Mary’s Pentecost — And Ours!

She always felt better when she could be with his friends. True, all of them except the young one John had deserted him in the end. But she understood that. She’d been afraid too. And she wasn’t even in immediate danger from the Romans like they were. In any case, he had told her just before he died, “Behold your son.” And to John, “Behold your mother.” So, clearly, he wanted her to be part of them.

She really would have preferred to stay in Olivet which is at least a little distance from where it all happened. But, as they gathered there, it was clear that Jerusalem was where he had wanted to go, and Jerusalem was where they must re-assemble as well. So, they crept in, over the course of a couple of days….individually, sometimes two by two…and began meeting in that same upper room where they had celebrated Passover.

Now, it was the Feast of Weeks, fifty days after the ceremony of the barley sheaf during Passover. It had originally been a harvest festival, marking the beginning the offering of the first fruits. She had always loved its celebration as a child…and so had Jesus! So she accepted their invitation to be together that morning. There were other women there in addition to his brothers and, of course, the Twelve (and they were 12 again now, with the addition of Matthias – who had never been far from their assembly).

They had just begun to dance — and sing the Hallel: “Hallelujah! Give praise you servants of the Lord; praise the Name of the Lord” Psalm 113:1 – when the wind picked up. It first whistled and then howled through the streets of the old city. And, even though they had been careful to secure the door, suddenly the shutters rattled and blew open.

Strangely, there was no rain or fog as one might expect with all that wind, but sunshine – bright glimpses of it, lighting up every face around their make-shift “altar table.” But they were too caught up in their praise dance to worry about open windows now! And the volume of their singing only increased over the noise of the wind:

“Let the name of the Lord be blessed! Not to us, O Lord, not to us, but to your Name give glory! How can I repay the Lord for all the good things he has done for me? I will lift up the cup of salvation…Praise the Lord, all you nations; laud him all your people!” (Psalm 113-117 passim)

It was their custom, during the Feast of Weeks (or Pentecost) to gather the poor and the strangers, as well as the priests and Levites, for the communal meal which was the high point of this great agricultural feast. It was a way of recognizing their solidarity as people of the Covenant, across all the natural divisions of life.

And so, people in the streets were from all over the Mediterranean world. But their racial and ethnic diversity was no barrier to understanding God’s praise that day! She had no idea how it happened, but no matter in what language God’s praise was being spoken or sung, everyone heard it. Everyone “got it” — all of them, from east to west, from the different traditions, ethnic Jews and converts.

And, when the praises began to abate, Mary saw Peter slowly walk to the open window and, flanked by the other eleven, he said, “People of Judea, and all of you who live in Jerusalem, let this be known to you…and listen to what I say…” (Acts 2:14)

Well, that may not be exactly how it happened on the first Pentecost. But it must have been something like that.  Clearly, something momentous must have happened to transform that ragtag group of frightened disciples into missionaries and evangelists. Several things happened to accomplish that…in addition to the miracle of Pentecost.

 

Their experiences of the Risen Christ, perhaps particularly the one we heard about in the gospel today – the so-called “Johannine Pentecost” from the Gospel of John, with Jesus breathing on them and saying “Receive the Holy Spirit” and challenging them to forgive sins…or to withhold forgiveness. And then, gradually, their discovery of gifts in each other; gifts such as Paul would catalogue years later in his First Letter to the Corinthians:

“Wisdom, knowledge, faith, healing, miraculous works, prophecy, discernment, various kinds of tongues and their interpretation.” (I Corinthians 12:4-11). Those were the kind of qualities they had seen in Jesus, but now began to see in one another! Clearly, they were meant to do the kinds of works he had done — and to do, perhaps, even greater works…as he had once promised.

What are those works for us today? Well, there are a lot of lenses through which we might view those works, the “mission of the church” in our day. In fact, contemporary missiologists no longer speak so much of the mission “of the church” but rather of “God’s mission” (the missio dei) in which the church has a role to play. All people of good will can be partners in God’s mission, the “ministry of reconciliation,” not just Christians. But I have found “The Five Marks of Mission” defined first by the Anglican Communion and then signed on to by The Episcopal Church as a helpful check-list for us. First of all, we are:

  1. To proclaim the Good News of the Kingdom – that is, to talk about, to preach about, to set forth the reign and the commonwealth of God. To know that God is sovereign and we are not!
  2. Secondly, to teach baptize and nurture new believers – Christian formation for adults and children, so desperately needed today.
  3. Third, to respond to human need by loving service – direct action to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, and protect the defenseless is not an outdated concept. It is still needed today. (Sanctuary is still needed today!)
  4. But – number four – we also need to seek to transform the unjust structures of society, to challenge violence of every kind and to pursue peace and reconciliation – we need to get upstream from the problems and to address the systemic causes of what a recent conference in Chicago called the “unholy trinity:” poverty, racism, and violence.
  5. And, finally, to safeguard the integrity of creation and sustain and renew the life of the earth – -environmental stewardship, in all its forms. (Whether or not our government chooses to lead in this area, we must!)

Well, I expect even Jesus would have to admit that, while these are the kinds of works he began to address in his ministry, the challenges we face may be even greater today. We will need every one of those gifts of the Holy Spirit listed for us in First Corinthians today to get on with this mission – wisdom, knowledge, faith, healing, mighty works, prophecy, discernment, and prayer beyond our ability to put into words.

But, dear friends, we are promised today, on this Feast of Pentecost, Jesus’ own first gift to those who believe – the very spirit of God. Perhaps our Collect for today puts it best:

“Spirit of truth, whom the world can never grasp; touch our hearts with the shock of your coming; fill us with the desire for your disturbing peace; and fire us with longing to speak your uncontainable word. Through Jesus Christ,

 

Amen.

2 Responses to “Mary’s Pentecost — And Ours!”

  1. Annie Hochhausen Says:

    👍🏼

  2. Johnette Says:

    Ciao Viu,onzecpnrtroppo non ho seguito il programma dall’inizio ma ho letto che sei già stato in Australia in passato.Cosa ti ha colpito di più di quel continente ? E’ possibile vedere da qualche parte quel viaggio ? Ciao e complimenti per questo splendido programma !!

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