Engaging the Word: Readings for 5/15/16 (The Day of Pentecost)

 By Barbara Klugh

Acts 2:1-21; Psalm 25-35, 37; Romans 8:14-17; John 14:8-17, 25-27. Go to www.lectionarypage.net to read or print the weekly lectionary text.

Pentecost by Herrad of Landsberg, c.1180. Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.
Pentecost by Herrad of Landsberg, c.1180. Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

This Sunday we will celebrate the Feast of Pentecost, which always falls fifty days after Easter and marks the end of the Easter season. At Pentecost, we celebrate the presence and power of the Holy Spirit as it descends upon the disciples.

Holy Spirit by Bernini, c. 1680. Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.
Holy Spirit by Bernini, c. 1680. Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

 Acts 2:1-21: We read this passage from Acts every year at Pentecost. Pentecost, also known as the Feast of Weeks, was one of the three annual festivals celebrated at the Temple in Jerusalem. Jews had come from Jewish communities all over the Roman Empire and the streets were full of voices speaking many languages.

This week’s reading tells the dramatic story of the coming of the Holy Spirit. Before he ascended, Jesus told the disciples to wait in Jerusalem, and he promised that they would be baptized by the Holy Spirit. Pentecost is the day when the Spirit came upon every follower of Jesus as the permanent guiding authority in Christian lives—although at this stage in Acts, the gospel is being proclaimed only to Jews.

A rushing wind (in both Hebrew and Greek the words for wind and spirit are the same) and tongues of fire filled the people with the Holy Spirit and they began to speak in other languages. Moreover, the people heard in their own native language. The miracle of the tongues on Pentecost overturns the confusion of tongues at the Tower of Babel.

But some sneered at this wondrous happening, and Peter addressed the crowd to explain the meaning of what happened—that this event was the fulfillment of Joel’s prophecy—“Then everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.”

We can think of the coming of the Holy Spirit as the force released by God that can unite the world in peace and love as we follow the teachings of our Lord Jesus Christ.

 Psalm 104:25-35, 37: Psalm 104 tells the creation story in poetic form. We read this particular portion of this hymn of praise every year at Pentecost. It marvels at the vast universe and praises God for his creative work and steadfast provision for all that exists. “O Lord, how manifold are your works! In wisdom you have made them all; the earth is full of your creatures.”  The psalmist promises, “I will sing to the Lord as long as I live; I will praise my God while I have my being.”

Romans 8:14-17: Paul’s Letter to the Romans is his most ambitious theological work and the Bible’s most systematic and comprehensive interpretation of the Christian message.

In this week’s reading, Paul talks about what it means to live as children of God instead of living self-centered lives. We have been set free from the slavery of past failures and our old way of life, but we still have work to do. Our salvation is a gift from God and we need to live into this reality. As I read somewhere, salvation is not so much about getting into heaven, but more about getting heaven into us. When we were baptized, we were adopted into the family of God.

Head of Christ by Rembrandt, c. 1648. Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.
Head of Christ by Rembrandt, c. 1648. Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

John 14:8-17, 25-27: As we have been reading throughout the Easter season, our gospel passage this week continues with a passage of Jesus’ Farewell Discourse, which he gave to the disciples after the Last Supper. Judas Iscariot has left to do his horrible deed. Earlier, Jesus tells his disciples that the end is near, and that where he is going, they cannot come.

In this week’s reading, Philip is confused. He still does not get it that Jesus is the revelation of God. He said, “Lord, show us the Father, and we will be satisfied.” Jesus said to him, “Have I been with you all this time, Philip, and you still do not know me? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father.” Then Jesus says, “Very truly, I tell you, the one who believes in me will also do the works that I do and, in fact, will do greater works than these, because I am going to the Father. I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If in my name you ask me for anything, I will do it.”

Jesus promises that he will not leave them orphaned. The Father will send the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, who will “teach you everything, and remind you of all that I have said to you.” The Spirit’s ongoing presence will help the disciples to remember and to understand the true significance of Jesus’ words and deeds.

Jesus says, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid.” The peace that Jesus gives brings us wholeness, serenity, and unity with one another—it’s a permanent gift that will never be taken away.





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