Siblings in Christ,
It’s May, and I’m excited! I’m excited because, this year, my favorite holy day falls in the month of May. On May 23rd, to be precise. That’s the Day of Pentecost!
I wish that the Pentecost holiday received more attention than it does. It’s not celebrated the way that other holidays are. Everyone, whether they are Christian or not, knows the story of Easter and Christmas. But many professed Christians don’t know the story of Pentecost.
The word “Pentecost” literally means fifty days. According to church tradition, Jesus was with the disciples for forty days after the resurrection. Then he ascended into heaven. But ten days after the ascension, fifty days after Easter, God came to be present with the disciples in a different way. Although Jesus had left them, the Holy Spirit – the Advocate – came to the disciples to guide them and empower their ministry.
According to the story, found in chapter 2 of the book of Acts, the Holy Spirit came to rest on each of the disciples, imbuing them with tongues of fire, so that they could go out and preach the Good News of Jesus Christ to anyone and everyone. It was the beginning of what would become the Christian Church. It was the beginning of evangelism.
Nowadays, it seems that evangelism has become a dirty word. We think that faith should be a private matter. It’s kind of like Vegas. You know… “What happens in the church, stays in the church.”
While we should indeed be respectful of the beliefs of others, we should also be willing to share the things that excite us, inspire us, encourage us, and comfort us in our church. The point is not to convince others that our beliefs are right. The point is to share with them something that’s helped us in hopes that it might help them, too. If our relationship with God brings us peace and comfort when we are hurting, shouldn’t we share that peace and comfort with others who are likewise hurting? Not in an intrusive way, but in a gentle way.
If your life is better because you’re trying to follow in Jesus’ footsteps, let people know. And if you’re excited to be back in church again, feel free to invite a friend!
Rev. Dustin Bartlett
Last week, I was made aware of an email scam that’s being carried out in my name.
The way the scam works is that an email will be sent, which claims to be from me or from another pastor you know. The email will look like it came from me, but if you look carefully at the email address, you’ll see that it’s off by one letter.
The email will say something to the effect of, “I need your help with an urgent matter that I need you to handle discreetly. Email me as soon as you can.” If you reply to the email and indicate you can help, the scammer (who is posing as a pastor) will then say that they are trying to help someone who’s having a financial emergency but don’t have money immediately available, so they’ll ask you to go and purchase some kind of gift card and then email the card numbers to them and promise to pay you back.
Of course, it’s a scam, so the “pastor” simply uses the gift card to buy things for himself, and doesn’t pay you back.
This is actually a fairly common scam, and many of my colleagues have been impersonated over the last couple of years. Pastor Peary Wilson, of Pringle, was impersonated just a few months ago. I guess it’s my turn.
So, first of all, I will never email you and ask you to send money or gift cards directly to me. The ministerial alliance has money to help people in financial emergencies and has systems for distributing that money. In the event that I do ask you to donate money in order to help others, I would always have you make your donations to the church or to the ministerial alliance, never to me directly.
Second, if you have any reason to suspect that a message that appears to be from me isn’t real, verify it first. One easy way to catch these email scams is to send a new email as a follow, rather than hitting “reply.” That’s because these impersonators use an email address that is very similar to the real one, but which is off by a single letter or number somewhere. If you hit “reply,” then your email will go to the scammer’s fake, almost-identical email address. But if you start a new email using the address you already have, it will go to the person being impersonated instead of the scammer, and they can quickly confirm that they didn’t send the fake email.
Finally, be very skeptical of anyone asking you to send money or gift cards online. Even if it looks legitimate and from someone you know, don’t trust it. Verify it. Call the person in question and speak to them directly. This email scam in which pastors are impersonated is one of many, many scams out there. So be as innocent as doves, but be as wise as serpents!
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