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New Birth at Pentecost

posted Jun 1, 2017, 7:57 PM by Bowmansville UMC

A New Birth at Pentecost “Shalom. Peace be upon you. “You are free.”

Those are the words Rabbi Herschel Schacter cried out as he stepped into the barracks at Buchenwald, one of the Nazi concentration camps liberated at the end of World War II.

The brutalities suffered by the Jewish prisoners of the camp were unspeakable.

Rabbi Schacter said that, as he entered the gates, his eyes stung with smoke, and the smell of burning human flesh overwhelmed him. Dead bodies lay in piles. At first it seemed as though no one was left alive. Finally he was led to a smaller camp within the larger one, where, in filthy barracks, starving men lay on raw wooden planks, stacked from floor to ceiling. They stared down at the rabbi with unmistakable fright.

“Shalom Aleichem, Yidden,” he shouted in Yiddish, “Peace be upon you, Jews. You are free!”

He ran from barracks to barracks, repeating those words. The words of freedom created first a trickle of survivors who could walk, then a stream of men staggered into the sunlight. The stream became a flood, as the rabbi went from building to building with the words, “You are free, you are free, you are free.”

One of the survivors later declared that on the day of liberation, they had not simply passed from imprisonment to freedom. “We were delivered from death to life.”

This Pentecost season, if you know Jesus, then you’ve experienced a similar kind of rescue.

The Disciples were told to go and wait, not knowing what to expect. They were kept in the dark by not yet knowing.

All of us were kept in darkness, Paul says. We were prisoners, shackled by the chains of guilt. Dead in sin, our hope was gone—then Jesus came. Peace, he declared. You are free, you are free! And all who would listen and believe came stumbling out of the prison.

We were delivered from death to life. Paul explains it this way: “I have been crucified with Christ, so it is no longer I who live.” I am joined with Christ in his death.

The man of sin I used to be has died—but that’s not the end of the story.

Someone lives. Who lives? Christ lives, the Holy Spirit came at a Jewish holiday, Pentecost, the festival of the first harvest of the spring time. If we have been released from Sin and Death it might our first harvest as well, our first fruits of liberation.

Where does he live? In you and me! We are not just united with Christ in his death; we are united with Christ in his life.

So what does this mean? We are free. It means we are no longer without help or hope.

It means Jesus has rescued us by forgiving us, accepting us as we are, and giving us the power to change—really change!

Tomorrow doesn’t have to be like yesterday. It means there is hope again. We are free from fear, free from guilt, free from the power of old habits.

This Pentecost, remember where you were when Jesus found you. Remember what it felt like to hear the word of peace, to stumble out into the light. You are Free! When you believe that, you are delivered into life. No matter what your age….. Peace, Shalom, Pastor Jim