This Sunday is the day of Pentecost in the Christian Calendar — always 50 days after Easter, inclusive of Easter Sunday. Sometimes Pentecost is referred to as the birthday of the Church. It was on that day when people from many countries were gathered in Jerusalem for the celebration of Shavuot — the Festival of Weeks, held 50 days after Passover — that the Holy Spirit descended on the apostles and as they spoke everyone understood in their own languages what they said. It is recounted in the second chapter of the Book of Acts:
When Pentecost Day arrived, they were all together in one place. Suddenly a sound from heaven like the howling of a fierce wind filled the entire house where they were sitting. They saw what seemed to be individual flames of fire alighting on each one of them. They were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages as the Spirit enabled them to speak.
There were pious Jews from every nation under heaven living in Jerusalem. When they heard this sound, a crowd gathered. They were mystified because everyone heard them speaking in their native languages. They were surprised and amazed, saying, “Look, aren’t all the people who are speaking Galileans, every one of them? How then can each of us hear them speaking in our native language? Parthians, Medes, and Elamites; as well as residents of Mesopotamia, Judea, and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the regions of Libya bordering Cyrene; and visitors from Rome (both Jews and converts to Judaism), Cretans and Arabs — we hear them declaring the mighty works of God in our own languages!” They were all surprised and bewildered. Some asked each other, “What does this mean?” Others jeered at them, saying, “They’re full of new wine!”
There is a lot here, but what strikes me in our current climate is this: out of the confusion of so many words and languages and traditions and viewpoints of people gathered from throughout the known world, there emerged understanding and community. Even when we speak the same language, we struggle to understand one another, but add language and cultural differences to the mix and it becomes that much more difficult.
So, here’s our question: What turned confusion to community and what are the implications of that for us today?
I look forward to being in worship with you on Sunday as we celebrate Pentecost and as we imagine Pentecost happening today.
Grace and Peace,
Dr. Tim Bruster,