PENTECOST, May 15, Acts 2
Pentecost is marked in the church with celebration and fire. Our clergy dress in red and our hangings use images of fire and wind. Pentecost is drama.
But to the observers of the first Christian Pentecost what was transpiring looked more like drunken excess. Was there ever a miracle of God so poorly misunderstood? Were there ever prophets more unlikely?
In his Rule, Saint Benedict encourages, even commands, the leaders of monastic communities to listen to the youngest members. During day-to-day living the young monks obeyed their elders, but when prayerfully gathered in meetings Benedict knew that Godly wisdom often came from unlikely and surprising sources. The Holy Spirit at work unleashes things beyond human comprehension. Every gathering has the potential to be Pentecost.
Pentecost is often called the “Birth of The Church,” and I love that imagery. But this isn’t the first Pentecost. Pentecost has been a major Jewish celebration for thousands of years. Falling 50 days after Passover Pentecost culminates a perfect period. Seven was seen as a number of holy completion, and this is the first day after seven weeks of seven days. Grain and foods were harvested for feast and sacrifice as a celebration of the First Fruits of the year.
Marking a day of First Fruits was a celebration of God’s work. God has brought the bounty of the new year, and we hope and pray the harvest with be good all year.
Celebrating God’s gift of food also began to incorporate other examples of God’s gifts. By The first century Pentecost was also the celebration of the giving of The Law. 50 days after the Passover, and fleeing Egypt, this was the celebration of Moses going onto the mountain, anointed with fire and wind, and coming down with the words of God.
It is for this celebration that everyone is gathered in Jerusalem, and I do mean everyone. That wonderful list beginning chapter 2 (the secret bane of epistle readers) is descriptive, not definitive. Luke is making the point that everyone, people from throughout the first century world, are all represented to celebrate God’s bounty and God’s word.
The Apostles, so recently cowering in fear, are now gathered in prayer and hope. They are waiting on God, and shows up. God becomes manifest on and through these most unlikely prophets in a dramatic way. A rushing wind, tongues of fire, and an unleashing of The Gospel in every language. This is a prophetic witness, and a healing. Just as the Apostles has been transformed to bold proclamation, so to are the divisions of the Tower of Babel being healed. God’s Spirit is present to edify, to unite, to heal, and to transform.
Peter, who so recently denied Jesus now stands up to proclaim Him. This is the fulfillment of prophecy he teaches, when the Messiah is been present and salvation comes through the offspring of Abraham. This is not the Day of Judgement, but it is the beginning of a new era, a last days, a fulfillment of prophecy.
Peter is proclaiming a truth we have come to know as we celebrate 2000 years of Pentecosts since then. This is indeed a new era, a last days, and yet we haven’t seen The Last Day yet. The Day of Judgement is not yet upon us, (despite what you hear from late night televangelists!)
We live in the Day of the Lord, and we wait for the Lord’s return. We have been created, and we are being recreated. We are already saved, but not yet delivered. We live in the middle ground, and on this birthday of the church there is work to do.
Being saved isn’t just about an eternal mailing address. This isn’t just about heaven and hell, it is also about living in the revealed power of Jesus. This is about living as Christians in the midst of a broken and hurting world, about letting the Holy Spirit fill us and unleash us for Godly work, about not just celebrating The Church, but about being The Church.
I am saved, I am forgiven, and I am not yet free, not yet fully delivered.
I live somewhere in the squishy middle, the gray area, the hurting and broken world. What do I do? I allow the Holy Spirit to transform me, to fill me, to use me. I am part of The Church.
So are you.
We are the least, last, and lost, and we are welcomed. We are the unlikely prophets with a word to proclaim. We are not drunk, we are filled with the Joy of the Spirit of God. And, like the Apostles will show us as we go deeper in Acts, we have work to do.
We don’t just get to celebrate The Church, we get to BE The Church.
We have to be the Church. This is our holy task.
Doing so celebrates, participates in, and anticipates God’s great and final act of deliverance yet to come.
Come Lord Jesus Come! And may Christ find us busy with His work when He does.