We are continuing our Sanctuary worship series with a focus on the symbols of the Holy Spirit that we find in our beautiful worship space.
This Sunday is the day of Pentecost in the Christian Calendar — always fifty days after Easter, inclusive of Easter Sunday. Sometimes Pentecost is referred to as the birthday of the church. On that day people from many countries were gathered in Jerusalem for the celebration of Shavuot, the Festival of Weeks — also called Pentecost because it comes fifty days after Passover. 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.*
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 are some questions to ponder as you prepare for worship on this Pentecost Sunday:
1. If you had been present on that Day of Pentecost, what do you think you would have seen?
2. Which image of the Holy Spirit in scripture (wind, dove, fire) speaks most clearly to you? Are there other symbols or images of God working in your life that are meaningful to you?
3. The experience at Pentecost was, in a sense, a momentary reversal of the Tower of Babel experience (see Genesis 11:1-9). How does that speak to us today?
4. Verses 17-21 quote the book of Joel in the Hebrew Scriptures. How might that speak to us today?
I look forward to being in worship with you on Sunday as we celebrate Pentecost and as we imagine Pentecost happening today.
This Sunday will be my last Sunday before my renewal leave. I’m looking forward to that time away, but at the same time I will miss you all.
It was wonderful being together on Sunday with most of those who are fully vaccinated not wearing masks. It was one more step forward and I am glad I get to experience it with you another time before my renewal leave begins!
Grace and Peace,
Dr. Tim Bruster
*Acts 2:1-21, Common English Bible
1 When Pentecost Day arrived, they were all together in one place. 2 Suddenly a sound from heaven like the howling of a fierce wind filled the entire house where they were sitting. 3 They saw what seemed to be individual flames of fire alighting on each one of them. 4 They were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages as the Spirit enabled them to speak.
5 There were pious Jews from every nation under heaven living in Jerusalem. 6 When they heard this sound, a crowd gathered. They were mystified because everyone heard them speaking in their native languages. 7 They were surprised and amazed, saying, “Look, aren’t all the people who are speaking Galileans, every one of them? 8 How then can each of us hear them speaking in our native language? 9 Parthians, Medes, and Elamites; as well as residents of Mesopotamia, Judea, and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, 10 Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the regions of Libya bordering Cyrene; and visitors from Rome (both Jews and converts to Judaism), 11 Cretans and Arabs—we hear them declaring the mighty works of God in our own languages!” 12 They were all surprised and bewildered. Some asked each other, “What does this mean?” 13 Others jeered at them, saying, “They’re full of new wine!”
14 Peter stood with the other eleven apostles. He raised his voice and declared, “Judeans and everyone living in Jerusalem! Know this! Listen carefully to my words! 15 These people aren’t drunk, as you suspect; after all, it’s only nine o’clock in the morning! 16 Rather, this is what was spoken through the prophet Joel:
17 In the last days, God says,
I will pour out my Spirit on all people.
Your sons and daughters will prophesy.
Your young will see visions.
Your elders will dream dreams.
18 Even upon my servants, men and women,
I will pour out my Spirit in those days,
and they will prophesy.
19 I will cause wonders to occur in the heavens above
and signs on the earth below,
blood and fire and a cloud of smoke.
20 The sun will be changed into darkness,
and the moon will be changed into blood,
before the great and spectacular day of the Lord comes.
21 And everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.