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Pentecost Sunday

pentecost

pentecost

The Israelites had been aware of certain persons in their midst, unpredictable and untameable, in whom the Spirit of YHWH dwelt. They spoke his word, led his people, encouraged, rebuked, prayed for and agonized over Israel. They were a sign of God’s care and love for his wayward people. But several prophets recognized this state of affairs could not be God’s final will for his people. Jeremiah declared that all God’s people would know him, from the least to the greatest. Isaiah threw open the blessings of the Davidic covenant to all who would seek the Lord. And Joel, quoted by Peter at Pentecost, declared that the Spirit of YHWH would be poured out upon all sorts. No longer a special elite: young and old, male and female, slave and free alike, all would be caught up by the rushing wind of the prophetic Spirit.

The first disciples were therefore as much struck by the implications of the sudden outpouring of the Spirit as by the manifestations. It wasn’t the excitement of being heard speaking in a dozen different languages, dramatic though that was (and is, when it happens today); it was the fact that the Spirit was thereby showing that the long-prophesied day had arrived. With the death and resurrection of Jesus, the new age had dawned, and the outpoured Spirit was the confirmation. The point of Pentecost was not so much the offer of a new spiritual experience as the declaration of a new spiritual reality. God’s history with the world had turned a decisive corner.

Grasped by this vision, the early Christians went back again and again to the greatest of Jewish stories, the Exodus. Paul deliberately uses Exodus-language to describe where Christians are in God’s story – and at the same time to lay to rest any suggestion that because we are living in God’s new day there’s nothing more to work at (or the counter suggestion that, because the world is still in a mess, Pentecost can’t really mean a new start for the world). The church is now in the position of the Israelites in the wilderness: led by God’s Spirit, assured of adoption as God’s children, walking resolutely away from slavery and towards their inheritance, suffering in the present but confident of the future. And the ‘inheritance’, as Paul indicates in Romans 4.13 and 8.18-25, is not a single promised land but the whole redeemed creation.

The intimacy and ecstasy of the Spirit’s personal indwelling, and the fact that with this the world has turned a new corner, lead to those clear, simple profundities which otherwise appear opaque and complex. ‘Whatever you ask for will be granted.’ ‘Keep my commandments.’ The Spirit of truth, still incomprehensible to the world, will be with you and in you, so that you may be sent into the world as re-embodiments of the incarnate Son, a sign of God’s care and love for his wayward world.

(Extract from Tom Wright’s Twelve Months of Sundays; Biblical meditations on the Christian year, Year C, pages 68-69)

 

Acts 2:1-21

The Coming of the Holy Spirit

2When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place.2And suddenly from heaven there came a sound like the rush of a violent wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting.3Divided tongues, as of fire, appeared among them, and a tongue rested on each of them.4All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages, as the Spirit gave them ability.

5 Now there were devout Jews from every nation under heaven living in Jerusalem.6And at this sound the crowd gathered and was bewildered, because each one heard them speaking in the native language of each.7Amazed and astonished, they asked, ‘Are not all these who are speaking Galileans?8And how is it that we hear, each of us, in our own native language?9Parthians, Medes, Elamites, and residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia,10Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya belonging to Cyrene, and visitors from Rome, both Jews and proselytes,11Cretans and Arabs—in our own languages we hear them speaking about God’s deeds of power.’12All were amazed and perplexed, saying to one another, ‘What does this mean?’13But others sneered and said, ‘They are filled with new wine.’

Peter Addresses the Crowd

14 But Peter, standing with the eleven, raised his voice and addressed them: ‘Men of Judea and all who live in Jerusalem, let this be known to you, and listen to what I say.15Indeed, these are not drunk, as you suppose, for it is only nine o’clock in the morning.16No, this is what was spoken through the prophet Joel:
17 “In the last days it will be, God declares,
that I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh,
and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy,
and your young men shall see visions,
and your old men shall dream dreams.
18 Even upon my slaves, both men and women,
in those days I will pour out my Spirit;
and they shall prophesy.
19 And I will show portents in the heaven above
and signs on the earth below,
blood, and fire, and smoky mist.
20 The sun shall be turned to darkness
and the moon to blood,
before the coming of the Lord’s great and glorious day.
21 Then everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.”

Romans 8:14-17

14For all who are led by the Spirit of God are children of God.15For you did not receive a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received a spirit of adoption. When we cry, ‘Abba!* Father!’16it is that very Spirit bearing witness* with our spirit that we are children of God,17and if children, then heirs, heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ—if, in fact, we suffer with him so that we may also be glorified with him.

John 14:8-17, 25-27

8 Philip said to him, ‘Lord, show us the Father, and we will be satisfied.’9Jesus said to him, ‘Have I been with you all this time, Philip, and you still do not know me? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, “Show us the Father”?10Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me? The words that I say to you I do not speak on my own; but the Father who dwells in me does his works.11Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father is in me; but if you do not, then believe me because of the works themselves.12Very truly, I tell you, the one who believes in me will also do the works that I do and, in fact, will do greater works than these, because I am going to the Father.13I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son.14If in my name you ask me* for anything, I will do it.

The Promise of the Holy Spirit

15 ‘If you love me, you will keep* my commandments.16And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate,* to be with you for ever.17This is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, because he abides with you, and he will be in* you.

25 ‘I have said these things to you while I am still with you.26But the Advocate,* the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you everything, and remind you of all that I have said to you.27Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid.