Summary: How do we view Pentecost?
Hear now the reading from the book of The Acts of the Apostles, beginning with the second chapter as I read today from the New Revised Standard Version:
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? 9Parthians, 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.” 12All were amazed and perplexed, saying to one another, “What does this mean?” 13But others sneered and said, “They are filled with new wine.”
14But Peter, standing with the eleven, raised his voice and addressed them, “Men of Judea and all who live in Jerusalem, let this be known to you, and listen to what I say. 15Indeed, these are not drunk, as you suppose, for it is only nine o’clock in the morning. 16No, this is what was spoken through the prophet Joel:
17 ‘In the last days it will be, God declares,
that I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh,
and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy,
and your young men shall see visions,
and your old men shall dream dreams.
18 Even upon my slaves, both men and women,
in those days I will pour out my Spirit;
and they shall prophesy.
19 And I will show portents in the heaven above
and signs on the earth below,
blood, and fire, and smoky mist.
20 The sun shall be turned to darkness
and the moon to blood,
before the coming of the Lord’s great and glorious day.
21 Then everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.’
As I have told you before, there are more than one scripture texts in the lectionary for each Sunday. Some churches read at least 2 or even all four common divisions – Old Testament, Psalm, Epistle and Gospel. Today is the traditional celebration of Pentecost, so there is the reading from Genesis 11 about the Tower of Babel or the story from Acts 2 – which also includes a reading from the book of Joel, Psalm 104, Romans 8 – if you already read Acts 2 and then John 14. This is one instance when the major theme for the day can be found in each and every text.
I wanted us to share some of the thoughts and images from the Psalm reading, so would you join me in the Prayer to the Holy Spirit printed in the bulletin?
Come, Holy Spirit……
Now, before I go any further, I want to share something personal. This past week, Roy Lynn and I celebrated our 25th wedding anniversary. That set me to thinking about so much of the biblical imagery about weddings, especially when I did some digging into the tradition of the celebration of Pentecost.
Some Jewish writers compared this celebration of the giving of the Torah, the law to Moses at Sinai, with the giving of a gift at a wedding – not by the guests which we all expect in this day and age, but by the groom. By Jewish tradition, the bride has a simple choice to accept the groom’s gift – as did the chosen people with the law at Sinai – as do we as followers of Christ.
Another Jewish source reminded its readers of all the activities associated with all the other holidays, special food, special prayers, etc. With this holiday, there is a curious name – Weeks – I will not even attempt the Hebrew word – which delineates the time between Passover and today. That 50 days should be another time of preparation. A time of expectation. A time to wait. Advent, Lent, Weeks. A special time for spending time with God.
That is why there were so many people in Jerusalem that day. It was a feast day. It was one of the three days required for temple worship. The Day of Atonement, for forgiveness, Passover to remember God’s deliverance from captivity in Egypt and Pentecost, to celebrate that after that deliverance, God provided instructions on how to behave toward Him and each other.