Pentecost Sunday Lessons & Meditations

THE DAY OF PENTECOST   05-31-2020

FIRST READING:  Acts 2:1-21   (FLAMES IN OUR HAIR AND FIRE IN OUR BLOOD!)

Ten days after the ascension of Jesus, a hidden community of 120 of his followers – afraid, prayerful, waiting, and expectant – is transformed by the burning and blowing power of the Holy Spirit into the witnessing community of Christ, the  Church – courageous, united, overflowing with love, and out in the street in public and with a purpose! As a result of the Spirit-powered witness of these first Christians, about 3,000 people joined up with Jesus that day. Christians celebrate the Day of Pentecost as the birthday of the Church.

SECOND READING: 1 Corinthians 12:3b-13   (SPIRIT GLUE + UNIFIED DIVERSITY!)

In a Christian community full of jealousy, striving, arrogance, rivalries, and a tendency to measure one’s worth through comparisons with other persons, Paul hopes to heal divisions and reestablish unity. In that church in Corinth, some Christians claimed to be more spiritual than others. Paul writes to tell them that the Spirit is active in every Christian and in all of the varied ministries of the church. His goal is that the Corinthians would more fully manifest Christ in their communal life and witness.

GOSPEL READING:  John 20:19-23   (THE PEACE, POWER, PROMISE OF JESUS!)

Soon after his resurrection, on that first Easter evening, the Risen Christ suddenly appears and breathes the peace and power of the Holy Spirit upon his “locked-in” disciples. In the midst of fear, uncertainty, and unbelieving, his continued incarnation presence in their lives is more reassuring than his words. And they are given marching orders to leave physical and mental and emotional rooms locked by fear, to go out with his peace and his power, and to continue his work of forgiving sins. As his disciples in this time and place, we have our work to do, being the Church. And, in Christ, we are able to dare to live faithfully and love fervently.

A MEDITATION

For pious Jews, it was the festival of Pentecost (from the Greek word meaning “fiftieth”), one of the most important religious celebrations in the Jewish calendar. Commanded by God to be observed annually, it commemorated the giving of the Law. Its occurrence fifty days after Passover corresponded with the tradition that Moses received the Ten Commandments on Mount Sinai fifty days after the Exodus. Each year fifty days after Passover, Jews who had been scattered all over the world made a holy pilgrimage back to Jerusalem to worship in the Temple, to offer their thanks and sacrifice, and to give their offerings of first fruits to God for the completion of the grain harvest. Pentecost was also an agricultural festival celebrating the spring harvest. It was also called the Festival of Weeks, and its Hebrew name was Shavuot.

For about 120 followers of Jesus, it was just another day – fifty days after the resurrection of Jesus and the tenth day after he had ascended into the sky and disappeared, up and away. They were a group of gathered, waiting, praying men and women, holding on to the promises of Jesus, excited and expectant but also perhaps afraid and reluctant. They had seen him brutally crucified, experienced him risen from the dead, and then watched him ascend into heaven. They were still struggling with the Easter mystery. On that day they were still wondering, still hiding, but together and praying and hopeful.

    Suddenly, on that fiftieth day after the resurrection of Jesus, SOMETHING HAPPENED. The wait was over. The Holy Spirit arrived fresh, hot, loud, blowing, touching, laughing, kissing, anointing, empowering, and dispatching the hidden and scared individuals. It was a fire that didn’t just come from outside them… it was a fire that came from within them too. They were transformed. They spilled out of their secret hideout into the streets to run and tell everybody about Jesus. They were different. They couldn’t hold it in any longer. They were newly alive and without fear. They were on fire with God’s love. They couldn’t help but tell. And show. And be and become the Body of Christ for the world. Church.

Pentecost is not the first coming of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit had made a first appearance in Genesis 1-2, hovering over the dark, empty, formless waters at the very beginning of creation. And the Holy Spirit has been a creating power and a guiding force throughout the ages.

Pentecost is not the coming of the Holy Spirit in the disciples. Fifty days before, soon after his death and resurrection, Jesus had come to a room of hiding and fearful disciples, and he had breathed the Spirit over them. But nothing much happened. They were still afraid. Still quiet. Still hidden. Still hesitant. Still waiting and wondering. Excited, but perhaps also hoping that nothing significant and challenging would happen. Making plans, but maybe wishing it could always remain in the talking phase.

As the Church still alive today, let us pray that the Holy Spirit would continue to come into our own hearts and deeds, lend fire to our words and strength to our witness. We have a call. Let’s not ignore it. We have an opportunity. Let’s not miss it. This is our day. This is our time. Let’s be and become the Church here, now, all over, and on purpose!

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