Pentecost 2010; Message based on Acts 2:1-13, (14-21)

Acts 2:1-21:  NIV  // The Message  // NRSV

clip_image002 Pentecost has its roots in the Jewish festival of Shavuot and in order for us to understand what Pentecost means to us, we need to understand what Shavuot is, what it meant in the First Century Judea and what it signified to the Hebrew nation.

 

 

 

The festival of Shavuot was (and still is) celebrated fifty days after the Passover. Shavuot commemorates the giving of Torah at Mount Sinai. The feast of Shavuot commemorates the historic event when the Hebrew slaves who recently won their independence from oppression in a foreign land made a commitment to serving God and thus became the Nation of Israel (Wikipedia).

{Note}Please note, SHAVUOT is about "giving" of the Torah, it is not about "receiving" of the Torah. Although differences are subtle, there are important. We are in a process of continuosly receiving new revelation from God. Pentecost is about the new revelation, new words from God… {/Note}

clip_image004For the first Century Israelites, Shavuot was roughly equivalent to our “July 4th”; Shavuot was their "Independence Day."

For the first Century Israelites, Shavuot – the Jewish feast of Pentecost was about:

 

1. release from oppression and bondage in Egypt and

2. an opportunity to build better lives in the Promised Land (Promises and Possibilities of the Promised Land).

 

{NOTE} There are other Jewish feasts/holidays that commemorate other "liberation" events in 2700 years of history of the Jewish nation Before Jesus’ ministry: i.e. Passover, Succoth, Purim = = > There were multiple mini-"independence"-day feasts during which Jewish Nation remembered their deliverances {/NOTE}

 

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We tend to think that the Holy Spirit made its debut at the Pentecost. The truth is that the Holy Spirit was active in the world long before the first Christian Pentecost.

 

· In Genesis 1:2 (the second verse of the Bible), the Holy Spirit is actively involved in the creation of the earth.

· In Isaiah 48:16 Isaiah writes, “God sent me with his Spirit.”

· In Nehemiah 9:20 and 9:30, the Holy Spirit is described as teacher and leader of Hebrews.

·  Throughout Psalms, we see references to the Holy Spirit (Psalm 55:11, 143:10, 139:7).

·  Job makes references to the Holy Spirit in Job 33:4 and 32:8.

· In 1 Samuel 16:13-14 we learn that Samuel anointed the future King David and that "from that day on the Spirit of the Lord came upon David in power."

 

 

The point that I am making is that the Nation of Israel knew about the Holy Spirit. "Devout pilgrims" (Acts 2:5 MSG)/"God-fearing Jews" (Acts 2:5 NIV) referenced in today’s reading from Acts had an understanding of the Holy Spirit.

 

clip_image026On that particular “independence day," God chose to offer new insights, new possibilities, new freedoms and new opportunities to the people of the first century Judea. Universal Christian Church was born out of these NEW insights, possibilities, freedoms and opportunities.

 

 

For followers of Jesus all over the world, Pentecost is the Christian equivalent of an "independence day." There is a difference, however, between the Christian Holiday of Pentecost and a national celebration of an Independence Day:

 

· July 4th is celebrated only in the United States of America; every country celebrates its perspective independence day. (Example: we do not celebrate Azerbaijan’s Independence Day and in Azerbaijan nobody celebrates US Independence Day – See the List of countries by Independence Day)

 

· Pentecost is a holiday that is celebrated by Christians all over the world; Pentecost crosses ethnic and international borders.  {Paul wrote “There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” Galatians 3:28 NIV}

 

 

God chose the day when the Hebrew nation remembered events that made them into a nation, thought about the possibilities that God brought into their lives, and all the times when God sustained them through thick and thin – God chose THAT DAY to walk into the midst of the nation and bring something new into their – AND INTO OUR – lives.

 

 

Pentecost is the day when we remember that we belong to God, that the WHOLE world is our parish and that we are in the ministry and mission beyond the walls of our church: we are in ministry and mission to our neighborhood, our country and to the WHOLE world.

 

 

So what’s in it for us? What can we take out of all that and apply to our lives in 21st century?

 

clip_image036There is a Celtic tradition that uses a symbol of a wild goose to represent the Holy Spirit. As strange as it may sound to us in 21 century USAmerica, that metaphor is pretty accurate. Wild geese are noisy and bothersome (Tenny-Brittian). Wild geese tend to disrupt everything that they come in contact with. On that day God did something noisy and bothersome and God disrupted the status quo.

 

 

God uses the Holy Spirit to jolt us out of our complacency and comfort. God uses the Holy Spirit to mold us and shape us. Most of us are way too comfortable with our lives. Our pews are bolted securely to the floor, we sing songs that we know by heart and our lives are packed with the routine and familiar. Most of us leave no time or space for the newness of God in our lives. Most of us do not cherish the idea of God working God’s mission through our lives. Most of us have no desire to share our faith with our neighbors or to make disciples. That is our human condition.

 

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Pentecost calls us to hear the call of God (be it a still small voice or the sound of hurricane). Pentecost is about the courage to breathe a breath of fresh air. Pentecost is about allowing the tongues of fire to settle on our souls… Pentecost is about taking the faith that we have in our heads and allowing it to flow through our hearts. Pentecost is about the freedom to follow our God-given mission and passion. Pentecost is about making a difference in the world around us.

 

The Holy Spirit touches each and every one of us. The Holy Spirit calls us to be instruments of God’s wholeness in the broken world. The Holy Spirit calls us to be instruments of peace in the world shaken by violence. The Holy Spirit, the mighty breath of God, brings with it possibilities and opportunities. The mighty breath of God, the Holy Spirit, compares what is with what could be; that is how we are challenged to action. The Holy Spirit is the always-active agent of God’s presence in our world. Life in the Spirit is the life that sees the world through God’s eyes and dares to dream of possibilities inspired by God (Fuller).

 

Pentecost is about God touching the strings of our hearts and revealing exciting possibilities for an abundant life serving God and being in mission as a community. How many of us are too scared, or too complacent to see the possibilities for our lives today.

 

 

Has the Holy Spirit ever touched you? Has the Holy Spirit ever convicted you and challenged you to action?

 

 

Pentecost is the Christian equivalent of USAmerican Independence Day. On Independence Day we sing patriotic songs and we offer prayers for our nation.

 

 

On this Christian "Independence Day" do you feel the Holy Spirit of God tugging on your hearts? Are you speaking God’s language of brotherly and sisterly love? What is God asking you to do, what is your mission? What gifts did God gave you and how are YOU using them to make a difference? Will the others who are in contact with you notice  that you know the Spirit of our Living God?

 

 

On this Pentecost I want to challenge you to pray for our Christian sisters and brothers all over the world, including our community. On this Pentecost I want to challenge you to pray for those who are lost and have no hope in their life.

 

 

My prayer is that the Fire of the Holy Spirit settle on our community, infuse us with new life, and energize us for God’s mission. When we are with God, all things are possible.

 

Works Cited

Fuller, Tripp. The Homebrewed Christianity. Posted 14/05/2010. Viewed 18/05/2010 <http://homebrewedchristianity.com/2010/05/14/how-the-holy-spirit-moves-today/>.

Tenny-Brittian, Bill. Flight Of The Wild Goose. Viewed 18/05/2010 <http://www.hcna.us/articles/flight-of-the-wild-goose.htm>.

Wikipedia. Shavuot. Viewed 17/05/2010 <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shavuot>.

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