While some come only out of a sense of duty or obligation, others have saved up to make the pilgrimage. It is Pentecost Day in Jerusalem, a fixed holy day for God’s people. From far and near the people come, acknowledging that those other people would also be there—Jews and proselytes from outlying areas with the smell of distance on their clothing and the sound of strangeness in their speech: Parthians, Medes, Elamites, Mesopotamians, Cappadocians. Where did you say they came from? Libyans, Egyptians, Arabs. Is this really in the Bible? Were they really there too? Yes.
Our story begins on Pentecost Day in Jerusalem when familiar ones and strange ones gather for a typical religious holiday. They have gathered for years, though they do not always understand one another or the songs and ritual speech of the gathering. Acts 2:1 states they were all together in one place, which brings the theater to mind. Once we are all together in the theater, the lights dim and the story begins. The lights do not dim in Jerusalem that Pentecost Day, but the wind blows and there is sighting of fire on the heads of some. Imagine the sigh of relief when Peter rises to make sense of the scene.
Our story began on Pentecost Day in Jerusalem. It began with the messiness and confusion that happens when wildly diverse people try to do anything together. It began with a commitment to gather as God’s people, even when we feel a bit ambivalent about the goings-on of the gathering. More significantly, our story began with the God of wind and flame.
God of wind and flame, thank you for breaking into the ordinariness of our existence with a fresh demonstration of what it means to be one people. 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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