the Spirit of God and as continues to take place in our community today through the miraculous work of that same Spirit!

Let me rather encourage each of you not to take it for granted, for it is not natural. What is natural is for birds of a feather to flock together. What’s natural is homogeneous units, where white people hang with white people and black people hang with black people, highly-educated people hang with other highly-educated people, and less-educated people hang with less educated people, where men and women stick to their own gender groups and where teenagers form a peer society that shuts out anyone over 20.

What is natural is each race and class and language-group sticking to its own clique. What is super-natural is the church – that multi-racial, multi-cultural and multi-linguistic community that in its very being proclaims the wisdom of God to the rest of the world!

St Paul says of God that “He [brought together the nations] so that now, through the church, the manifold wisdom of God might be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly realm” (Ephesians 3:10). And that word ‘manifold’ there literally translates from the Greek as ‘multi-coloured’.

That’s St Paul’s understanding of the church – that God brought us together so that His multi-coloured wisdom might be proclaimed to the ends of the universe! And I’m not suggesting that this tells us everything there is to know about what it means to be the church and what it is exactly that we’re supposed to be doing in this world, but it does give us a framework, and brings us far closer to our core identity, I would suggest, than any role we might have as moral policemen, let alone as empire-builders!

I read a true story about a Parish Priest who tried to share the spirit of Pentecost with his congregation in a rather unique way, by setting up an enormous fan at the front of the church and, at an appropriate point in his sermon, turning it on to simulate the divine wind that blew upon the disciples on that day of the formation of the church.

Apparently he had one of those massive fans that’s used to blow boats across swamps, and he set it up between the choir stalls at the front of the church, and he gave it a test run during the week while nobody was there and it seemed to work really well. What he hadn’t counted on was that by the time he give his sermon the church would be full of people who had their bulletin sheets and other pieces of paper all laid out neatly in front of them on the pews. When the fan was switched on and the wind started to blow…!

I decided not to simulate that experience this morning; partly because I don’t have an adequately sized fan but mainly because I think we experience enough of that divine chaos around here already! Rest assured: chaos has always been an integral part of the experience! It comes with being a multi-racial, multi-cultural, multi-linguistic community. And yet it’s all likewise a part of the miracle that allows us to be the church, and so to proclaim to the ends of the world the multi-coloured wisdom of God.

Stylish Jeans of London’s “It” Girl Peaches Geldof

Socialite and British model Peaches Geldof may not be a household name, but she is making waves in the fashion industry. Her status comes first and foremost through her grandfather Hughie Green, who was a very popular host of numerous television shows, and her father Bob Geldof, most famous for co-writing the wildly popular tune “Do They Know It’s Christmas?” and co-founding the super group Band Aid to raise money for famine relief in Ethiopia.

Her History

With her ties to fame, it wasn’t long before teenage Peaches, who also has siblings by the names of Fifi Trixibelle and Pixie, cashed in and started to establish herself as a writer. With an education from Queen’s College in London, Peaches has written for the likes of Elle Girl UK, The Daily Telegraph, The Guardian, ES Magazine, Cleo Australia and Nylon Magazine. All of this began at the ripe old age of 16.

By 17 she was presenting her own show on British television and was already ranking in top lists of fashion icons for the year of 2006. At 18 she was voted 53rd sexiest woman in the world according to FHM. Continuing with the snowball effect, that same year brought along her debut spot strutting the catwalk for PPQ at London Fashion Week. The next year she founded her very own youth-oriented magazine and in the following year signed a six-figure deal to become the face of the Miss Ultimo collection, but was dropped less than a year later due to some risky photos of her in a compromising situation was leaked.

Jeans Style

Having garnered fashion icon status and the title of “It” girl while still in her teens, Peaches continues to flaunt her eccentric style. Though she’s mostly caught in mini dresses and tights, London’s trend setter is also frequently seen donning the biggest trends of each season. Like most celebrity status girls, she sticks with the skinny jeans. To amplify the trendiness, Peaches opts for skinny styles in hot of-the-moment trends like a dark jean with a soft acid wash or jeans with perfectly placed rips that run all the way down the side of her leg from hip to ankle or just above the knee.

Get the Peaches Geldof “It” girl style with body hugging jeans in trendy washes. With acid wash and ripped making their way out, keep on the lookout for the next big wave and jump in right at the start.

Learning About Sales Between Zucchini And Tomatoes

Here in NJ mid-August is prime time for farmers’ market. Everything is at its peak. We have a weekly farmers’ market in my town, but it’s pretty small. My husband and I decided to try a new one that was bigger and nicer, even though it was considerably further away.

I had a strategy in mind…take a quick look at all the stalls to check out what was available and then spread our purchases out when we went back to buy what we needed.

My intention was to get tomatoes, nectarines, melon, green beans, zucchini, summer squash and maybe one or two other things if they caught my eye.

After a quick run through we stopped at one stand and even though everything looked fabulous, decided to just get string beans and a melon. We’d buy the rest elsewhere.

I went to pay and met Rich. He was very friendly and casually said, “Did you see the basil? It’s absolutely perfect.” I said, give me two bunches; I can always freeze the extra.

He started packing up our purchases and mentioned that the peaches were at their peak, so if I like peaches to be sure and get them this week or next. I added peaches to our purchase.

Someone else asked him about tomatoes. I added tomatoes to the order and watched as Rich personally selected the best ones for us. He then said “As you get to know me you’ll see that I make sure you get the best of the season. Wait until you see my apples in a few weeks.”

I realized that there was no need to spread our purchases out…Rich had us and we were happy to be had. I added zucchini and yellow squash, blueberries and fresh mozzarella and paid for everything. As I was about to leave he said, “Don’t buy eggs at the supermarket this week. Our eggs are right off the farm. They have beautiful bright yellow yolks, are much better for you and taste better than what you buy.” Next thing I knew I was picking them up.

We thanked him and left with overflowing bags. We looked around at the other stalls, picked up one or two more things and left.

As we headed home my husband and I discussed how despite our strategy, we ended up doing all of our shopping with Rich and that we got a lot more than we expected to. We wanted everything and were confident that we’d use it, but it wasn’t our original plan.

So what happened? Considering that each stand had the goods we wanted; everything was beautifully presented and available for purchase, why did we do all of our shopping with Rich and why did we get more than we expected to?

It’s really simple. Rich had the opportunity to interact with us and did. Yes, some of it was luck, we happened to go there first, but when we went to other stands afterwards they never interacted with us other than saying “Anything else?” and telling us the cost.

Rich took the time to get to know us. He introduced himself to us. He never assumed that what I picked up was all that I wanted. He spent time with us and didn’t just ring up our purchase. He found out about our three teenagers who LOVE fruit. He knows that they will eat a large watermelon in a day and that Eric alone will finish off a dozen eggs in less than a week.

He shared information about his other products. Let me be really clear about this… there was never any pressure to buy. In fact, what I perceived was his desire to share with me and add value to my day (and plate!). I truly wanted everything we got and am confident that it will all be eaten and enjoyed.

We left Rich after happily paying him and were excited about what we had bought.

OK…so how can you apply this to your business?

1. You have to help people buy from you. Displaying your goods and services is not enough. Yes, it is important to have a place to show your products off, but a beautiful website and top rankings on Google will not bring you sales.

2. Speak with your prospects. Get to know them and let them get to know you. Help them make their own decisions about whether or not the goods you have to offer are the goods they want to buy. Spend time with them even if you have other things to do.

3. Interact with your current customers. Just because someone decides to buy your product does not mean that this is all they want or need. After you say “Thank You!” take the time to see what else your customer may need and how you might be able to help them. One more thing here…make sure your clients know about what’s coming next so that they come back (I can’t wait for the apples).

4. Don’t keep your products or services a secret. Even though everything was displayed, Rich did not assume that I looked at all of it. I never would have bought as much from Rich if he hadn’t specifically mentioned them to me.

5. Remember…Buying can be a pleasure for your client. I don’t regret a single purchase, if anything I wish I had gotten more. I was not bullied into buying anything. Rich just shared what he had with me. I can’t wait to see Rich next weekend so that he can share more of his bounty with me and I will happily pay him for it.

One of my mentors says, “Sales isn’t something you do to someone, it’s something you do for someone.” Thank you, Rich, for helping me internalize this message. Yes, Rich sold me products. He offered them to me, charged me for them and I paid him. He closed a sale and even up-sold me but did it for me — not to me — and we both left the exchange smiling.

Here’s what you can expect from me… more opportunities to speak with me so that I can get to know you better. I promise you two things: 1) I will never strong arm you into buying anything you don’t want AND 2) If I have goods or services that will help you I will tell you about them and if they are right for you, I will help you buy them.

What steps can you take so you can be more like Rich?

Georgia, The Peach State

Georgia is the largest state East of the Mississippi. It’s referred to as the Peach State. It has a mixed topography and is made up of mountainous terrain, Atlantic Ocean coastal areas, and the Blue Ridge Mountains. All of these geographical features impart a distinctive identity to Georgia and make it a tourist haven. We’ve highlighted a few of Georgia’s many attractions below.

Atlanta–The capital city of Atlanta is a hub of tourist attractions as it has some of the best in the world, such as the Georgia Aquarium, CNN Headquarters, Martin Luther King exhibitions, Historic Village, Underground Atlanta, and Georgia’s Stone Mountain Park — just to name a few. You can take a guided tour of the CNN Studios, which will offer you an enriching as well as educational experience.

Centennial Olympic Park, Georgia–This park is spread over 21 acres of land and offers lush green surroundings to tourists seeking enjoyment and thrills. There are entertainment and informative features in this Park. Some of the most notable, are learning about the various facets of the Olympics Centenary, and the Story of the Rings.

Wild Animal Safari–The Jungle Safari is one of the highlights of the Pine Mountains, and it will surely attract the entire family. This interactive Safari provides an opportunity for visitors to interact with exotic animals. They get to take a ride through mountainous terrain in a car, zebra van or bus. There are animals from all continents of the world. Tourists can touch the animals, feed them, and also take photographs with them.

River Walk, Augusta–This Park has been created on the banks of the Savannah River in Augusta, and is a beautiful river walk offering an awe-inspiring experience.

Space Science Center, Columbus–This Science Center has been constructed with a view to providing exposure to children in the field of science and astronomy, and to satisfy their thirst for knowledge.

Georgia provides a beautiful and enriching experience for all ages.