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© May 16, 2016
Acts 2:1–18 ~ as retold by Deborah
On Pentecost the disciples were gathered together in an upper room. Suddenly a sound like a tornado roared through the house. It was as if they were set on fire, the flames touching every one of them. Filled with the Holy Spirit, they began to speak in other languages, as the Spirit gave them ability.
There were devout Jews from all over the world living in Jerusalem. Hearing the noise, a crowd gathered.
Amazed and astonished, many said, “Aren’t these people Galileans? How is it that each of us hears our own language? Spaniards and Sicilians, Egyptians and Iraqis, Celts, Germans, Goths and Greeks, and visitors from Rome, Gaul, Arabia and Mongolia, both Jews and proselytes — in our own languages we hear them speaking about God’s transforming power. What can this mean?” Others sneered, “They’re filled with ‘The Spirit,’ all right: the spirit of cheap wine.”
Peter called out, “All of you! Listen to me! These people aren’t drunk — it’s only 9 o’clock in the morning! No, what you hear is what the prophet Joel spoke about, ‘In the last days, God declares, I will pour out my Spirit upon all people: your children will speak My words, your young people will see visions, and your elders will dream dreams. And my servants, both male and female, will be filled with my Spirit; and they will speak My words.’ ”
Pentecost and Beyond, as told by one who was there
The Lord had left us, this time finally; he had gone away, into the highlands, disappearing in the clouds, insisting that we were not to accompany him. “Stay in Jerusalem,” he said, “Wait there until you receive holy power.” There was no argument. No discussion. Thus it was, thus it would be. After giving us one last blessing, he was gone.
For a long time we stood there, staring up at the sky — as the psalmist rightly says: when sadness surrounds you, look up. Raise your eyes and your spirits will also be lifted up. Some of us were praying, no doubt, others were lost in thought; remembering all He had said and done, trying to imagine what might happen next, deciding what we would do.
And then it was over. All at once, as if in response to a command, the whole community turned around and made our way back to Jerusalem.
I’m exaggerating, though. It wasn’t the whole community that went back: there were some who did not. A few just could no longer go on, and who can blame them? We had seen so much, suffered so much, grieved so much, endured so much.
“I can’t go through this again,” one of the followers told me, “every time he leaves us, a part of me dies.” Another said, “I’ve got a family to look after; children to feed, a farm to run, goats to milk. Life goes on.”
Those words stuck with me: life does go on, it must go on — in Jesus name. It would be as if the Lord truly died there on the cross if His teachings were forgotten; if we went back to our old routines — if we, ourselves, were unchanged — it would be as if He had never been here at all.
We can only claim that Jesus lives — if his Word is alive in us.
I say this to you now, but at the time it wasn’t clear to me. There was only hope — and confusion. Some thought we were to go to Jerusalem to die as the Lord did. Others were certain that Jesus would join us there, leading an avenging army. They believed the Spirit that Jesus promised would bring a flaming sword.
But Mary, precious Mary, wise and strong and sure, only smiled and shook her head, “That’s not his Way. Let’s just wait and see what God has in store.”
And so we waited. Uneasily, anxiously, teetering between fear and anticipation. Daily, hourly, we scanned the skies for omens and searched the streets for the as-yet unknown Advocate.
“I see Him everywhere,” Thomas pressed his fists to forehead, “today as a leper, a beggar, even a centurion, no less! Yesterday it was a woman — one of those who sit by the city gates! And an old goatherd, a merchant in his shop, a prisoner wreathed in chains. I’ve seen him in women, in children, in Jews and Gentiles alike. I swear to you: the Lord is everywhere.”
We patted the boy on the shoulder, crooned and said comforting words, smiling at what we thought was foolishness. How could we have known that his love and innocence had given him eyes to truly see?
On Shavuot (the 50th day after Passover) those of us who remained gathered together to celebrate the gift of God’s meetings with Moses and the teachings that made us one people, and give thanks for the fruits of the spring harvest. We sang and feasted and prayed.
And we remembered.
There, on the rooftop, in the cool evening air, dining on fish and bread, we remembered the Passover meal we had shared with the Lord. We had begun to refer to it as “the Last Supper,” as if there would never be another — yet here we were again, sharing a meal, sharing our memories of the One who changed our lives so completely.
He was present: in the breaking of the bread, in the drinking of the wine, in the living of our lives.
The celebration concluded with readings from the Scriptures, followed by prayer and discussion, long into the night. There was laughter and merriment, arguments and agreements. Gathered there together, we forgot our worries; the hours passed swiftly by, and soon the darkness had turned to dawn.
At the Dawning
It was Nathaniel who first noticed it — actually it was Phil, his dog, who heard it first: a high-pitched whistle that grew steadily louder. Peter ran downstairs with the rest of us following, just as Martha was coming out of the kitchen.
“What on earth is that noise?” she asked, wiping her hands on her apron, “Nathaniel, get that dog away from the table.”
It was then that it struck — and I can tell you right now: everyone will describe it differently. To me, it was an earthquake; Martha felt as if her heart had caught fire; Thomas saw the heavens light up; John heard an angelic voice; Nathaniel felt “the breath of God” on his face; each of us felt it in our own way.
Immediately we all began to speak. And Phil began to bark.
All of the noise brought the neighbors and other passers-by. Some listened, some sneered, some stayed, some walked away. But everyone — people from every corner of the earth — heard something.
We’re still not sure exactly what happened that early Pentecost morning, we only know that it filled our hearts and minds with perfect understanding of what we are called to do. We are to preach the good news of Jesus Christ; live with joy, love the people, worship God. Beginning with our neighbors, then spreading our blessings across the world, we are to follow the Way of our Lord’s life. The Gospel is as easy — and as difficult — as that.
We can only claim that Jesus lives — if his Word is alive in us.
This Week’s Suggested Spiritual Exercise