Friday, 22 May 2015

Pentecost Acts 2:1-21


Pentecost (Shavuot) was an agricultural festival during which the first fruits of the harvest were brought to the Temple. Pentecost comes from the fact that there are seven full weeks, 49 days, from the second day of Passover to the day before Shavuot. The 50th day is Pentecost (fiftieth). The festival is associated in the Old Testament with the giving of the Law, Torah at Mount Sinai.

So since it was the day of Pentecost, the disciples were all together. Suddenly, unexpectedly there was a sound of a roaring sea, a wind-like, vibrating. It filled the room, possibly somewhere in the temple precinct where they were sitting. They saw fire shaped like tongues separated on each of the disciples. They began to speak out aloud, forcefully in other tongues- ecstatic prophecy.

There were staying in the area Jewish pilgrims from the Roman provinces visiting Jerusalem for the festival. When they heard the disciples they were shocked at hearing their own language. “Galileans”, they said- What identified them as Galileans? Their accent, which meant it showed through even in their ecstatic prophecy. Then we are given a list of countries and races present representing the Jewish disporia. There were visitors from Rome both Jews and converts to Judaism temporarily resident in Jerusalem.  They were puzzled. Some people thought the disciples were drunk.

So for Jews Pentecost meant the birth of Judaism, for Christians it means the birth of the Church. Luke describes 120 people present, men and women. 

So what exactly happened? Wind and fire, two of the elements of the ancient world’s cosmology, are mentioned. Fire is associated in the Old Testament with God's presence. Wind is described as one of the instruments through which God acts. The sound of the wind was only heard by those gathered in the house. What the crowd heard was not the sound of the wind but the sound of the voices speaking in tongues. The tongues here are not the ecstatic speech of the Corinthian church, a kind of spiritual language. Here it is the languages of the onlookers, a reverse of Babel!  This is the beginning of the fulfillment of the promise that they would be Jesus’ witnesses to the entire world. Here they are, in Jerusalem, but the church will rapidly move into Judea, Samaria, and eventually, the whole of the then known world to the ends of the earth.

Peter says that they were not filled with wine, but with the Spirit, as the prophet Joel had promised. For Luke the outpouring of the Spirit demonstrated the re-establishment of the prophetic role, which was believed to have been discontinued after the last great prophet, Malachi, had spoken.

Luke’s describes the early church as a community where distinctions of gender, ethnicity, and social status were erased. From the point of view of God's plan of salvation, all are equal before God. The effect of Pentecost was to de-stigmatize people: Jews, gentiles, barbarians, women, all now stand on an equal footing under God.

Without the Spirit we are just ritualistic followers of religion. It is the Spirit that marks us out, inspires us and gives us that 5th dimension. It is the Spirit that gives life to us and the churches and without it we are like hollow shells (white anted see Mike Riddell). So pray for God's Spirit in your life and others. We need it!

"If you believe and I believe and we together pray
the Holy Spirit must come down and set Gods people free..." African hymn

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