Thursday 16 May 2024

It's Been There All Along

It seems to me that it’s the one time the disciples actually knew what was going to happen. And believed it, too.

After his death and resurrection Jesus told the disciples to go to Jerusalem and wait. The Holy Spirit was coming and they would “receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses.” Jesus leaves (ascends to heaven) and off they go to Jerusalem where they wait patiently (or impatiently maybe, I don’t know). While they’re waiting they pick Mathias to replace Judas and then, on Pentecost the story says, they experience the Holy Spirit.

The name Pentecost doesn’t have anything to do with the Spirit, at least not directly. “Pente” simply means fifty and it was the day of Shavuot on the Jewish calendar, a harvest festival fifty days after Passover. For Christians, Pentecost has become fifty days after Easter. The point of it being that particular day isn’t related directly to the Spirit (it kind of is - I’m coming to that), it’s significance in the story is that there was a crowd in Jerusalem that day, Jews from all over the known world. And when the disciples find themselves empowered by the Spirit, what they’re able to do is to communicate in the languages of all of those places. And those people are rightfully amazed. And perhaps moved.

That’s certainly an important piece of the story. Not just communication, but connection. Imagine being in a far off place where you might be struggling a bit with communication and unfamiliar surroundings and suddenly you hear the language of your home. That might be a message you’d want to hear, one that’s speaking to you right where you live, connecting with where you’ve come from and helping you feel, well, at home. That’s an important learning for today’s church.

But let’s get back to the waiting disciples, expecting the imminent arrival of the Spirit. And suddenly there’s a mighty wind and tongues of fire. Of course there is. What better way to describe the Spirit than with the elements? We also talk about the Spirit present in the water of baptism. And don’t forget how the Spirit is in earth, too. From the very beginning even, in the creation story, the Spirit of God created all living things. The Spirit is life.

It can be very easy to read the Pentecost story (Acts 2:1-21) as the disciples expecting something to happen to them, to hear the Spirit being some outside force acting on them. But the Spirit is already there, in all things. Maybe that’s why it’s so appropriate for it to be the day of a harvest festival. The fruits of the earth and the Spirit connecting.

I wonder if, rather than hearing a story of expecting something to be done to them, the disciples had finally had enough experience of Jesus, of faith and of the spirit, that they were open to knowing the Spirit being alive within themselves, just as the life, death and resurrection of Jesus is teaching us. Instead of some outside force acting on them, perhaps they suddenly were aware of the connectedness of things. Perhaps they knew the divine was in them and in creation and instead of a force acting on them, it became something flowing out: the Spirit of life and love, the creativity and connection of the divine in all of us.

No comments:

Post a Comment