On one Valentine’s Day, when I was a kid in elementary school, the kids were given the option to participate or not. If someone wanted to, they could make valentines for the other students, and make a little Valentine’s Day box to receive valentines. Or, they could opt out.
In the infinite wisdom of my almost-10-year-old brain, I thought, “I am too cool for Valentine’s Day. I don’t want to do anything.” Well, I was the ONLY person to not make any valentines or have a nicely decorated box. Even the “cool” kids participated! I couldn’t participate, and learned then that it takes effort to participate. It takes work to participate. You cannot just show up and expect to participate like those who have prepared ahead of time. I have also learned that there are wonderfully varied ways to participate, even if you don’t like coloring little pink hearts!
I was at a Presbytery meeting back in California, typically all business, and not much fun-lots of voting and debating etc. But, there was a group of dedicated people that would meet during the Presbytery meeting, not to conduct business, or discuss events, but to pray throughout the meeting. They’d pray for the people, the churches, and the ministry efforts we shared. They would compile a list of prayers and things to pray about a head of time so that they would know how to pray at the time. They always prayed for everything on their list, so when I sat with them during a portion of a meeting, I was asked to pray for a few items. I could feel the Holy Spirit at times in that extended prayer time. Dutifully praying for congregations, commissions, ministry teams, staff, and lifting up concerns of our community, too.
In some ways I felt like I participated more in God’s work in our Presbytery that day during prayer than in the meeting! To participate in something doesn’t mean you have to be up front and visible. Supporting, planning, and praying are all important parts of our faith, worship, and ministry. When we participate together in faith, God has a way of blessing our efforts!
As we celebrate Pentecost and the coming of the Holy Spirit on the disciples, we’re reminded that God is the one who called them to participate. Before the Spirit came, the disciples were scared and isolated, unsure of what to do. It was God who told them how to participate, God who gave them purpose and God who empowered them to go back out and tell the world about God’s mercy and love.
Heaven on Earth becomes real when we ENCOUNTER the Gospel, ENGAGE with God, and PARTICIPATE in God’s efforts to transform the world for good. When we participate in serving, worshiping, singing, praying, or leading in the church, we sense God is among us, and God is within us. We all find ways to participate when God calls us. How has God called you to participate?