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By Rev. Matt Ashley, South District Missional Strategist and Superintendent

“When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place. And suddenly from heaven there came a sound like the rush of violent wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting.  Divided tongues, as of fire, appeared among them, and a tongue rested on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages, as the Spirit gave them ability.”  ~Acts 2:1-4~

I’ve built up a pretty good mask collection over the last fourteen months. I started with two masks handsewn by faithful hands and generous hearts at Sierra Vista United Methodist Church, true gifts because the best mask I could’ve concocted on my own likely would’ve involved old shoestrings and a stapler. Textiles are not my thing.

In time I purchased a few more commercially manufactured masks, and then my wife bought me some more, and then I bought even more, because I learned that like eyeglasses and keys, masks in my possession are likely to be misplaced around the house. Most of my masks are blue or black, because those are my favorite clothing colors. I have gotten used to wearing masks when I leave the house.

And then came this news last week – the CDC says fully vaccinated people don’t need to wear masks except in very particular circumstances. Within a week and half of my wife and I becoming fully vaccinated, a mere week after not eating movie theater popcorn (one of my wife’s favorites) in 15 months, we were granted this restored freedom too.

Pentecost Sunday is coming up, and in Acts Chapter 2 the early Christians were all gathered together in one place. Actually the nation was gathering in Jerusalem for the Feast of Weeks, the thanksgiving celebration of the early harvest. Because the Feast of Weeks was celebrated fifty days after the Festival of Unleavened Bread, it’d come to be known simply as Pentecost, a Greek word meaning ‘Fifty.’

The people were gathered to give thanks. And you and I can give thanks too, because this most difficult pandemic season is much closer to coming to an end. Leadership teams in our local churches are deciding how to respond to the new CDC guidance, and in many places we may soon be free to gather for church without even wearing masks. I pray that our gatherings will be as joyful as those harvest celebrations at Pentecost two thousand years ago.

I also pray that we’ll love and support those who continue to wear masks. Not everyone is fully vaccinated, some because the vaccine isn’t available to them yet, some by choice. Parents are determining what they need to do to protect their unvaccinated children. Some people are immunocompromised and simply can’t afford to take chances. Some people have discovered that they enjoyed not having to battle off the cold or flu. Some people may just not be ready to take of their masks. How will your church be hospitable towards those among us who continue to need their masks?

A year ago our church buildings were empty, but on Pentecost we will gather together in thanksgiving, and the Holy Spirit will fill our hearts as we thank and praise God together for the harvest of God’s goodness. As one of our pastor says, the best is yet to come.

Thanks for listening –

Matt

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