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Tuesday, May 22, 2007
Spirited Voices Throughout the Easter season, the readings have led us in an exploration of the acts of the Spirit in the early church. These faith ancestors responded to God’s powerful presence in lives committed to mutual ministry. Pentecost Sunday is a day to celebrate the breath and fire of the Spirit that lives and moves and acts among God’s people. Acts 2:1–21 The events of the day of Pentecost are both surprising and expected. Expected by the reader because throughout the gospel of Luke – the first volume of the two-volume work that includes Acts – the Holy Spirit intervenes supernaturally on major occasions (Luke 1:35, 3:22). Expected, also, because the reader and the disciples know that the coming of the Spirit is promised, even from the very beginning of the gospel (Luke 3:16). Yet, the coming of the Spirit in this time and place also is surprising. Gathered in Jerusalem to celebrate the Jewish festival of Pentecost, bystanders are amazed to hear a multitude of languages being spoken by Galileans, who are notorious for being monolingual. If the disciples need convincing (see 1:6) that their mission is to have a scope beyond their group and nation, this surely provides it. The book of Acts tells us that Peter stands and speaks, referring to authorities that the crowd of Jews and Jewish converts know and trust. By referring to Abraham, Moses, and the prophets, Peter lets the crowd know that this giving of the Spirit is the action of God, not a freakish event. Peter relates not only to the traditions of his hearers but also to their recent experiences. Jesus, of whom they had experience, was empowered by this same God (see verses 22–24). With this speech or sermon the disciples begin a public ministry that will continue to be energized by the Spirit’s indwelling and fuelled by the Spirit’s power. It is this public ministry and this Spirit that are still the heart and soul of our church today. As Peter does in his sermon, the psalmist in Psalm 104:24–34, 35b identifies and praises God as the creator and sustainer of all that is. Nothing happens that is not known to God or is outside of God’s power. All things, even the sea, which seems so chaotic, are within God’s realm. Perhaps those who heard the disciples speak in a multitude of languages on Pentecost might have recalled the story of Babel in Genesis 11:1–9, the account of an ambitious people who attempted to overcome boundaries set in place by God. Divine judgment in response to their effort to “make a name for ourselves” included a confusion of human languages. As a leader in the early church community that was sparked by the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, Paul describes the ongoing presence of the Spirit in Romans 8:14–17. By the Spirit each one becomes part of God’s family and is sustained by the Spirit in all situations, including suffering. In John 14:8–17, (25–27), a portion of Jesus’ farewell discourse to his disciples prior to his death, Jesus describes the role of the Holy Spirit as “his presence in his absence.” Just as the Spirit gave Jesus’ followers gathered at Pentecost the power to speak in many languages, so the Spirit – described here as “advocate” and “spirit of truth” – will give the disciples the means to bear witness to Jesus. Pentecost Sunday celebrates the animating and sustaining presence of God’s Spirit within the church. Perhaps it is for this reason that Pentecost is often celebrated as the “birthday of the Christian church.” The Spirit gives the church its mission and the power to undertake it. As you look into the future, what mission is the Spirit giving to you and your church?

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Kairos-Milwaukie UCC Blog

Reflections on the Revised Common Lectionary by Rev. Rick Skidmore and Rev. Jim Ogden.

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