Here stands Pentecost, tall, proud, and long-legged. Originally a celebration for the children of Israel, now the “birthday” of the Christian movement—repurposed by the faithful who have seen Jesus! More than a holiday or a holy day, Pentecost is a movement born of prayer: not prayers judiciously measured or metered by a three-minute kitchen timer but protracted prayer. Those who prayed their way to Pentecost prayed with no ability to predict or dictate the answer. They followed instructions and waited to be clothed with power from heavenly places. (See Luke 24:49.) But, how does one prepare for a baptism with the Holy Spirit that no one has known or understood?
Early on the day of Pentecost, the transformation begins with wind and fire. Holy Spirit! Empowering God’s people to move from the safety and seclusion of an out-of-the-way prayer room into the scrutiny and vulnerability of the public square.
Just as the Spirit of God drove Jesus into the wilderness to be tempted, so the Spirit drives these Pentecost people into a wilderness after their baptism. They do not go silently; they go speaking the message of God in ways their neighbors have never seen before. For them, temptation takes the form of a label: Drunks! Drunks! These praying Pentecost people do not succumb to the temptation of embarrassment or allow negative comments to draw them back into lockstep behavior. Peter, standing boldly with the eleven, calls upon the prophets to help the crowds make sense of their actions. “God’s Spirit has been poured out on your sons and your daughters. We are simply fulfilling God’s word.”
When we are tempted to retreat to the comfort and safety of the fold, remind us, O God, that we also have a message for the public square. Amen.
This week’s readings remind us of the powerful role of God’s Spirit. For many Christians, the Holy Spirit is the person of the Trinity we understand the least. In the book of Acts, the Spirit empowers the apostles on Pentecost to speak in other languages and, in so doing, initiates the establishment and missional reach of the church to the wider world. The psalmist uses a wordplay on ruach, the Hebrew word for breath or spirit, to teach us that God’s Spirit was present at Creation and is necessary for the ongoing survival of all life. Paul writes that God’s Spirit confirms that we are children of God and can approach God with confidence, not fear. Even the disciples feel uncertain about what will happen when Jesus leaves, so John provides Jesus’ assurance that God will remain with them and with us through the teaching of the Holy Spirit.
• Read Acts 2:1-21. How often do you take solace in praying in private without moving to take action in the public square? Which site is the more comfortable for you?
• Read Psalm 104:24-34, 35b. Where have you seen evidence of nature’s resources being spent? How can you help?
• Read Romans 8:22-27. How consequential is it to you to acknowledge that God prays for us and the world? Why?
• Read John 15:26-27; 16:4b-15. What instructions do you wish Jesus had left for you?
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