If people would have been asked in 1968 which nation would dominate the world in watch making during the 1990s and into the twenty-first century the answer would have been uniform: Switzerland. Why? Because Switzerland had dominated the world of watch making for the previous sixty years.
The Swiss made the best watches in the world and were committed to constant refinement of their expertise. It was the Swiss who came forward with the minute hand and the second hand. They led the world in discovering better ways to manufacture the gears, hearings, and mainsprings of watches. They even led the way in waterproofing techniques and self-winding models. By 1968, the Swiss made 65 percent of all watches sold in the world and laid claim to as much as 90 percent of the profits.
By 1980, however, they had laid off thousands of watch-makers and controlled less than 10 percent of the world market. Their profit domination dropped to less than 20 percent. Why? The Swiss had refused to consider a new development—the—the Quartz movement—ironically, invented by a Swiss. Because it had no main-spring or knob, it was rejected. It was too much of a paradigm shift for them to embrace. Seiko, on the other hand, accepted it and, along with a few other companies, became the leader in the watch industry.
The lesson of the Swiss watchmakers is profound. A past that was so secure, so profitable, so dominant was destroyed by an unwillingness to consider the future. It was an inability to re-think how they did business. Past success had blinded them to the importance of seeing the implications of the changing world and to admit that past accomplishment was no guarantee of future success.
Today we celebrate Pentecost – one of the major feast days of the church that seeks to open us to the future, to change and new life. Pentecost reminds us we live in a changing world, and God calls us, enables us to stay ahead of the game. Pentecost challenges us to let go of the past and embrace the future – in how churches serve our neighbors, how we worship, how we understand the scriptures. The Holy Spirit, on Pentecost, gives us the ability to see the implications of a changing world and to re-think how we are to share the variety of gifts we have with all those around us.
Pentecost reminds us of those timid disciples who were transformed through the outpouring of the Holy Spirit. Remember those timid disciples who the Spirit led out into the street to preach the good News of Jesus Christ? Pentecost, through those disciples, were opened to a new future --- and those disciples proclaimed a new message – a message of God’s salvation in Christ that over16 nationalities understood in their own language. They were stunned, how is it that we hear this? They gasped. Pentecost is the new change, opening the gates to the future.
While Pentecost commemorates the descent of the Holy Spirit upon the apostles and other followers of Jesus, they and multitudes of Jews were in Jerusalem celebrating the Jewish holiday of Shavuot – which is Hebrew for "Weeks.” Shavuot commemorates not only the wheat harvest, but more importantly, it celebrates God’s giving of the Law at Mount Sinai, 50 days after the second day of Passover – seven weeks; just as Pentecost is seven weeks after Easter. On Shavuot the Israelites were give the Law which bound them to God, and gave them an identity as the people of God. The law that forged them into a community and gave them the guidelines and foundation of freedom.
So like Shavuot, Pentecost unites people of all nations of the world based on the gospel poured out into our hearts by the Holy Spirit. It is the new future God is calling us into.
Pentecost is in a way the fulfillment of Shavuot it moves it into the future. For on Pentecost there was the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, as tongues of fire which alighted upon the followers of Jesus. People found themselves emboldened with a new law written on their hearts, and proclaimed the gospel fearlessly in the streets, and were understood by people of many lands. Pentecost lifted up the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of Jesus, and proclaimed the diversity of gifts in the word, the differences of ministries, but one Lord. Pentecost took Shavuot to a future development that it is the same God who works in all for all. Community was broadened, the future made grander, one body through Jesus Christ.
Pentecost is the powerful entry of the Holy Spirit to turn our world upside down and rearrange it in surprising ways. Language and culture are not erased, but welcomed. People are given different gifts but not for selfish means, but for the profit of all. Suddenly the differences between peoples of the world are not something to fear but something to celebrate. Pentecost gives us all a new name: beloved child of God, in which each person is listened to and each person has a voice. Pentecost brings us God’s point of view, where every person’s gifts are expressed and shared for the betterment of all; where speaking and hearing are done with mutuality and respect. Such is the foundation of the church founded by Jesus and confirmed by the Holy Spirit.
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Reminds us of this Pentecost mutuality:
“It really boils down to this: that all life is interrelated. We are all caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied together into a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly. We are made to live together because of the interrelated structure of reality . . . Before you finish eating breakfast in the morning, you’ve depended on more than half the world. This is the way our universe is structured, this is its interrelated quality. We aren’t going to have peace on Earth until we recognize the basic fact of the interrelated structure of all reality. “
This is Pentecost thinking. Because more and more, we live in a web of mutuality and it is becoming harder to ignore the imbalances in this system. Pentecost will not allow us to do so.
There is great dismay this past week over our President’s rejection of the Paris Climate Agreement, ratified by 196 countries. The Spirit of Pentecost was torn, as a country that is the second greatest polluter in the world, turned its back on global cooperation. We should be the leader in clean energy –just as we have been world leaders in so many areas. As Judeo-Christians, and people of faith, we should take seriously the commandment to be stewards of the earth. Yet instead of seeking to apply our formidable gifts for the profit of all, as Paul calls us to; we apply our energy to the profit of the wealthy few who benefit from withdrawing from this accord. Will we fall behind as a world leader because of our lack of vision – or can we turn this around? We stand with two other countries now who haven’t signed this accord. Yet since this Trump signed the withdrawal on June 1, dozens of cities and states are standing with the Paris Climate Accord. Individuals are pledging money, and our Stated Clerk, Rev. J. Herbert Nelson II, spoke on our behalf:
“The president’s statement was a disappointment and represents a setback to our work as well as the work of other interfaith and ecumenical groups on the issue of the environment. But we will not be deterred. We will continue to work toward an environmentally safe world, creating jobs in a new economy based on clean air and based on building an environmentally safe nation." - J. Herbert Nelson II, Stated Clerk of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)
It is appropriate that this stance and actions comes on Pentecost – the feast of change, of dreamers and visionaries. We recall that Shavuot made the Israelite people into a nation based on the Law given on Mount Sinai. Pentecost unites people of all nations of the world based on the gospel poured out into our hearts by the Holy Spirit. It is the new future God is calling us into.
Let us not fall behind let ourselves be comfortable with old habits and beliefs. We are called to new dreams, new visions, to share our Holy Spirit gifts for the prophet of all, so we can create a world of gospel values, not held back by former success, but pushed forward by holy dreams and visions that will bind us as one people, one globe, many the gifts at the service of all.
Read more at http://www.beliefnet.com/columnists/onecity/2010/01/martin-luther-king-jr-on-interdependence-buddhist-quote-of-the-day.html#3jAORSKkptWwczls.99
James Enery White, Rethinking The Church, Baker Books, 1998, p. 20