Saturday, May 10, 2008

The Pentecost

This Sunday is the Sunday of the Pentecost... (as well as Mother's day, that is). Pentecost is a date in the Christian calendar, and marks what is regarded as the birth of the Christian church.

Let me tell you a little about the background, first. Jesus was crucified during the Passover time, and rose from the dead 3 days later. He stayed with the disciples for 40 days, teaching them, and charging them with spreading the news of the salvation. He commanded his disciples to stay in Jerusalem, and wait for the rather mysterious and elusive gift of the Holy Spirit... and with this Holy Spirit, they will be his witnesses in Judea, Samaria, and the ends of the earth. Having communicated this, Jesus was taken up to the heavens before their very eyes. I'll use the bible's own words to describe what happened next...

When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place. Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them.

This phenomenon, of course, was not to go unnoticed. Jerusalem at the time was filled with devoutly Jewish pilgrims from "every nation under heaven" (Pentecost is the Jewish feast of Shavuot, which marks the giving of the Torah to the Jewish people). Parthians, Medes, Romans, Arabs, and people from many other nations (Acts 2:9 lists them all) could hear the disciples speaking in their own languages. In wonder, they asked one another: "What does this mean?" In boldness, Peter arose and explained to the crowd the purpose for the life, death, and resurrection of Christ. In that single day, 3000 people believed and were baptised... and this is the birth of the movement that continues to this day, some 2000 years later.

The changes in the believers are stark. The disciples and the few other believers were a strange mix of fishermen, tax collectors, ex-prostitutes, and even one lady who was the wife of an aristocrat.  At the sentencing and crucifixion of their master, fear struck their hearts, and all were scattered away... Peter even denied Christ three times. (How interesting it is that only the ladies remained!) When Christ was resurrected, not all of them believed it at first, and some of them didn't even recognise him when they saw him. I wonder what they must have felt, meeting together, not knowing exactly what to expect.

The bible describes the Holy Spirit as "tongues of fire"... what ever it was, it certainly lit them up like fire. Fearlessly, and on the spot, they proclaimed their faith knowing full well that they are proclaiming it to the very people who crucified their master. Not only that, their confidence was so strong that they were willing to be subjected to martyrdom for their faith. Previously slow in understanding Jesus' teachings and parables, they were able to preach it all around the world (well, the Roman world anyway). A small, haphazard mix of believers were suddenly empowered both in numbers as well as in spirit... able to reach all walks of life. (Not to mention the miraculous deeds they were able to do.)

The story marks the birth of the Church, a church that Jesus said not even the gates of hell can overcome. In a way, Pentecost is a symbol of what happens to each believer too, albeit in a more subtle way. A life is transformed by the gift of the Holy Spirit, the fire of heaven sets us alight, and we are never the same again. It changes us, such that, even though we are still imperfect, we have part of God inside of us... leading us, comforting us, empowering us.

As an interesting aside, the story of Pentecost contains one of my favourite verses of the bible. When the disciples were struck by the Holy Spirit, some people laughed at them and said "they have had too much wine.". In reply, Peter said: "These men are not drunk, as you suppose. It's only nine in the morning!" (Acts 2:14).

I'll leave you to figure out why that amuses me so much.

By the way, if you are interested, the story of Pentecost is described in Acts, chapters 1-2.

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Please, do not smoke.

The following poem was inspired by the people I've seen outside the Princess Alexandra Hospital, and composed on the bus on the way home.

Please, do not smoke. It is simply vile.
Don't tell me you don't know what it does do your body;
Even my 10 year old brother knows.
You go to the gym, go on a diet, buy health foods, and complain about the city smog...
Don't do this to yourself. Please, just don't smoke.

You walk out of the hospital, and you want to light up.
Look behind you... nurses, physiotherapists, occupational therapists, radiation therapists
Radiographers, sonographers, dieticians, counsellors,
Cardiologists, pulmonologists, hepatologists, oncologists, gastroenterologists, surgeons...
They all work long hours, on weekends, on call...

All to deal with the complications of your choices.
Have some respect for their work... please, don't smoke outside the hospital.

You are pregnant, a new life living inside of you
You are the picture of feminity, of hope, and of beauty, and you know it...
For your baby you take folate, vitamins, iron, iodine, calcium, magnesium, potassium
... Fish oil, raspberry leaf, and some Chinese herbal thing you don't recall the name of.
You daydream about your little bundle of joy... you wouldn't want anything to go wrong

So, please, don't smoke if you're pregnant.

You are a parent, and you finally understand your own parents
You make sure they are vaccinated against everything...
Diphtheria, Varicella, measles, mumps, rubella, polio...
Meningococcal C, Pneumococcus, Tetanus, Hep B, and H. influenzae B...
You drive them to soccer practice, to piano lessons,
You make sure they eat their veges, don't watch too much TV...
You wouldn't poison your children. So, please, don't smoke around the little ones.

Yes, I know it's hard to quit. But some things are harder to deal with
Like cancer, peptic ulcers, stroke, and rotten teeth...
... and living with only one leg.

Yes, I know Sharon Stone and Leonardo Di Caprio looked sexy in those movies with a cigarette
But, let's face it. They look sexy anyway.
As for you, my dear, you are not Sharon Stone, nor are you Leonardo Di Caprio,
And I will be quite frank, a cigarette... will not help that much, in your case.
So please, just don't smoke.

Don't smoke.
Don't smoke if you are just outside the hospital.
Don't smoke if you are pregnant.
Don't smoke if you have children.
And, if you are outside the hospital, and pregnant, with a young child...
... just don't do it.

QUITLINE: 131848

Inspired by a lady I saw outside the hospital, brandishing her baby bump with pride, holding the hand of a little girl, and a cigarette in the other hand.

I havn't written a poem since school. I hope this didn't bore you too much. At least it was fun to write, hehe

Sunday, May 04, 2008

Coming soon...

I haven't blogged for well over a month, which I think is probably a new record for me.

I've been well, generally speaking. Just busy, very busy.

Next Sunday is the Pentecost, look for a post about the Pentecost (to complete the series... in this series (which came about more or less by accident) are... Christmas, Lent, and Easter. What is next in the Christian calendar? I'll figure it out.)

Also coming soon (as soon as I can gather my thoughts and put pen to paper, or fingers to keyboard, so to speak) is a short (or maybe long?) treatise on Job, who fascinates and puzzles Christians and non-Christians alike.

Will post again soon(-ish)