Saturday, May 22, 2021

Pentecost 2021

Acts 2:1-11

1When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place. 2And suddenly from heaven there came a sound like the rush of a violent wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. 3Divided tongues, as of fire, appeared among them, and a tongue rested on each of them. 4All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages, as the Spirit gave them ability.

5Now there were devout Jews from every nation under heaven living in Jerusalem. 6And at this sound the crowd gathered and was bewildered, because each one heard them speaking in the native language of each. 7Amazed and astonished, they asked, "Are not all these who are speaking Galileans? 8And how is it that we hear, each of us, in our own native language?

9"Parthians, Medes, Elamites, and residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, 10Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya belonging to Cyrene, and visitors from Rome, both Jews and proselytes, 11Cretans and Arabs—in our own languages we hear them speaking about God's deeds of power."

The Collect for Whitsunday

God, who as at this time didst teach the hearts of thy faithful people, by the sending to them the light of thy Holy Spirit; Grant us by the same Spirit to have a right judgement in all things, and evermore to rejoice in his holy comfort; through the merits of Christ Jesus our Saviour, who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the same Spirit, one God, world without end. Amen.

From the Book of Common Prayer on the Church of England website


The 50th Day of Easter

Easter is 50 Days: Ascension Thursday is the 40th day of Easter; the Day of Pentecost is the 50th day of Easter. These events belong together.

The church's year of grace features three major festivals that relate to each Person of the Trinity/Godhead:

• Christmas/Nativity —> Creation
• Resurrection/Easter —> Redemption
• Pentecost/Whitsunday [common British Isles term, refers to white robes worn by people being baptized on Pentecost] —> Sanctification / Theosis / Holiness

In his Acts of the Apostles, the gospel writer Luke brings us the only scriptural account of the Day of Pentecost. The HS is prominent throughout Luke's gospel; the apostle Paul and the gospel of John also tell us a lot about the HS.

• Luke 4:18-19 begins Jesus' public ministry with the HS;
• Luke's book of Acts begins our public ministry with the HS.

Every year we revisit images of visible fire and audible wind as evidence of the Holy Spirit's presence among us and within us. Today's account starts with Jesus' followers gathered together. Strong tradition says they were in the same upper room as during the last supper on Maundy Thursday, but the actual physical location remains unknown. Everyone from everywhere was in Jerusalem for the Jewish Pentecost to celebrate the wheat/grain harvest and probably God's giving the Sinai Covenant of Ten Words or Ten Commandments via Moses. Parallel to Easter and Pentecost, Shavuot refers to seven weeks – "a week of weeks" – after Passover. The day of Pentecost is one of the three most major Christian festivals; the Jewish Pentecost was one of the three mandated festivals.

This all ends of the earth with devout Jews from every nation under heaven not only represented geographical diversity and inclusion; in addition, it was about historical inclusion. The Storytellers Bible explains this assembly was historically impossible for the first century because Medes had disappeared a couple of centuries earlier.

Starting with creation, the witness of scripture reveals innumerable ways the Holy Spirit always has been present. God always has been triune—this gift and reign of the Holy Spirit of life is nothing new! But… the Holy Spirit constantly is doing something new. As theologian J├╝rgen Moltmann explains so well, "…the Holy Spirit is…the creative and life-giving, redeeming and saving God… present in a special way."


Where We Live

Last week we discussed Jesus' Ascension and his conversation with his disciples beforehand. They asked Jesus if now he'd finally "restore the kingdom to Israel," and Jesus told them the question was wrong, because "You will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth." [Acts 1:8] In other words, they would help "restore the kingdom." A witness sees, experiences, and testifies in words, often in action. With its senses the world can witness – see, hear, touch, taste, smell – the church, and in the church's activity the world will recognize the presence of God's reign.

Remember the Golden Calf Event in Exodus 32? God said, "Moses, your people, whom you brought out of the land of Egypt." Moses replied, "God, your people, whom you brought out of the land of Egypt." Which is it? Moses' people or God's people? It's both/and.

The wind of pentecost cleans, refreshes, clears, renews. The fire of pentecost sears, burns, purifies. A year after a wildfire, new seedlings cover the forest floor. Some seeds need to be singed by fire in order to open. The forest service regularly engages in controlled burns.

• Acts 2:3, 4, 11 "tongues" is glosses – you may know the word glossalalia for speaking in tongues some charismatic churches practice; when we find a phrase out of line with the rest of the content of scripture, we sometimes refer to the added words as a "gloss."

• Acts 2:6, 8 "tongues" is dialect, one of our English words for language.


Considerations

The Holy Spirit is constantly active, but it feels as if the Spirit nudges us more at some times than at others. The COVID-19 pandemic has been and remains an opportunity for increased scientific research and knowledge. Despite deaths, job losses, and overall economic devastation, this has been a year of phenomenal caring and compassion, of imaginatively figuring out how to move forward in retail, recreational, and educational venues. Sales of board games went way up. We've learned physical distancing and social distancing are different concepts!

Related to our life together:

• What changes do you imagine the HS nudging – or propelling – us toward between the first Sunday we gather again and (for example) Thanksgiving Day?
• Have you especially sensed the Spirit at work in your own life or in your surroundings during the past year plus?
• Specifically over the past few months as vaccines have been available and life slowly has opened up? Or not?


Holy Holy Holy

Next Sunday we'll celebrate the Holy Trinity (tri-unity) and then move into a six month long, growing greening segment of (ordered, arranged, structured) Ordinary Time as the church blossoms and blooms as Jesus' presence in the world. The indwelling Spirit we receive in our baptism into Jesus Christ's death and resurrection engulfs us in God's creative power of resurrection; we live and serve as a Pentecostal people filled with gifts of the Holy Spirit.

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