down angle photography of red clouds and blue sky

Seeing Our Gifts

by Jennifer Brownell | published on May 22, 2021

Come, descendants of Jacob, let us walk in the light of the Lord. – Isaiah 2:5 (NIV)

This morning, I walked down by the Columbia River and watched a mighty ocean-going ship chugging toward the sea, heavily laden with enormous logs. Having lived my whole life in the shade of big trees, I know intellectually that there are places that need logs enough to transport them all the way across the ocean. But I don’t always remember that trees, which surround me in abundance, are not available everywhere.

We can’t see the forest for the trees, the old saying goes. But I think our problem is really that we can’t see the trees for the forest. In our churches, the enormity of challenges looms so large, it can be hard to see the small gifts that are growing up all around us.

For lots of us, our church building is a forest – a big old building full of rooms that over the years have one by one turned into storage rooms. But what if each of the rooms in your church building was a tree, a gift that is waiting to be seen and noticed as if for the first time? What might you be able to give to the world, if you could see with new eyes the gifts that your congregation has to give?

Holy One, we have what the world needs now: places to gather, faithful people, and, most of all, a vision of possibility, hope and peace. We have all that we need to co-create your realm, but we just forget to recognize it. Open the eyes of our hearts to all that we have to give, so that we might truly walk in your light. Amen.

About the Author
Jennifer Garrison Brownell is pastor of Vancouver United Church of Christ. Her writing appears in the collection, The Words of Her Mouth: Psalms For the Struggle, available from The Pilgrim Press.


Acts 2 – Living Bible

Seven weeks had gone by since Jesus’ death and resurrection, and the Day of Pentecost had now arrived. As the believers met together that day,  suddenly there was a sound like the roaring of a mighty windstorm in the skies above them and it filled the house where they were meeting.  Then, what looked like flames or tongues of fire appeared and settled on their heads.  And everyone present was filled with the Holy Spirit and began speaking in languages they didn’t know, for the Holy Spirit gave them this ability.

Many godly Jews were in Jerusalem that day for the religious celebrations, having arrived from many nations.  And when they heard the roaring in the sky above the house, crowds came running to see what it was all about, and were stunned to hear their own languages being spoken by the disciples.

“How can this be?” they exclaimed. “For these men are all from Galilee,  and yet we hear them speaking all the native languages of the lands where we were born!  Here we are—Parthians, Medes, Elamites, men from Mesopotamia, Judea, Cappadocia, Pontus, Asia Minor, Phrygia, Pamphylia, Egypt, the Cyrene language areas of Libya, visitors from Rome—both Jews and Jewish converts—  Cretans, and Arabians. And we all hear these men telling in our own languages about the mighty miracles of God!”

They stood there amazed and perplexed. “What can this mean?” they asked each other.

But others in the crowd were mocking. “They’re drunk, that’s all!” they said.

Then Peter stepped forward with the eleven apostles and shouted to the crowd, “Listen, all of you, visitors and residents of Jerusalem alike!  Some of you are saying these men are drunk! It isn’t true! It’s much too early for that! People don’t get drunk by 9:00 a.m.!  No! What you see this morning was predicted centuries ago by the prophet Joel—  ‘In the last days,’ God said, ‘I will pour out my Holy Spirit upon all mankind, and your sons and daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men dream dreams.  Yes, the Holy Spirit shall come upon all my servants, men and women alike, and they shall prophesy. And I will cause strange demonstrations in the heavens and on the earth—blood and fire and clouds of smoke; the sun shall turn black and the moon blood-red before that awesome Day of the Lord arrives. But anyone who asks for mercy from the Lord shall have it and shall be saved.’


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