Pentecost, May 20, 2018

Title:Pentecost, May 20, 2018

 Pentecost, May 20, 2018 (full size gallery)


After a week of rain, the sun peeked behind the clouds and then came in full. This was fortunate for our prayer walk before the service attended by 13. Here is a link to that story. The church service had 38.

Pentecost was celebrated in part by music! Brad performed Bach’s Prelude & Fugue in A-minor at the prelude and Helmut played Mozart’s Alleluiah! at the offertory.

As in the past the Holy Spirit did descend – this time during the Hymn of Praise- "There’s a sweet, sweet spirit." The spirit was not sweet enough to clean up the mess afterwards. Check out our Pentecost videos.

The sermon reflected on the meanings of Pentecost – the need to celebrate, the movement through the church that "has done more good for people than has ever been done on this earth. In fact, in the early centuries of the church, people were amazed that Christians worked with and for the poor. The coming of the Holy Spirit to advance the "Jesus Movement" to all places and all times beyond Israel.

We sang a favorite as the processional – "Lift High the Cross." It’s at the heart of Pentecost. We sang it as the processional when we extinguished the Paschal candle. From the bulletin "Sometimes known as the birthday of the church, the day that the promised Holy Spirit entered the waiting disciples in Jerusalem. In response, they spread the good news about Jesus far and wide, and we disciples are their descendants. Now it’s our turn to spread the good news. The extinguishing of the paschal candle reminds us that the mission that Jesus carried out on earth is now our calling, through the power and the help of the Holy Spirit."

Today’s readings explore the role of the Holy Spirit in the life of the Church. In Acts 2, the Holy Spirit fills the community of believers with the boldness to proclaim “God’s deeds of power.” Paul details how, through a diversity of gifts, the Holy Spirit creates one Church, the Body of Christ. In the gospel, Jesus promises his followers the guidance, comfort and power of the Holy Spirit.

The reading from Acts is the chief source for the event. Pentecost is the Greek name for the Jewish Feast of Weeks, celebrated 50 days after Passover. At this feast, the first fruits of the wheat harvest were presented and the covenant with God was remembered and renewed. Luke describes the promised outpouring of the Spirit and the beginning of the Church’s mission during this feast.

Like the gospel writer John, Luke understands the gift of the Spirit as a reversal of this world’s confusion and social breakdown brought about at Babel (Genesis 11:1-9) and the fulfillment of the promise of a new community with a new form of covenant (Jeremiah 31:33). The law, personified, will be possessed by all and will dwell in the heart of each individual.

The empowerment brought by the Spirit is not babbling but proclamation. Those who heard it, whether they were residents of Jerusalem or pilgrims in town for the feast, were astounded by the variety of languages in which “God’s deeds of power” (v. 11) were communicated. The diversity of their geographical origins represents the spread of the gospel to all the nations of the world.

The first reading from Ezekiel is one of hope, addressed to the despairing exiles in Babylon, is founded on his vision of the valley of dry bones (vv. 1-11). Even as God shows Ezekiel the bones of those long dead lying dry and stripped of flesh, God promises renewal to Israel. In a radical act of new creation, not dependent on historical probability or on their moral or religious worthiness, the Lord will bring them out of the grave of Babylon to their home in Israel and put the Spirit in them. The vision is not of individual or even corporate resurrection, but of the community’s restoration.

The second reading is from Romans. Paul looks to the future of humanity and of the entire material universe, to the destiny that awaits them in Christ. The fate of humanity and the cosmos are inextricably linked. Paul, like many in the Hellenistic culture, saw the world about him as enslaved by spiritual forces of evil, yet he saw the God’s will was supreme.

At the second coming, the creation itself will be liberated. The end-times images of the Old Testament point to the hope that Paul here develops. Not only humankind, but all the material universe will be redeemed, sharing in the glory of God. Until that time, nature and Christians are “in labor pains” (v. 22), which mingle pain, hope and expectation. Salvation is not merely for individual human beings. It is cosmic in dimension.

The passage from John’s Gospel is part of Jesus farewell discourse. Jesus warns the disciples of his impending death and of persecution to come. Yet death is to him primarily a return to the Father, and thus he tells them that it is to their advantage, for only thus can he send the Spirit to them. When the “Spirit of truth” (v. 26) comes, the Spirit will lead the disciples into an ever-deeper understanding of Jesus’ revelation. Through the inspiration of the Spirit, the mission of the disciples will be one with that of Jesus.

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