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Ascension, Pentecost, and the God of Expanse

“But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you;
and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem,
and in all Judea and Samaria,
and to the ends of the earth.”
—Acts 1:8

Our God is a God of expansion. Abraham was called in order to be a blessing to others. The nation of Israel was birthed so that all others could be blessed through it (Genesis 12:2–3). God pours into his people so they might share that blessing with others.

When Jesus lived on Earth he constantly challenged the prevailing ideas about who was “in” and who was “out.” Jesus modeled the inclusion of women, of persons who experienced illness, disability, or poverty, and yes, even of the Samaritans. Just before Christ ascended into heaven he spoke of the Holy Spirit’s coming as yet further expansion. The disciples would be called to bear witness to the gospel message throughout the whole world. Not only was this a geographically expansive notion to Jewish people, who wanted to locate God in a specific place (the temple), but it was also theologically expansive as they soon found themselves wondering how to live as brothers and sisters with Gentiles—folks initially deemed to be “the other.”

When Jesus lived on Earth he constantly challenged the prevailing ideas about who was “in” and who was “out.”

As post-ascension, Pentecost people, we too are challenged by God’s continued call to expansiveness in our understanding of the body of Christ and in living generously out of the abundance of God’s grace. This issue of Reformed Worship continues to widen our imagination for who is part of the body of Christ through articles like “Sing 10: A Journey Just Begun,” which highlights music from around the globe; “This Is My Song,” which profiles a bilingual congregation; and “The Kenyan Rite,” a gift from the Anglican Church in Kenya. The worship series “When Upside Down is Right-Side Up” helps us expand our concept of God; “For Pastors” calls us to expand our mental capacity; and “Selecting a Listener” encourages us to expand our ability to listen.

Whatever you decide to name this time in the Christian year (see John Witvliet’s Q&A “Naming the Time After Pentecost”), may you continue to challenge your worshiping community to embrace a God of expansion, to look for ways to join with the work of the Holy Spirit, and to be a source of blessing to all they meet.