Ron Peters has a vision for the 1,400 or so Presbyterians attending Big Tent this week: like Jesus’ followers at Pentecost, they too can see their anarchy be changed to awe, their alienation to reconciliation.
“That’s what happens,” he said during a rollicking sermon during Big Tent’s opening worship, held at the Kentucky International Convention Center today (Aug. 1), “when God’s people begin to listen.”
“Could we Presbyterians, frail as our numbers might be, find the presence of God among us and so transform the world?” he wondered. Like those early Christians who experienced Pentecost, “the Holy Spirit is already in the house. Those who had gathered were blessed because they had committed themselves to listen.”
Peters, president of the Interdenominational Theological Center in Atlanta, said listening isn’t always easy. He recalled a raucous Atlanta Falcons football playoff game last January in the Georgia Dome when he couldn’t hear a word from people right next to him. “Life can do the same thing to us,” he said. “Some things are so pervasive they drown out everything else.”
As Presbyterians climb in under the Big Tent, attending workshops that are part of the 10 conferences running simultaneously, they will be changed, Peters predicted.
“There will be a sense of awe of the presence of the Holy Spirit all around, and we will leave this place having been in God’s holy presence,” he said. “Then can it be said that … justice came into our world in a new way, because we were in the presence of God’s Holy Spirit and in the presence of Jesus Christ.”
The group Richardson, Richards and Neely played guitar, mandolin, washboard and other musical instruments for such traditional hymns as “Holy, Holy, Holy!” and “Come, Thou Fount of Every Blessing” as well as international hymns, including “Wa wa wa Emimimo” (“Come, O Holy Spirit, Come.”)
Twenty-four PC(USA) mission personnel serving God on four continents were commissioned during the service.