May 31, 2020.
What a week. I’m talking about last week, which was actually the final week of the first half of the Year 2020.
Well, now that I think of it the first half of the year ends somewhere mid-June, but I’m not about to make that an excuse to shy away from the urge to write tonight: Tonight, this last night of the month of May, for this year 2020.
2020, a year we all expected – or at least I declared – was a year of focus, a year to bound forward from a decade of accumulation of knowledge… It seems, as we pause to remember how this year started – that we have much, much more to learn, as a species, as a community, as a region, as a nation, as a family. Goes without saying that I have MUCH more to learn.
That’s how I’ve been trying to deal with what this year has been throwing at us so far. To stand, and to keep standing – on Christ as constant firm foundation, of course, but for this year in particular, in a stance, or position of further learning. I am still trying to focus, but it is in this focus (and lack thereof) that I learn what needs to be prioritized, and what produces more stress and anxiety than benefit.
This last week was a reminder of said lack of focus. Last week, far more than any of the more recent weeks I’ve spent on this good earth, I’ve experienced more unexpected circumstances than I have in the recent weeks. These sudden changes caused me to deviate from my systems and schedules, which exist only as a response to a world taken by surprise. These deviations lead to compromises, and these compromises I took have revealed my actual level of commitment and focus.
Sad to say, as it was in the first quarter of the year, so it is as the first half of the year ends – I have much more to learn. And I mean that, not just in a general sense, but literally, as well – Seeing as I’ve decided to make shifts in my career and passions and professions, there is much more to read up on, much more to learn, unlearn, and to relearn…
However, no matter what learning rate I take, no matter how fast or slow I take things, it seems as if the actual acceleration and deceleration does not happen according to how I plan it. Or better yet, I can plan, but as the good old Proverbs say, it’s God who has the final word.
And I see that today, of all days – Pentecost.
It’s no surprise that today is the day that the family of my late senior pastor expressed their gratitude to the church for supporting him. They are obviously still mourning, but I assume they believe as much as I do that the operations of the body of Christ must proceed, with or without a great man like Pastor O. A transition must happen, and he is honored as the show goes on. I believe that.
Today is also the day that my younger brother from another mother starts his days as a soldier. He jumps from high school straight to military academy, no breaks or vacations, not even in this quarantine.
I am reminded of how I was moved from Brent to UBSHS, from elementary to high school, from an international to a local school, from one environment to another, without a break in between… Just now, I am also reminded of my own Father, who was told to go to Saint Mary’s School Sagada from Easter School here in Baguio… I’m assuming my grandfather didn’t give him a break, either.
And so I told my younger brother: Don’t make the same mistake we did – we never saw this change as an opportunity at the time. I told him, this is a transition that will mean the world to you.
Transitions. More than the shocks that fade, there have been transitions, and there will be transitions – much like Pentecost was a transition. Pentecost, as we see it now at home, was a transition, yet another extension, another opportunity for us to see just how awesome Christ is, just how complete His finished work was, and yet another perspective of how we have been made new in Him.
To Recall Pentecost: The Holy Spirit descended in all its power upon the apostles and all present in the upper room, as described in Acts 1-2. These folks have just seen Christ rise from the dead, and even as He stayed to talk with them and to teach them for 40 days, their thoughts were on ‘when the Kingdom would return to Israel‘.
Jesus, in love and power, told them that it is not for them to know these times and seasons. Immediately after rebuking them He told them to wait in Jerusalem, and the power of the Holy Spirit would descend upon them. He essentially told them what they shouldn’t focus on, and what they should wait for. These disciples, they had seen everything – Jesus, betrayed and crucified, now alive, with the scars to prove it – and apparently, here’s the same Savior, telling them they still have much more to learn.
And oh, did they learn. On the Day of Pentecost the Holy Spirit came upon them with the sound of a roaring wind, tongues of fire resting upon their heads. And as they were filled with the Spirit of God, they spoke out, and in languages they never spoke in before that day. The crowd was amazed and perplexed, as they all heard, in their own native tongues, ‘the wonderful works of God’.
Today, we celebrate yet another transition – but we’ve had enough, haven’t we? I mean, here in the Philippines, at least, we’ve been moving from one form of quarantine to another, transitioning from an Emergency Quarantine to a General Quarantine to a Modified Quarantine, and through all these iterations we see what most of us are beginning to call, ‘The New Normal’… Once upon a time, we celebrated (well, some complained of) new leadership in this country, under the cry, ‘Change is Coming!’
Well, it certainly has come… and the leadership of our Country, our Provinces, our Cities are doing their best to transition into this New Normal. And I do mourn the passing of our Senior Pastor (my father from another brother), but I also see it as the changing of the guard – From this I believe our church is transitioning into a new era of progression. I will miss my little brother, but I am confident that Christ, in His faithfulness, will cause that young man to make a great impact, wherever he is, as he accelerates in his own personal progress.
On any level you may see, change has come…
…But Christian, today is a reminder that we shouldn’t be as shocked as the world would have us.
Christ rose from the dead, and we celebrated His resurrection. I suppose the disciples were confused for a moment, because this same Savior who said He would never leave nor forsake them, now rose to the heavens from the Mount of Olives. It was at Pentecost that it was made clear – Christ ascended, the Holy Spirit descended, and now Christ is not just with us, but IN us… By His resurrection we’ve been made new wineskins, and at Pentecost we were filled with new wine.
We were reconciled by His death, saved by His life, and now, by His ascension, what appears to have been the Holy Spirit descending could also be seen as us being brought up with Him as well – As He seats at the right hand of the Father, so we also have been seated in heavenly places.
The world is transitioning to a new normal, but in Christ, we’ve already been taken into a new reality – eternity beyond our senses would perceive, having us, who are still bound in these bodies of dirt, with actually more cause to celebrate – to rejoice, to pray without ceasing, and to give thanks – that the world would see the Light of the World through us.
Through our literal lives, we proclaim and plead that the nations would open their doors to Christ who gently knocks into their hearts.
By our existence and excellence in this mortal plane, they would taste and see that the Lord is good… and as a result, the will of God would be done, here on earth as it is in Heaven – His will that none would perish, but that all would be saved.
It is with this perspective that I welcome the second half of 2020 with renewed boldness and excitement. We’ve certainly lost a great deal, but, as I mentioned last Memorial Day, we honor the fallen by rising.
We honor the fallen by rising. We give homage to our mentors by learning. We honor our communities by becoming the best versions of ourselves, uncompromising… and on the day we are called to stand and fight, we embrace the danger, not to escape fear, but because we ourselves have been engulfed by an overwhelming love.
Plautus said it best: Conquered, we conquer.
Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us stay strong. As always, we shall be vigilant. For now, as always: The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases. His mercies never come to an end.