Father Walter’s homily – Pentecost 31.05.2020

 

Reading: Acts of the Apostles 2.1-21   

 

Remember that the first eleven chapters of the very first Bible book, Genesis, is story, not his-tory nor her-story. Before Adam and Eve ate themselves out of house and home, they sought to have knowledge equal to God, to take God’s place in deciding for themselves, and so forgot God’s goodness, blessings and promises. When shown Eden’s gate, Adam remarked to Eve, “My dear, we are living in an age of transition.” In Genesis 11, the people of Babel/Babylon in Mesopotamia, thought the same as Adam and Eve. In the story (this is a paraphrase):  ‘the whole earth had one language. The people said “Let us make a name for ourselves and build a city and a tower with its top in the heavens. It will be a monument to our self-worth and a wonder of the world. We will build so high that we will be able to grasp glory and pierce heaven.  We can replace God’s place in our lives with ourselves.”’ [Genesis 11.1-4]. In the story, the building became an arrogant human attempt to build a self-sufficient world without God, in which humans alone ruled. The crafts-persons built a ziggurat, a seven-level step pyramid, perhaps 300 feet tall. So high, that it took a workman a whole year to climb to the top. The building became an icon, more important than the builders. If a tired labourer, hauling up yet another sun-baked brick toppled from the dizzy heights, the fellow builders mourned more for the loss of a brick than for the loss of a man.

 

The story continues: As punishment for human pretension and pride, God diversified and confused the one human language into many. The workers lost their ability to communicate with one another and the building stopped. If we try to build with no human communication and solidarity in our lives, if we try to build an independent, counterfeit spirit to God’s, we may start to build our tower, but our Babel will become a symbol of confusion not creation. In the story, God came “down” to see the insignificant tower, which, from a human vantage, seemed so tall, but, from a heavenly view, the arrogance made God laugh. By aspiring to reach heaven by technological prowess, rather than by moral conduct, the builders of Babel discovered that, not only can we fail to reach heaven, we will lose our community, our unity on earth. The confusion of tongues of Babel will be cancelled out with the Pentecost Spirit giving understanding to everyone.

 

The true story of ziggurats is: Centuries before the Chosen People existed, peoples from mountain areas moved down to the plains. They found that there were no high mountains on top of which their gods could dwell. So, from earlier than 2200 BCE, perfecting techniques for monumental mud-brick architecture, massive ziggurats or sacred step-pyramids, were built across areas like modern day Syria. Constructed from sun-baked bricks, some rose as high as 100 metres. Just like the sky-scrapers dotting Melbourne Central, on some days, the tops were hidden in the low clouds, just the place for a god to dwell. The higher the ziggurats were built, the closer to the heavens they were believed to be to the city’s god, and thus, easier to make contact. Sacrificial animals were burned at the top. Some ziggurats were covered in shrubs and small trees, hence the “Hanging Gardens of Babylon.” Led by Abraham, the original Chosen entered the area about 1990 BCE, when, perhaps, importantly for the creation of the bible story, the people passed ziggurats in decay and crumbling. They looked to be unfinished, hence the Babel story arose. When the biblical scholars scripted the Hebrew Scriptures/Old Testament, they had a memory of ziggurats to draw upon as a moral example.

 

The story given to us is of the presumptuousness of a people, who simply overreached themselves. Do you remember your poor teacher trying to din into you Shelley’s ‘Ozymandias?’  ‘….two vast and trunkless legs of stone stand in the desert. On the pedestal, these words appear ,”My name is Ozymandias, King of Kings. Look on my works, ye mighty, and despair!” Nothing besides remains. Round the decay of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare, the lone and level sands stretch far away.’   Q. Could modern folk ever ape ancient Babylonians, with “Look at me!” dwellings, vehicles, prestige jobs, to call attention to “me, me, me!” Q. Do moderns ever strive to give themselves identity and self-worth in things which take the place of trusting in God in our life? The Babel folk learned they were not free to replace God with things. Do you think that poor Ozymandias, King of Kings, ever become so aware?

 

Today’s first reading comes from The Acts of the Apostles (2. 1-21). Luke is the attributed author of this fifth book of the Christian Scriptures that portrays the foundation, organization and dynamic growth of the early Christian community from the Ascension and Pentecost 1. Acts is the connecting link between the life of Christ in the four Gospels and the twenty-two other letters and epistles of the Christian Scriptures. In Acts, Luke documented the spread of the Spirit-inspired evangelism that was carried from Jerusalem across the Roman Empire by the first ambassadors of Christ. Luke scripted Acts as an authentic theological and historical record of the early Church to the death of Paul in Rome in 64 CE. The Gospel had been preached first to the observant Jews in the Holy land, but, only a remnant gladly received the Good News. Hence, beginning with Paul and Barnabas, the Gospel was proclaimed to the Gentiles.

 

Had Jesus remained on earth, his physical presence and energy would have limited the spread of the Good News, because, humanly, he could only be in the one place at one time. Having ascended to heaven to send his Spirit below, he could be present everywhere. His Holy Spirit will guide people to know his truth, remind them of his words, give them the right words to say, and fill them with power.

 

*What follows is what your ignorant locum has tried to discover of the intense historical beauty of the Jewish religious ritual concerning Pentecost. He is now no wiser, but is much better informed!

 

Passover, called the Festival of Freedom, was the last meal eaten by the Children of Israel before leaving Egypt on the Exodus. The Lord God “passed over” the Hebrew homes, whose doors were brushed with the blood of the Passover lamb, to spare them any further sadness under pharaoh. Passover became the festival of their redemption from Egyptian enslavement. Thus, the birth of the Jewish nation began with the Exodus from slavery circa 1270 BCE. The people would remember “I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage” [Exodus 20.2]. In the ever-fading Australian mind for history, we may remember the Spanish influenza of a century ago (only because of the present pandemic). We may also remember, perhaps, when war came to Australia, the bombing of Darwin, in (“er? was it 1941 or 42?”), and when our footy team last won the flag. Full stop. For Judaism, the liberation from Egyptian enslavement became the core story, the living, breathing, continuous story of the Chosen People. Their history would sadly repeat itself down the ages.

 

When settled in the agricultural Holy Land, the annual recalling of the time of the Exodus matched the seasonal growth time of first, barley, then wheat. So, Passover became the Festival of the Harvest, the first spring barley crop to ripen, seven weeks before wheat (which will be our Pentecost). The first sheaves were brought to Temple annually on the festival of “Unleavened Bread” [Leviticus 23.9].

 

After the Jewish joyous seven week spiritual journey from Passover, came Pentecost, the Festival of the First Grain Harvest. Thanksgivers brought to Temple the “First Fruits,” the first two loaves of bread baked from the finest wheat. (On Mothering Sunday, our Simnel cake is made from ‘simila,’ the finest wheaten flour). It was not only wheat offered at Pentecost in thanksgiving. There were the very best grapes, olives, figs, pomegranates, and something called honey-yielding dates. Depending on the place of origin, some First Fruits were dried and preserved for the festival. The agricultural bounty of Israel was offered with words that linked with the earlier Passover from Egypt: “My ancestor Jacob was a wandering Aramean, who went to live as a foreigner in Egypt…When the Egyptians oppressed and humiliated us, by making us their slaves, we cried out to the Lord. He heard our cries and brought us out of Egypt…and gave us this land flowing with milk and honey. Now, O Lord, I have brought you the first portion of the harvest you have given me from the ground” [Deuteronomy 26.5-10]. This annual recitation helped people remember God’s goodness.

  1. Q. What is the story of our relationship with God? Can any of us attach clear and concise words as Jewry did above, to what Good God has done for us?

 

*This agricultural Pentecost Harvest theme was annually commemorated at the feast up to the destruction of the Second Temple in Jerusalem in 70 CE, and after the wholesale dispersal of the mainly agricultural people across the world by brutal Rome, following the Jewish revolt in 135 CE. Today, among Jewry, with no Temple, and no longer having the agricultural emphasis, there has come a change from Jesus’ day. Now, Jewish Pentecost is the time when the people express their joy for all the teachings embodied in the Code of Torah Law given them at an Exodus stop at Mount Sinai, where Moses was handed the Ten Commandments. The first five commands stipulate positive rules to obey God; the second five direct our code of behaviour to one another. A Mount Sinai connection with the first Pentecost was: the promulgation of the Jewish Torah/Law was accompanied by lightning, dense cloud, and the voice of God as rolling thunder [Exodus 19.16-18]. Much the same disturbance will happen at Pentecost 1.

 

After his resurrection, Jesus remained with his team for forty days, “he presented himself to them with many convincing proofs, speaking of the things concerning the kingdom of God” [Acts 1.3]. Then, he told them “I will send you what my father promised; so stay here in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high [Luke 24.49]. The promise will be the Pentecost Spirit. At his Ascension, departing Jesus promised “You will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in Judea and in Samaria, and to the ends of the earth” [Acts 1.8]. This “power” would be necessary boldness, confidence, authority, insight, ability and authenticity. The disciples will need all these gifts to fulfil their forthcoming mission in a sometimes hostile world. In John’s Easter day account, Jesus had a trial run, and breathed his Holy Spirit on his disciples (above). They had then become emboldened, and would never again compromise their mission with fear and disillusion. The team would now never give their lives for someone they believed was a fraud.

 

After Pentecost, the Good News would be spread geographically in a series of widening geographical circles emanating from Jerusalem. The Holy Spirit will be the prime mover to seek out the first converts from such as the devout Jews among the mixed-race Samaritans and then, to spread the word to the Gentiles of the unknown world in the north. In time, the Gentiles will take over as the driving force behind the Church’s missionary outreach. We are their heirs today. The Church of Christ Jesus did not begin to grow by its own power. God has important work for all to do, but, it must be done by the power of the Holy Spirit. We may wish to begin the task, even if it means running ahead of God.  No, first “be still and know that I am God “[Psalm 46.10]. Waiting, preparing, is always a part of God’s plan. We need God’s timing and God’s power to be effective. The Spirit will play such a prominent role that the movement could be called The Acts of the Holy Spirit rather than the Acts of the Apostles.

 

Acts 2. 1-3: “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.”

 

Since no servile work could be done on a Jewish High Holy day, crowds of pilgrims and local Jews were at their greatest number when the Holy Spirit came. The Jewish worshippers were already in Temple (hopefully socially distancing) giving thanks for God’s gifts unaware that another much greater gift was coming.

 

Suddenly, there was a dramatic outpouring of the Holy Spirit on the believers. Just as had happened on Mount Sinai at the giving of the commandment Law, so, the power of God came as an unleashed roaring wind and burning fire to blow the church into new and unexpected places of ministry. The chaotic, unsettling surging power and possibility of the holy wind-storm was fear-inducing, adrenalin-pumping, fire-singeing, smoke-filling turmoil. The wind and fire shook the foundations of the Temple to unleash a new and unimaginable future that would carry its church hearers along with it to unexpected places with unexpected graces.

The Holy Spirit of God had to transform the Church into a community of prophets. Not only was there wind, fiery tongues descended to settle on heads. Tongues of fire were a symbol of God’s purifying presence to burn away any undesirable elements in our lives and to set our hearts aflame to ignite the lives of others. (Fiery tongues on heads! I don’t have a single hair on what was once a Titian-topped nut! Has the Spirit done a good job on me, after all?).

 

Earlier, John Baptist had promised “I baptize you with water, but, someone is coming who is greater than I am. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire” [Luke 3.16].  Tongues of fire were also an image of speech and the communication of the Good news. Could we ask: it may not be so much the gift of tongues that were received, as the gift of ears, the gift of listening. Speaking the same language is not as important as carefully listening to one another. We do have the responsibility to listen to our contemporary culture and to put it into conversation with what the Gospel teaches.

 

  1. Q. Where are all the signs and wonders today, which characterized the immense activities of the early Church? Do we really have a sufficient hunger for God that gives us any expectation or faith that the Spirit will pour out gifts on the contemporary community? Or are we satisfied with an empty heart and little expectant faith to want change? In what way is the Holy Spirit a perceptible moving force or an answer to our hearts’ deepest longing in our Christian life? Is it the only source of life and power on our Christian journey? What specific recognizable characteristics do you show by how you live and act?

 

Acts 2 Verse 4-8: “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 who are speaking, Galileans? 8. And how is it that we hear, each of us, in our own native language?”

 

Tongues of fire were an image of the communication of the Good News. In the Spirit, diverse peoples will be melted into unity and any false pride in race and culture will be quieted.  At the descent of the Spirit, the disciples raced out into the Temple courts, where, they forgot all social distancing. As they breathed in the Spirit, so they breathed it out to share the Spirit with people from every unpronounceable place possible across the Roman Empire. Vibrantly alive and speaking in tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance, the disciples acted like crazed men. Imagine being an Assyrian or Cappadocian, as immigrant workers or visitors to Jerusalem, the equivalent of foreign students in Melbourne today, who cannot get home because of the coronavirus. Imagine the nostalgia, the sense of deprivation of those displaced in a language-world not their own. Imagine the positive feeling, when, suddenly, they heard the sound of their mother tongue spoken in a foreign clime by eleven seemingly inebriated Galileans. And, the message heard was: the Holy Spirit was for outsiders just like them, first and foremost. The gift of the Holy Spirit that marks the birth of the Church, was God’s special gift reaching outwards to those outside the immediate circle of Jesus’ followers. One mark of the Holy Spirit’s gifting is that it empowers us to connect with others.

  1. How much have we Spirit-filled St Philippians been empowered to connect with others during the corona time, in ways we may not have considered before?

 

Pentecost did not actually reverse Babel; there was not now “one language.” Somehow, all who listened to the frantic utterances of the frenetic disciples heard a message that was intelligible to them. The miracle of Pentecost 1 was that although there were still many languages and diverse words, people succeeded in better understanding one another. If there was a ‘reversal’ of the muting of Babel, there was no new Esperanto, a universal tongue that all could speak and understand.  Does “filled with the Holy Spirit (so) all began speaking in other languages” [verse 4] mean something like the present Melbourne Jewish-ChristianMuslim Association? Its recent women’s conference was headed “ Exploring   Beginnings and Endings in Abrahamic Faiths”. The coming of the Holy Spirit promises that through our choosing to understand the diversity, the Spirit can and will lead us forward in compassionate awareness of the other.

 

The failure in the Garden of Eden has been called “a happy fall,” because it made possible our redemption. Perhaps the apocryphal story of Babel has led us to an awareness of diversity of language, especially in modern multi-cultural Australia, and given us the chance to become multi-lingual by choice. Now, the Bible may be translated into Hindi, Latin, Greek, but, it still remains comprehensibly God’s holy Word. One beautiful aspect of Pentecost 1 was: in all ignorance, the disciples were celebrating God’s gift of harvest home, unawares that a far greater gift was winging its way down. This was the gift of speech to turn the team towards those outside their formerly narrow movement.

 

Something supernatural had happened. The Jesus team was utterly transformed in the miraculous confusion of wind, fire and speech. The very energy and the life of God was given to the disciples. They found a courage they had never known before in preaching the Good News. With the energy of God flowing through them, they showed the bright side of God, the warm side, that of the Spirit of love, the enlightener and consoler, the guide and comforter, and a very dear friend to all. The people clamoured for an explanation. In the radically diverse assembly, each one heard the Galilean disciples speaking in the native language of each. Amazed and astonished, the crowd asked “Are not all these merely backwoods hill-billy Galileans. How is it we hear them preach in our own language?” Could all 3000 converts that one day actually hear? Had the eleven shouting already become the 120 nearly delirious disciples of Jesus quoted in Acts 1.15?

 

Acts 2 Verse 12-14:All were amazed and perplexed, saying to one another, “What does this mean?” But, others sneered and said, “They are filled with new wine.” Peter, standing with the eleven, addressed them. “Men of Judea and all who live in Jerusalem…this is what was spoken through the prophet Joel.”’

 

Peter answered the question ”How is it we hear in our language?” with the sermon that launched the Church. Peter had no public address system. He had no sermon scroll to unroll, and had no time to prepare his message. He had to recite from memory from his young manhood synagogue days. If some of those present had been Christ killers a mere seven weeks before, did any remember Peter publicly denying then he knew not the Messiah whom he was now proclaiming? From day one, Peter had been a better-off Galilean fisherman than others chosen as disciples. He had about him “foreman material,” and became the acknowledged leader of the pack. He knew that he had been forgiven and restored by his risen Lord to “feed my lambs, tend my flock, look after my sheep.” Under the influence of the Holy Spirit, Peter had worked on his former upsetting bravado to become far more humble than before. Now, he was bold and confident, and began with a touch of humour to disarm his sneering cynics, and to gain their hearing: “These men are not wine-soaked and wasted. It’s too early for these toss-pots to be plastered. But, yes, they are drunk, shambolic with the Spirit of Christ-love and their own furious eagerness to proclaim his message. These will now stay drunk for life, never to be sober (as you know it) again, for, as long as they live, the Holy Spirit will remain in their bloodstream. Every decision they will ever make now, will be Spirit shaped. I say again; it was The Spirit, not the spirits. Now, how about you?”

 

Peter cited the prophet Joel to show that the outpouring of the Pentecost Spirit was the fulfillment of God’s promise to pour our God’s Spirit not just on rabbis and prophets, but on all flesh, women and bond-servants included. Even slaves will come to know the fullness of the Holy Spirit. Peter told his hearers to reflect on the now entirely fulfilled testimonies of the Old Testament prophecies concerning Jesus, that everything that had happened to him had been under God’s control. The fate of Jesus in this same city of Jerusalem was   still hot news. Peter went on: if Jesus had not been raised, then the religious authorities could have produced his body and put a speedy end to this false religion (just as Miss Prism’s lost baby-in-the-handbag was produced as an adult in “The Importance of Being Ernest”). But, the nasties failed to do so.

 

Peter had a second wind. His excitement bubbled through his extempore speech. He longed to share with the crowd what had now become clear to him. The disciples of Jesus had been witnesses to his resurrected person, and their faith rested on the evidence of the empty tomb. The resurrection of Jesus means that, if he was raised by God, he was truly the Son of God. If he was raised, then his sacrifice to pay the price of human redemption was sufficient and fully acceptable to God. But, wait. Was Jesus killed as a victim of his enemies, or was he killed because Father God predetermined, before the world even began, that Jesus would agree to die as the saviour of a people yet to be born. The prophet Isaiah wrote “It was the Lord’s good plan to crush him with pain. Yet, when his life is made an offering for sin, my righteous servant will make it possible for many to be counted righteous, for he will bear all their sins” [Isaiah 53.10-11]. That is, the future innumerable family of believers will be made right with God, not by their own works, but, by the Messiah’s great work on Calvary. Also, if the Saviour is truly alive once more, having paid the full sacrificial price for our welfare, he won’t walk away from us. We are far too valuable, having cost him his life. Peter’s punch-line was to quote a psalm written by the legendary King David: “The Lord says to my lord, ‘Sit in the place of honour at my right hand until I humble your enemies making them a footstool under your feet’” [Psalm 110.1]. Since David was not seated at God’s right hand, but lay undisturbed in his Jerusalem city grave, which everyone knew well, the One at God’s right hand must surely be the Messiah, raised to glory.

 

But, when alive, Jesus had left a frightening vision of coming constant persecution if valiant missionaries dared to proclaim the Good News. Such persecutions would be an opportunity for Christians to witness to Christ. “Nation will go to war against nation, and kingdom against kingdom…There will be blood and fire and smoky mist, the sun shall be turned to darkness, and the moon blood red. These will be the first of the birth pains/pangs, with more to come” [Mark 13.8]. These horrors will precede the Lord’s great and glorious day. On that day, everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved. Here is seen the great mercy of God, who offers a means of escape to whoever calls on his name.

 

Now, Peter seemed willing to chance his arm. Knowing full well that some of his hearers may have been implicit in Jesus’ death, he added, “This man you crucified and killed by the hands of those outside the law (the Romans), but God raised him up. Let the entire house of Israel know that God has made Jesus both Lord and Messiah, this Jesus whom you crucified [Acts 2.23, 36]. At once, the Holy Spirit stabbed their conscience with the conviction of a terrible sin. Then, feeling their remorse at culpability in the death of Jesus, someone cried  ”Brothers, what should we do by way of recompense,” that is, “How can we move forward dragging this painful leg-iron?” Peter replied “Repent and be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ, so that your sins may be forgiven, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit” [Acts 2. 38]. In our own lives, this is the basic question we, too, should continually ask. We must ‘fess up, be forgiven and, then live like forgiven people.

 

Pentecost 1 was to be a concluding, culminating era in human history, when the Spirit was “poured out upon all flesh, your young sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions and your old men shall dream dreams, and, everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved” [Acts 2.17, 21]. The times had certainly changed. Peter told the assemblage that every Old Testament prophecy concerning Jesus had been entirely fulfilled and Jesus was proven as Messiah. “It’s all happening, now!” And, through the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, his new Jesus community must “dream dreams,” as Joel told, to turn outwards to proclaim the message to all outsiders through others’ mother tongue.

 

  1. Q. Filled with the Holy Spirit, what language would you speak if you were to locate to a preaching pitch on Ferntree Gully Road? Q. How might those of your family, alienated from the Church, hear a welcome in their mother tongue, to make them feel they should come home?

It became clear to the Chosen People that alone, they could never reach the status they deserved, because they were fully surfeited in the present age, which was utterly evil and doomed to destruction. The people concluded: what humans could not achieve, God must step in to do so. The people came to look forward to a very different Day of the Lord, not the terror-day (of Mark 13, above), but, a golden age of God, when God would intervene in history and exalt people to their dreamed of glory. The prophecy of Joel quoted by Peter was sound after all: “The sun shall be turned to darkness and the moon to blood BEFORE the coming of the Lord’s great and glorious day. Then, everyone who calls on the name of the Lord, will be saved” [Acts 2.20-21] quoting [Joel 2.31]. It was thought that this new age would break into human history with terrible birth pangs as old foundations crashed into disintegration, but no. When God intervenes directly in history, because of Jesus, this day will come without darkness and horror. The day will be glorious because all the faithful will be united forever with God; all will be sweetness and light. At the end of his speech, Peter could say to the crowd “the promise is for you, for your children and for all who are far away, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to him” [Acts 2.39-39]. “The Lord’s great and glorious day” [Acts 2.20], denotes the whole Christian age. Near Mount Sinai, 1420 years before Pentecost 1, Moses desponded “I wish that all the Lord’s people were prophets and that the Lord would put his Spirit upon them all” [Numbers 11.29]. Now, the Lord had come through with the goods, pouring out that very Spirit on all believers.

 

At times, in the past, Peter had been quite unstable as leader, letting his bravado be his downfall, even denying that he knew his Lord, Jesus, with foul fisherman’s oaths [John 18. 17-18] At times, he was a foot-in-mouth boofhead. But, Risen Jesus restored “Simon, son of John” to Peter the Rock. At Pentecost, the Holy Spirit gave Peter a confident boldness as a dynamic, eloquent spokesperson and powerful preacher. Peter was a dab hand at explanations. He later wrote “If someone asks about your Christian hope, always be ready to explain it. Do this in a gentle and respectful way” [1 Peter 3.15].  God’s mercy would pour out the Holy Spirit upon all flesh; all would be recipients to become the Spirit’s mouthpieces to bring new life to the community. We may never be boisterous or obnoxious, but, like Peter, we should always be ready to give an answer, gently and respectfully when asked about our faith, our lifestyle or our Christian perspective.

  1. Q. Can others see your hope in Christ? Are you prepared to tell them what Christ has done in your life?

 

It may only be in retrospect that we may look back to recognize the Holy Spirit’s driving wind simply in silence in our lives rather than in a frightening, chaotic storm. At Pentecost, the wind and fire was but a curtain-raiser to the main event, the words that the believers spoke.

  1. Q. Do we look for God only in the ‘big’ events, such as inter-faith conferences, highly visible leadership, diocesan ad clerums? Q. Are we listening to God? If we step back from the dust and shouting “where the whips are cracking,” the noise and smoke of busyness, and listen in the quietness of a humble heart for God’s guidance. “Be still and know that I am God” [Psalm 46.10], what might be the result?

 

Pentecost is called “the birthday of the Church.” It is certainly the birth of some “being Church,” of daring to live the life of Christ into which we are born by baptism. Pentecost swept up the dead leaves of the first little Jewish community, desiccated by Jesus’ death, and made that community come alive with the Good News of the Risen Christ on Easter day. Fifty days later, something in Peter’s speech, given to the disciples and to an international audience, took the small community beyond complacency and despair and resulted in a world-wide harvest of new believers, the first mass converts to Christianity. That something continued to blow through the community, to effect the move-out conversion when disciple Philip met the Ethiopian [in Acts 8]. One chapter later, a Pharisee, Saul, was overpowered on the Damascus road and was recruited as Paul, the Apostle [Acts 9]. One chapter later, Peter’s vision grew enormously with the conversion of the whole pagan family of a Roman army officer. The infant Church now realized that Pentecost was for everyone. Pentecost is today.