The Spirit forms community with a variety of God’s gifts. What signs of God’s Spirit are growing more visible in your own life and in the life of your church?
Acts 2:1-21 (The disciples receive the Holy Spirit)
Numbers 11:24-30 (Moses appoints elders)
Psalm 104:24-35 (Bless the Lord, O my soul)*
First Corinthians 12:3-13 (Gifts of the Spirit)
John 20:19-23 (The disciples receive the Holy Spirit)
John 7:37-39 (Living water)
Despite what appears to be chaos in the amazing account of this day of Pentecost, order rests in God’s hands. God’s Spirit pours abundantly on the community of disciples, renewing them with a diversity of gifts for the common good. Jesus’ followers then and now pray to remain open to where the Spirit may blow.
We continue with the story of the apostles after Jesus’ ascension. In Acts 1:4, Jesus tells them to wait in Jerusalem for “the promise” of God. During this time, other Jews gather in Jerusalem to commemorate the Hebrew observance of Shavuot or the Feast of Weeks, also called Pentecost (which means “fiftieth”), on the fiftieth day (seven weeks plus one day, or a "week of weeks") after the start of Passover (Deuteronomy 16:9-10).
Initially this was a celebration of the spring harvest (Exodus 23:14-17). Later, the festival focussed more on Jewish religious history. After the destruction of the Jerusalem temple in CE 70, the feast was transformed into an observance of the giving of the law on Mount Sinai.
God’s law and covenant were the foundation of the community of Israel, described in the Hebrew Scriptures. The writer of Acts describes God’s giving of the Spirit on this day of Pentecost following Jesus’ resurrection as the foundation of a new community living in covenant with God,– the Body of Christ.
In Acts 2:1-21, the writer struggles to offer a verbal description of this day’s events. The writer speaks of Pentecost’s phenomena as “like the rush of a violent wind” and “divided tongues, as of fire.” Surely, the words fall short of the stunning reality.
The Book of Acts lists an intriguing variety of peoples that make up the crowd on that day. Gathered from a multitude of nations to celebrate Pentecost, they marvel as they hear the gospel proclaimed in their native languages. Explanations of how this might have occurred pale in comparison to what those words convey. Some wonder what the testimony means. Others wonder if the disciples are drunk.
In Hebrew, the word for “hear” also means “obey.” The gift of the Spirit at Pentecost unleashes the Spirit’s power in the disciples, power that strengthens faithful living and witness. The conclusion to this story of Pentecost has remained open down through the centuries since that day.
The nature of God’s Spirit is the focus of the additional texts.
God’s pouring out of the Spirit in ways that do not follow human convention is also evident in Numbers 11:24-30. Joshua complains against the prophesying of two “unauthorized” people. Joshua’s complaint is not unlike that of later disciples who report someone who is “not with us” casting out demons in Jesus’ name (Luke 9:49-50). Moses, as does Jesus, turns aside the murmuring. God’s Spirit is given to whom God chooses.
The psalmist in Psalm 104:24-34,35b* sings of God’s Spirit breathing life upon all creatures, not human beings alone. God’s Spirit renews the face of the ground.
According to First Corinthians 12:3b-13, the Spirit comes with gifts for the Body of Christ. With these gifts come responsibilities to employ them for the common good.
John’s Gospel tells of the giving of Spirit in John 20:19-23, when Jesus breathes upon the disciples. In Greek as in Hebrew, “spirit,” “breath,” and “wind” are expressed by the same word (pneuma). In John 7:37-39, Jesus links the promised gift of Spirit with “living water.” In the arid Near East, water served as a powerful image for life. God’s Spirit flows over all.
The diverse gifts of God’s Spirit make each person and each part of creation distinctive. From this diversity, the Spirit weaves communities and creation in a common life enriched by God’s presence. What do you sense about the abundance and exuberance of God’s Spirit? What signs of God’s Spirit are emerging or exploding in your own life and in your faith community?
Come, Holy Spirit, come. Breathe upon us and fill us with your gifts. Open us to your guiding in our words and deeds. Fit us for serving in God’s holy realm. Amen.
* Most modern uses of Psalm 104 omit the first half of verse 35, "Let sinners be consumed..."