Friday, May 26, 2023

The Day of Pentecost 2023

Pentecost banner trio
Three from a group of six Pentecost banners I designed a while back:

• Visions / Dreams – Acts 2:17
• They were of one accord – Acts 2:1
• Witnesses to his resurrection – Acts 1:22

1 Corinthians 12:1, 4-13

1 Now concerning spiritual gifts, brothers and sisters, I do not want you to be unaware.

4 Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit, 5 and there are varieties of ministries. but the same Lord, 6 and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who activates all of them in all persons.
7 To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.

8 To one is given through the Spirit the word of wisdom and to another the word of knowledge according to the same Spirit, 9 to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit, 10 to another the working of powerful deeds, to another prophecy, to another the discernment of spirits, to another various kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues.

11 One and the same Spirit works all these things, distributing to each one individually just as the Spirit chooses.

12 For even as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so also is Christ.
13 For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and we were all made to drink of one Spirit.

The Day of Pentecost

On the fiftieth day of Easter, the third great trinitarian festival of Pentecost particularly celebrates the reign of the Holy Spirit in the world, not simply within the church for a wide slice of a calendar year.

For all Sundays during the Great Fifty Days, the first reading is from the Acts of the Apostles. Today's Acts 2:1-21 narrates a now familiar vibrant, colorful, windy, fiery Spirit-filled happening in an upper room. Was it the same venue as on Maundy Thursday, or the same place where John's gospel tells us Jesus bestowed the Holy Spirit on Easter evening? To my knowledge, no one knows.

During Pentecost worship many churches have people read portions of the lection in different languages to help bring to life Luke's description of the far-reaching ethnic, linguistic, and stylistic diversity of the event.

The gospel reading is John 20:19-23, Jesus directly granting his followers the Spirit of presence, peace, and comfort. Every year on the second Sunday of Easter the gospel reading is John 20:19-31; this year I wrote about 1 Peter 1:1-9, but here are a couple of fairly recent reflections on the Johannine text:

Easter 2B – 2021

Easter 2A – 2020


Rich, opulent, and worldly, the city of Corinth famously was the site of Aphrodite's temple; Corinth also was a crossroads for international travel and commerce. The church at Corinth was full of competition, jealousy, arrogance, and self-important individuals. The two letters to the Corinthians are among the apostle Paul's seven undisputed epistles: 1 Corinthians is long and fairly continuous; 2 Corinthians is more of a collage or pastiche of separate communications.

• 1 Corinthians 11:23-25 is the earliest report of the "founding meal" of the Lord's Supper. 1 Corinthians 10 and 11 contain one bread, one body, worthy reception cautions and instructions related to Holy Communion.
• The love chapter 1 Corinthians 13 picks up on the quality of love Jesus charges us with in the gospel we received from John's community.
• The cross of Jesus Christ is central to our proclaimed and enacted theology, but so is the resurrection.

Today's Second Reading…

…on gifts of the Spirit with their diversity and variety sets the standard for our life and ministry while we move into (many more) Sundays in Ordinary Time. As apostle-pastor-theologian Paul writes to the Corinthians, either Unity in Diversity or Unity and Diversity could be the buzz-phrase for this scripture—but never uniformity. In his Message translation of verse 7, late pastor Eugene Peterson succinctly describes the purpose of all God's gifts: "everyone gets in on it; everyone benefits." Because of this, humanity flourishes, and so does all creation.

Every ability God graces us with is a gift in the Spirit and of the Spirit, so that would include skills like carpentry, cooking, music, accounting, caregiving, and farming. Today's Pauline list (the apostle Paul LOVES to make lists!) is about ones that can't easily be measured or quantified rather than more tangible, physical abilities, but none of those gifts is free-floating; every gift of grace is embodied.

Whether more spiritual or tending toward the practical; our gifts benefit the commonwealth or common-weal of the gathered community of the body of Christ and the world outside the doors of our homes, workplaces, and churches. In the spirit of pentecost, no class, cultural, education, ethnic, or other boundaries interfere.

alleluia the spirit of life fills the world

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