Written by Mark C. Pederson, Pastor, Trinity Lutheran Church
Gale force wind, tongues of fire, disciples speaking in different languages, lots of people from all kinds of strange places, drunken disciples, these are the images I usually visualize for the Day of Pentecost. I’ve totally missed the boat. The Jewish festival being celebrated is Shavuot. It is also known as the Feast of Weeks, or the Feast of Harvest. It is celebrated on the 50th day after Passover. And, more recently the celebration features readings from the Book of Ruth AND it milk products are usually consumed. Some think this is to celebrate the giving of the law that is sweet like milk and honey. So, think cheesecake! Think cheese blitzes, fresh strawberries and vanilla ice cream! Now we’re talking.
Pentecost, or Shavuot, was one of three celebrations where Jewish men were required to return to Israel for worship and festivities. It was a pilgrimage. The diaspora of the Jewish people around 500 BCE explains why there are so many foreigners at the party. The Jewish people had been forced to leave their homes and were now scattered all over the Middle East and beyond.
So, perhaps this Pentecost we should serve strawberry shortcake after worship? After all, it is a party. We celebrate the confirmation of young people who have worked hard and are now making a commitment to being adult members of this congregation. We are celebrating the birth of the church, both the Christian Church as a whole, and our particular Cooperative Ministries. We think the Co-op celebrated it’s forming on Pentecost 2006. We’re a bunch of 8 year olds, (which may explain a lot).
How might we make this a festive day? Certainly music will help us as we seek to celebrate. How about the other parts of a celebration? Food must be included. I would also add wine, but Peter says 9:30 is too early in the morning for that. What about art, banners, maybe even special effects? Pentecost is one of the largest days of celebration in the church. We don’t often put it in a place with Christmas Eve and Easter, but perhaps we should.
Pentecost is also the day we might celebrate the word of God put into simple language that is not difficult to understand. After all, that’s what all the hubbub was about. Today the gift of tongues is thought to be gibberish where no one can understand a word you say. That was not the original gift. When the day of Pentecost came everyone was shocked to understand clearly what was being said. Some think the disciples must be drunk. Obviously this is not the case. Too much alcohol does a lot of things, making a person speak more clearly is not one of them.
It is this gift of hearing the Good News of the Gospel in their own personal dialect that causes so many people to believe in Jesus and place their trust in him. Apparently the Galileans were not well knows for their mastery of foreign languages. The people are shocked not only to hear their own language, but also to hear these un-educated, backwater citizens doing so. The story of Pentecost is one of a detour. Something amazing takes place as we are preparing for our party, and that event will change the course of our lives.
Quotes for the Week
“Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos to order, confusion to clarity. It can turn a meal into a feast, a house into a home, a stranger into a friend.” –Melody Beattie
“God loves to pour out His Spirit with power on those who will dare to align radically their purposes with His.” ― Steve Childers
“Don’t you understand that we need to be childish in order to understand? Only a child sees things with perfect clarity, because it hasn’t developed all those filters which prevent us from seeing things that we don’t expect to see.” –Doug Adams
“Nothing in life is to be feared, it is only to be understood. Now is the time to understand more, so that we may fear less.” Marie Curie
“I would be lying if I said I cut out all dessert. When I’m training, I try to satisfy those cravings with a slightly healthier dessert, like a piece of dark chocolate or whipped cream and strawberries. Those are two of my favorites!” Josie Loren
Lesson Acts 2:1-21 (The Message)
1-4 When the Feast of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place. Without warning there was a sound like a strong wind, gale force—no one could tell where it came from. It filled the whole building. Then, like a wildfire, the Holy Spirit spread through their ranks, and they started speaking in a number of different languages as the Spirit prompted them.
5-11 There were many Jews staying in Jerusalem just then, devout pilgrims from all over the world. When they heard the sound, they came on the run. Then when they heard, one after another, their own mother tongues being spoken, they were thunderstruck. They couldn’t for the life of them figure out what was going on, and kept saying, “Aren’t these all Galileans? How come we’re hearing them talk in our various mother tongues?
Parthians, Medes, and Elamites;
Visitors from Mesopotamia, Judea, and Cappadocia,
Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia,
Egypt and the parts of Libya belonging to Cyrene;
Immigrants from Rome, both Jews and proselytes;
Even Cretans and Arabs!
“They’re speaking our languages, describing God’s mighty works!”
12 Their heads were spinning; they couldn’t make head or tail of any of it. They talked back and forth, confused: “What’s going on here?”
13 Others joked, “They’re drunk on cheap wine.”
Peter Speaks Up
14-21 That’s when Peter stood up and, backed by the other eleven, spoke out with bold urgency: “Fellow Jews, all of you who are visiting Jerusalem, listen carefully and get this story straight. These people aren’t drunk as some of you suspect. They haven’t had time to get drunk—it’s only nine o’clock in the morning. This is what the prophet Joel announced would happen:
“In the Last Days,” God says,
“I will pour out my Spirit
on every kind of people:
Your sons will prophesy,
also your daughters;
Your young men will see visions,
your old men dream dreams.
When the time comes,
I’ll pour out my Spirit
On those who serve me, men and women both,
and they’ll prophesy.
I’ll set wonders in the sky above
and signs on the earth below,
Blood and fire and billowing smoke,
the sun turning black and the moon blood-red,
Before the Day of the Lord arrives,
the Day tremendous and marvelous;
And whoever calls out for help
to me, God, will be saved.”
Questions for the Week
What are the important elements of a celebration for you?
How do you react to roadblocks in your life? (What is one you are facing right now?)
Who is one person in your life who really knew how to celebrate? How did they do that?