Brothers and sisters, community of Christ in Antwerp,
Here we are together again, all seated in the same house.
How cheerful it was, when this first took place in Jerusalem! Indeed, it was the first time but oh what a merry opening it was. What a marvelous sight as the tongues of fire spontaneously burnt over our heads with the overwhelming sound of strong wind blowing … Yes, these were the signs we witnessed. Though there was no wind yet it felt like there was. And we spoke in strange tongues which we had no knowledge of. However, it was acknowledged that we were understood by others and behold, what wise things we had said.
Here we are gathered together again, centuries later … from all corners of the Earth: from Iran and Iraq, and Mesopotamia: from in between the Euphrates and Tigris; from Turkey, Pontus, Cappadocia, Asia, Pamphylia. Then, there were only Arabs and Jews and Egyptians. Although they already spoke of beer and wine, there were no Belgians and Dutchmen at the time. They only appeared later, much later. When talking of beer and wine, one would think they were the first: but no they are not. Therefore, it is they who were there at that time, who have the oldest rights, and sometimes even the most ancient Christian customs such as: fasting, praying and biblical stories: a language, related closely to the teachings of Jesus Christ.
Here we are together again. Of course, a lot has happened in the meantime, but according to the teachings of the Apostle Paul, for Christ it does not matter where you were born, which tribe or country you come from, whether you are rich or poor, strong or weak. For Christ speaks to all of us when He says: you are part of Me.
Yes, Paul has helped us incredibly: given the insurmountable difficulties that he faced during his lifetime. By accepting Christ at a time when the worlds of believers and non-believers were at great odds, he did what was completely unthinkable and unimaginable … oh yes he did. And he goes further to emphasize that for Christ it does not matter who you are.
Despite never having been to Antwerp himself, the apostle Paul bridged the gap between Jerusalem and Antwerp through his teachings. However, he did come in this direction when he crossed the Aegean Sea, via the Mediterranean Sea and got to Rome, and maybe even to Spain: but then others took over from him.
Therefore, it does not matter which path you undertook to settle in Belgium. Whether you fled, were exiled or came on your own accord, it does not matter. Here we are all together.
“No, we are not drunk but fulfilled and full,” this was the apostle Peter’s reply to a scornful remark that we were probably drunk on that fateful day in Jerusalem. So, filled with what? Peter indicated that what had just been witnessed was fulfilment of a sign from heaven – a sign from Jesus Christ; that indeed he was not abandoning us or leaving us to ourselves. This also fulfilled the prophecy from Joel which said: “I will pour out my Spirit on everyone; your sons and daughters will prophesy, your young men will see visions and your old men will have dreams.”. God will pour out His spirit upon us and we shall all prophesy – have dreams and visions to clearly see what the truth is and say what it stands for. According to Peter, the truth is … we did not foresee or prophesy as well. That shows us today that Christ is with us just as we are with Him. Therefore, we must always remind ourselves that what occupies us in our individual lives and in the church also occupies Christ. And that the way we think and the insights that we have today about the way things have to go or be, are also shared by Christ
Therefore, our insight also matters.
If one thing is clear, it is that today we have become a lot more thoughtful. Knowing that there is more to do than being exuberant in praising God, and that though speaking in tongues might make a good impression sometimes, it is important that we get the message embedded and understand what is being said as well.
I have learnt from Christians from the East and from Asia and Africa that a Christian life is a very clear way of being in the world: you are living with God. And with my West-European background I know that God is not part of our existence, but God is above creation and for that reason He lets the earthly things of the world complete our reality. And I strongly affirm, that both insights are useful for us: that Christ knows how we are seeking to understand this earthly life prophetically, and has given us a sound spirit, that provides sharpness and depth like the lens of a camera, in what we see as the way. Simply put: We think that … but how do we get to it? Again the same question as back then…: what does this all mean?
I have heard about wonderful conversations which Christians from the East have with those who used to be their old enemies, Muslims. Maybe that is the greatest challenge we have now, in Western-Europe: learning how to interact with the world of Islam. But how do we get through all these hollow phrases and get to the core? and what is that core? Is it Christ. The truth of our lives, the love of our hearts, the humane, the full humanity, full of Spirit and in truth? And what is that?
And is it bad, if you baptize someone who wants to be baptized, and it later turns out that he could not let go of his old life/existence? Is that bad? Or is that exactly what Paul, in that earlier days of the Church, was also struggling with? And are we then facing the same situation …
Let us bear in mind that what we are gathered here today as witnesses only as a result of what happened several centuries ago. And also that there is a stronger spirit of sympathy from heaven dwelling in our midst here today – that same Spirit: The Holy Spirit. And in the same manner, even without us, the Spirit finds its way into the world – therefore the world is full, filled with the Holy Spirit; for those who want to see It.
In spite of all our earthly wisdom, we must hear from heaven. Therefore, together with you, I will like us to fill the world with the power of the Holy Spirit. As I started in the beginning, let us see the flames of fire on everybody’s head – young, old, slave, free, believers, non-believers, Christian and Muslims alike. “I will pour out my Spirit on everyone: your young men will see visions, and your old men will have dreams.” God has poured out His Spirt upon you and me, as wise as we are …