The Day of Pentecost; Year C (5/23/2010)
Lessons:Acts 2:1-21 or Genesis 11:1-9 Psalm 104:24-34, 35b Romans 8:14-17 or Acts 2:1-21 John 14:8-17 [25-27]
Prayer of the Day God our creator, the resurrection of your Son offers life to all the peoples of earth. By your Holy Spirit, kindle in us the fire of your love, empowering our lives for service and our tongues for praise, through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.
2:1 When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place. 2 And suddenly from heaven there came a sound like the rush of a violent wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. 3 Divided tongues, as of fire, appeared among them, and a tongue rested on each of them. 4 All 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. 6 And at this sound the crowd gathered and was bewildered, because each one heard them speaking in the native language of each. 7 Amazed and astonished, they asked, "Are not all these who are speaking Galileans? 8 And how is it that we hear, each of us, in our own native language? 9 Parthians, Medes, Elamites, and residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, 10 Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya belonging to Cyrene, and visitors from Rome, both Jews and proselytes, 11 Cretans and Arabs-in our own languages we hear them speaking about God's deeds of power." 12 All were amazed and perplexed, saying to one another, "What does this mean?" 13 But others sneered and said, "They are filled with new wine." 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. 15 Indeed, these are not drunk, as you suppose, for it is only nine o'clock in the morning. 16 No, 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.' "
Acts 2:1-21 New Revised Version Bible (C)1989, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America.
For the past seven weeks we have been studying the fifth book of the New Testament, The Acts of the Apostles. We chose to do this in order to learn a bit about the people of the early church — that first generation of believers in Jesus Christ. Along the way, we observed their commitment to the faith, their passion for sharing Christ with others, and their determination to tear down the walls that had been built up between people. It seems that at least two important dynamics had a profound affect on that faith community.
The first of them was the presence of the Holy Spirit. I’ve long believed that this book is mis-named. It shouldn’t be called “The Acts of the Apostles.” It should be called “The Acts of the Holy Spirit.” Time and time again the Holy Spirit stirred the faithful, and empowered them to do what they never could have imagined doing on their own.
We see that in this week’s text. When the Day of Pentecost had come — a Jewish festival that takes place fifty days after Passover — our Lord’s followers were all together in one place. They weren’t fanned out inviting people to meet the Risen Christ. They weren’t in the Temple, celebrating what God had accomplished among them. They were secluded together, most likely still nervous to be out in public after the horrific death their Lord experienced (and on some level aware that their fate could be the same…).
On that day, the Holy Spirit blew into their lives, and everything changed. They were blown into the streets, where God made it possible for them to reach across barriers of language and culture, and share their faith with the entire city. This was the first of many instances when the Holy Spirit would lead them into ministries, and empower them to make a difference. The presence of the Holy Spirit in the midst of this community — and their capacity to believe in it, and follow it — was one of the dynamics that made it such a vibrant and faithful community.
Another dynamic that had a profound affect on them was their depth of care for all of God’s children. Early on the claim was made that the Christian community was ignoring the needs of widows in their midst (see Acts 6:1-8). They took this criticism seriously, and immediately appointed seven people to take specific responsibility for these vulnerable members of society. One of them was Saint Stephen, who is described as “full of grace and power, [doing] wonders among the people.” Stephen is a great example of what made the early church so strong. Inspired by the Holy Spirit they took a genuine interest in one another, and in others whom they met. In doing so, they became the presence of Christ in the lives of many people. They cared for them and supported them and encouraged them — and it helped others to see in their love, the love that God has for them.
Empowered by the Holy Spirit, and committed to caring for God’s children. That could have been the rallying cry of the early church. And perhaps it would be a good rallying cry for Christians today. Are we faithful enough to perceive the leading of the Holy Spirit, and bold enough to follow it? Are we committed enough to one another and our neighbors to reach out to them whenever they are in need? These are questions that helped to define the early church. What will their answers say about today’s church?
David J. Risendal, Pastor
Exploring This Week’s Gospel
- What stories does the book of Acts tell us about how the Holy Spirit led the early church?
- Who was touched by the love of those first generation Christians?
- What affect did their trust in the Holy Spirit and love for one another have on their community?
Connecting with This Week’s Gospel:
- When have I sensed the leading of the Holy Spirit?
- What might I do to be more open to the leading of God in my life?
- Who might I reach out to, in order to share with them my gifts of love and compassion and caring?