Malankara World Journal - Christian Spirituality from a Jacobite and Orthodox Perspective
Malankara World Journal
Theme: Pentecost Special
Volume 8 No. 481 May 18, 2018
II. Pentecost Reflections

From Tabernacles to Pentecost

by The Rev. Charles Henrickson

Gospel: John 7:37-39

On the last day of the feast, the great day, Jesus stood up and cried out,
"If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink.
Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, 'Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.'"
Now this he said about the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were to receive, for as yet the Spirit had not been given, because Jesus was not yet glorified.
- John 7:37-39 (ESV)

Today is the Feast of Pentecost, a major festival in the Christian church year. Today we celebrate the giving of the Holy Spirit, whom our ascended Lord Jesus Christ poured out on his church, as we read about in the second chapter of Acts. That was the beginning of the worldwide spread of the gospel, and you and I are here today as Christians because of what began on that first Pentecost.

Actually, though, that was not the first Pentecost. For the Christian Feast of Pentecost has its roots in the Jewish Feast of Pentecost. That's why all those people were there in Jerusalem in the first place. They had come to observe the Jewish feast.

You see, there were three main festivals in the Jewish year, in the Hebrew calendar, when all pious Jews from all over would travel to Jerusalem and go to the temple to fulfill their religious duty. They were these three:

  1. The Feast of Passover, in the early spring
  2. The Feast of Weeks, also called Pentecost, which occurred seven weeks, or fifty days, later in the spring
  3. The Feast of Tabernacles or Booths  in the fall.

These three are called the pilgrimage festivals, because they called for Jews to make that pilgrimage to Jerusalem.

Now at this point you're probably saying, "Who cares? That stuff's ancient history, and besides which, I'm not even Jewish! What does all that have to do with me?" Well, the answer is, a lot! As we're about to find out, when you see how these Old Testament feasts are fulfilled in Christ. When you see how the Feast of Tabernacles and the Feast of Passover come to fruition now in the Feast of Pentecost, then you will rejoice in the good gifts that God gives.

Our text today is the Holy Gospel from John 7. It consists of words that Jesus spoke at the Feast of Tabernacles. So you might be wondering why this is selected as a text for Pentecost. Well, the reason is that in this text Jesus is predicting what will happen on the Feast of Pentecost. So this morning we're going to go on a pilgrimage "From Tabernacles to Pentecost," and we may make a stop at Passover on the way.

But our starting point this morning is the Feast of Tabernacles. It's called Tabernacles because it commemorated the time when the Israelites traveled through the wilderness and lived in tents, or tabernacles, on their way to the Promised Land. During those years of wilderness wandering, the Lord God graciously provided for his people by giving them food and drink, even in a dry and desolate desert. God miraculously supplied them with bread from heaven and water from a rock.

Water from a rock. Do you recall that incident from the time of Moses? The Israelites were out in the wilderness, they were thirsty, and they were grumbling that there was no water for them to drink. So the Lord told Moses to strike a rock with his staff, and water would come out of it, and the people would drink. That's what happened: Moses struck the rock, water came out, and the people drank. It even happened a second time, later on, when once again the Lord supplied them with water. God was graciously providing for his people while they wandered in the wilderness.

The Feast of Tabernacles, then, was a time when the Jews gathered in Jerusalem to commemorate that great provision. Tabernacles was a week-long festival, with various ceremonies and rituals taking place throughout those days. One of the rituals involved water. Each morning, water was drawn from the Pool of Siloam and carried in a golden pitcher to the temple. The water was poured out, the trumpets would sound, and the people would sing the words of Isaiah, "With joy you will draw water from the wells of salvation."

Well, that's where we meet Jesus in the Holy Gospel for today. He's in Jerusalem for the Feast of Tabernacles. The water ceremony was vivid and fresh in people's minds. That's where we pick up the text: "On the last day of the feast, the great day, Jesus stood up and cried out, 'If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, "Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water."'"

What is Jesus saying here? He's saying: "If you think the way the Lord provided water for our forefathers in the wilderness was great, guess what? There's something even greater in store. That water satisfied their thirst for a time, but I have water that will satisfy your thirst for eternity. Are you thirsty? Come to me and drink."

How about you, my friend? Are you thirsty? Do you realize that our life in this world is like wandering in a wilderness? This world, apart from God, is a dry and desolate desert. Do you see the sin and death all around you? Do you see the sin and death within you? Then you are thirsty. Then you are ready to drink. Then you are ready to receive what the Lord wants to give you: Living water. The water of life, eternal life. Come to Jesus and drink.

And when you come to Jesus and drink, when you believe in him, that living water will spring up in you and flow out from you and through you to others. That's the work of the Spirit, that's what Pentecost will be about, and that's why this Feast of Tabernacles text was chosen as the Gospel for the Feast of Pentecost. As the gospel-writer adds: "Now this he said about the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were to receive, for as yet the Spirit had not been given, because Jesus was not yet glorified."

So we're heading toward Pentecost, but we're not there yet. We've got one more feast to stop at before we get there--that's Passover--and it's hinted at in the words, "because Jesus was not yet glorified." Jesus will be "glorified," in a very unexpected way, at Passover.

Now I should explain Passover. What was Passover in the Old Testament? Like Tabernacles, Passover likewise was associated with the Lord's deliverance of his people at the time of Moses. Israel was in Egypt-land, in slavery, and the Lord acted to bring them out from that bondage. The Lord brought a series of plagues upon Egypt, to convince Pharaoh to let his people go. The last plague was the death of the firstborn. That plague would have struck the homes of the Israelites, too, except that the Lord instructed Moses to have the people sacrifice a lamb without spot or blemish and spread its blood on their doorposts. The blood of the lamb would be a sign, death would pass over their homes, and the people would be spared. That night would be their exodus from Egypt, from the land of their slavery.

The Feast of Passover, then, was how the Jews remembered that great deliverance. And it was at a Passover, many years later, that the feast would find its fulfillment. Jesus was with his disciples, and at the end of the Passover meal, he instituted something new and greater: "Take eat, take drink. This is my body, this is my blood, given and shed for you for the forgiveness of sins." Then he went out and was betrayed and arrested and delivered over to death, even death on a cross. The only Son of God becomes the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world. His blood marks our doorposts, and we are spared. Death passes over.

And strangely enough, this is how Jesus is glorified. It brings glory to Jesus to die for the sins of the world, to die in shame even though he is sinless. God is glorified chiefly in showing mercy, and this is his greatest act of mercy: giving his Son into death for your salvation. No greater glory is there than in the revelation of divine mercy in the cross of Jesus Christ.

And when Jesus died on that cross for your salvation, and he gave up his spirit, and the soldier pierced his side with a spear, from out of his side came a sudden flow of blood and water. Truly of Christ it can be said, "Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water." For his pierced side, given into death, is the source of your eternal life. The Holy Spirit, the Lord and giver of life, who proceeds from the Son, flows out from Christ the Crucified and gives you life.

At Tabernacles, Jesus was not yet glorified. At Passover, Jesus is glorified, by his death and resurrection, to be followed by his ascension into heaven forty days later. Ten days after that, fifty days later, we finally come to Pentecost, when Jesus pours out the Spirit on his church.

But again, we want to back up and find out the Old Testament background for this feast. Pentecost was also called the Feast of Weeks, coming, as it did, seven weeks after Passover. It fell in mid-to-late spring, the time for the early harvest. The Feast of Weeks, or Pentecost, therefore celebrated the abundance of blessing the Lord bestowed on Israel when they settled in the Promised Land. It was a land flowing with milk and honey, with abundant crops, and Pentecost or Weeks rejoiced in that great abundance from God. People came to the temple and gave thankofferings of grain from out of the early harvest. This was called the firstfruits offering, since the firstfruits signaled that there was much more to come.

So that's where we are on the Day of Pentecost, in Acts chapter 2. We're in Jerusalem, with the multitudes of Jews who had come on pilgrimage from all the nations where the Jews had been scattered: "Now there were dwelling in Jerusalem Jews, devout men from every nation under heaven. . . . Parthians and Medes and Elamites and residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya belonging to Cyrene, and visitors from Rome, both Jews and proselytes, Cretans and Arabians."

What does this mean? It means that God is now going to have a firstfruits offering from among these nations. The harvest is ready to be brought in. It's about to start. The Spirit is poured out on the disciples. Peter starts preaching. This is how the harvest will be gathered. Peter begins telling them the mighty works of God. He will make known to them what God has done for them in Christ, so that "everyone who calls upon the name of the Lord shall be saved."

Friends, this is what the Feast of Pentecost is all about. It's about the gospel going out to all the world, calling people to repentance and faith in Christ--calling you to repentance and faith. From Tabernacles to Pentecost, with Passover along the way, the message is still the same: The rivers of living water are flowing out from Christ to you! Come to Jesus and drink.


Pentecost - the Birthday of the Church

by Carl E. Olson

Scripture Readings:

Acts 2:1-11
Psa. 104:1, 24, 29-30, 31, 34
1 Cor. 12:3b-7, 12-13 or Rom 8:8-17
Jn. 20:19-23 or Jn. 14:15-16, 23b-26

In the Old Testament the feast of Pentecost (from the Greek word for "fiftieth") was one of the three great pilgrimage festivals of Israel, a celebration of the spring harvest that took place fifty days after the offering of first fruits at Passover and the Feast of Unleavened Bread.

For Christians, Pentecost marks the fruits and harvest of another sort. It is a celebration of a formative event in the history of the early Church - the pouring out of the Holy Spirit upon the newly birthed Church and the first bold proclamation of the Gospel by Peter, the head apostle, among the Jews.

"The Church was made manifest to the world on the day of Pentecost," states the Catechism, "by the outpouring of the Holy Spirit. The gift of the Spirit ushers in a new era in the 'dispensation of the mystery' the age of the Church, during which Christ manifests, makes present, and communicates his work of salvation through the liturgy of his Church, 'until he comes.'" (CCC, par. 1076).

This outpouring of the Holy Spirit and manifestation of the Church are described in today's reading from the Acts of the Apostles. A group of men and women who had been afraid and confused in the dark days following the Crucifixion of Jesus were transformed supernaturally into fearless and passionate evangelists, emboldened by the Helper without whom, Paul writes, "No one can say, 'Jesus is Lord.'" (1 Cor. 12:3).

United together in anticipation of the gift promised by the Lord, the apostles and disciples experienced a theophany, or visitation by God. The loud noise and fire is similar to what the Israelites experienced at Mount Sinai (Ex. 19:16-18), while the sensation of strong, rushing wind is like preceding God's visit to Elijah on the same mountain (1 Kgs. 19:11-12). Fire was a common element in Old Testament theophanies, such as the pillar of fire that led the Israelites through the desert (Ex. 13:21-22). Particularly striking is the description found in Psalm 29: "The voice of the Lord strikes with fiery flame" (v 7).

The outward signs seen and heard in the upper room fulfilled the prophecy of John of the Baptist, who declared that Jesus "will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire" (Lk. 3:16). In this way the people of God are purified, empowered, and prepared to go forth and carry out the work begun by the Son of God.

The Christians first witnessed to Jews "from every nation" who either were visiting Jerusalem for the feast or who had moved there from other countries. This miraculous gift of tongues - being able to speak in a multitude of languages - is an undoing of the ancient curse of the Tower of Babel, when "the Lord confused the speech of all the world" (Gen. 11:1-9) because of man's disobedient attempt to create a perfect society without the aid of God. On Pentecost the one body of the society of the Church was created by the Holy Spirit, uniting Jews, Greeks, slaves, and free persons from every tongue and nation.

It has become common, as I've noted in previous columns, for some Christians to pit the Holy Spirit against "the Church," as though the Third Person of the Trinity will only be hindered by structure and organization. But that is contrary to what Luke and Paul wrote about the early Church, which was not only animated by the Holy Spirit, but organized by Him as well. There is one body, Paul explained to the Christians at Corinth - a rather rowdy and disorganized group of believers - and that body, the Church, has been formed by baptism into Christ through the Holy Spirit.

"What the soul is to the human body," wrote St. Augustine, "the Holy Spirit is to the Body of Christ, which is the Church" (CCC, par. 797). The Church is both charismatic and Catholic, a single body of many parts, united in and through the Holy Spirit. Drink deeply, then, of the one Spirit!

[This "Opening the Word" column originally appeared in the May 27, 2007, edition of Our Sunday Visitor.]


The Spirit of the Lord Filled the Earth

by Msgr. Charles Pope


What a wondrous and challenging feast we celebrate at Pentecost! A feast like this challenges us because it puts to the lie a lazy, sleepy, hidden, and tepid Christian life. The Lord Jesus said to Apostles, and still says to us, I have come to cast a fire on the earth (Luke 12:49). This is a feast about fire, a transformative, refining, purifying fire that the Lord wants to kindle in us and in this world. It is about a necessary fire. For as the Lord first judged the world by fire, the present heavens and the earth are reserved for fire. Because it is going to be the fire next time, we need the tongues of Pentecost fire to fall on us to set us on fire and bring us up to the temperature of glory.

The readings today speak to us of the Holy Spirit in three ways: the portraits of the Spirit, the proclamation of the Spirit, and the propagation by the Spirit.

I. The Portraits of the Spirit

The reading today speaks of the Holy Spirit using two images: rushing wind and tongues of fire. These two images recall Psalm 50, which says, Our God comes, he does not keep silence, before him is a devouring fire, round about him a mighty tempest.

Rushing Wind

Notice how the text from Acts opens: When the time for Pentecost was fulfilled, they were all in one place together. And suddenly there came from the sky a noise like a strong driving wind, and it filled the entire house in which they were.

This text brings us to the very root meaning of the word "spirit." Spirit refers to breath. This is preserved in the word "respiration," which is the act of breathing. So, the Spirit of God is the breath of God, the Ruah Adonai (the Spirit, the breath of God).

Genesis 1:2 speaks of this, saying, the Spirit of God was moving over the face of the waters. And Genesis 2:7 speaks even more remarkably of something God did only for man (not the animals): then the LORD God formed man of dust from the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul.

So the very Spirit of God was breathed into Adam! But, as we know, Adam lost this gift and died spiritually when he sinned.

Thus we see in this passage from Acts an amazing and wonderful resuscitation of the human person, as these first Christians experience the rushing wind of God's Spirit breathing spiritual life back into them. God does C.P.R. and brings humanity, dead in sin, back to life! The Holy Spirit comes to dwell in us once again as in a temple (cf 1 Cor 3:16). It has been said that Christmas is the feast of God with us, Good Friday is the Feast of God for us, but Pentecost is the Feast of God in us.

Tongues of Fire

The text from Acts then says, Then there appeared to them tongues as of fire, which parted and came to rest on each one of them.

The Bible often speaks of God as fire or in fiery terms. Moses saw God as a burning bush. God led the people out of Egypt through the desert as a pillar of fire. Moses went up onto a fiery Mt. Sinai where God was. Psalm 97 says,

The LORD reigns; let the earth rejoice; let the many coastlands be glad! Clouds and thick darkness are round about him; righteousness and justice are the foundation of his throne. Fire goes before him, and burns up his adversaries round about. His lightnings lighten the world; the earth sees and trembles. The mountains melt like wax before the LORD, before the Lord of all the earth. The heavens proclaim his righteousness; and all the peoples behold his glory.

Scriptures also call God a Holy fire, a consuming fire (cf Heb 12:29) and a refining fire (cf Is. 48:10; Jer 9:7; Zec 13:9; & Mal 3:3).

And so it is that our God, who is a Holy Fire, comes to dwell in us through His Holy Spirit. And as a Holy Fire, He refines us by burning away our sins and purifying us. As Job once said, But he knows the way that I take; when he has tested me, I will come forth as gold (Job 23:10).

God is also preparing us for judgment, for if He is a Holy Fire, then who may endure the day of His coming or of going to Him? What can endure the presence of Fire Himself? Only that which is already fire. Thus we must be set afire by God's love.

So, in the coming of the Holy Spirit, God sets us on fire to make us a kind of fire. In so doing, He purifies us and prepares us to meet Him one day, to meet Him who is a Holy Fire.

II. The Proclamation of the Spirit

You will notice that the Spirit came on them like "tongues" of fire. And the reference to tongues is no accident. For notice how the Holy Spirit moves them to speak and ultimately to witness. The text says, And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in different tongues, as the Spirit enabled them to proclaim. Now there were devout Jews from every nation under heaven staying in Jerusalem. At this sound, they gathered in a large crowd, but they were confused because each one heard them speaking in his own language. They were astounded, and in amazement they asked, "Are not all these people who are speaking Galileans? Then how does each of us hear them in his native language? We are Parthians, Medes, and Elamites, inhabitants of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the districts of Libya near Cyrene, as well as travelers from Rome, both Jews and converts to Judaism, Cretans and Arabs, yet we hear them speaking in our own tongues of the mighty acts of God."

So behold how the Holy Spirit moves them to proclaim, not just within the safety of the upper room, but also in holy boldness before the crowds who have gathered.

Notice the transformation! Moments ago these were frightened men who gathered in secrecy, only behind locked doors. They were huddled together in fear. But now they go forth to the crowds and boldly proclaim Christ. They have gone from fear to faith, from cowardice to courage, from terror to testimony!

What about us? Too many Christians are silent, overcome by fear. Perhaps they fear being called names, or being unpopular. Perhaps they are anxious about being laughed at, or resisted, or of being asked questions they don't feel capable of answering. Some Christians are able to gather in the "upper room" of the parish and to be active, even to be leaders. But once outside the safe confines of the "upper room" they slip into undercover mode. They become secret agent Christians.

Well, the Holy Spirit wants to change that. To the degree that we have really met Jesus Christ and experienced His Holy Spirit, we are less able to keep silent. An old Gospel song says, "I thought I wasn't gonna testify, but I couldn't keep it to myself, what the Lord has done for me." The Holy Spirit, if authentically received, wants to give us zeal and joy, to burn away our fear so that testifying and witnessing come naturally to us.

Note also how the Spirit "translates" for the apostles. The people in the crowd before them spoke different languages yet each heard Peter and the others speak in his own language. The Spirit, therefore, assists not only us but also those who hear us. My testimony is not dependent on my eloquence alone but also on the grace of the Holy Spirit, who casts out deafness and opens hearts. Every Christian should remember this. Some of our most doubtful encounters with others can still bear great fruit on account of the work of the Holy Spirit, who "translates" for us and overcomes many obstacles we might think insurmountable.

III. The Propagation by the Spirit

In the great commission, the Lord said, Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age (Matt 28:19ff). He also said, I have come to cast a fire on the earth and How I wish the blaze were already ignited (Luke 12:49).

How is the Lord going to do this?

Perhaps a picture will help to illustrate. My parish church is dedicated to the Holy Spirit under the title Holy Comforter. Above the high altar is the following Latin inscription: Spiritus Domini, replevit orbem terrarum (The Spirit of the Lord, filled the orb of the earth). (See the photo above of our high altar.)

The walls of my parish Church answer the question. The clerestory walls are painted Spanish red, and upon this great canvas are also painted the stories of the lives of twenty saints, surrounding us like a great cloud of witnesses (cf Heb 12:1). (See also the video below.) And over the head of every saint is a tongue of fire.

This is how the Spirit of the Lord fills the earth. It is not via "magic fairy dust." It is in the fiery transformation of every Christian going forth to bring warmth and light to a cold, dark world. This is how the Lord casts fire on the earth. This is how the Spirit of the Lord fills the orb of the earth—in the lives of saints (and in your life)!

In the end, the Great Commission (Matt 28) is our first and most important job. No matter what else we do, we are supposed to do this. Parishes do not deserve to exist if they do not do this. As individual Christians, we are a disgrace and not worthy of the name if we fail to win souls for Jesus Christ. The Spirit of the Lord is going to fill the orb of the earth, but only through us. The spread of the Gospel has been placed in your hands. It's scary, isn't it!

In my short time on this planet, I have seen it. Parishes that were once big and booming (and frankly, arrogant) are now in decline and some are near closure. It happens to the best if they do not evangelize, if they do not accomplish "job one" The Lord wants to light a fire. Why not become fire? Let the Spirit propagate the Church through you. (I'm not talking about the person next to you; I am talking to you.)

Happy feast of Pentecost! But don't forget that the basic image is very challenging, for it means getting out of the "upper room," opening the doors, and proclaiming Christ to the world. Let the Holy Spirit light a fire in you. Then you can't help but spread light and heat to a dark, cold world.

Let the evangelization of the whole world begin with you.

This video features details from the clerestory of my parish, Holy Comforter in Washington, D.C. Notice the tongue of fire above each saint. The paintings show how the Spirit of the Lord fills the orb of the earth through the lives of the lives of the saints (and through you, too). It is not magic; it is grace, working in your life, through your gifts and your relationships, so that the Lord will reach each soul. The witnesses on the walls of my Church say, "You are the way that He will fill the earth and set it on fire." Let the blaze be ignited in you!

The song says, "We are surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses, looking on, encouraging us to do the will of the Lord. Let us stand worthy and be faithful to God's call … We must not grow weary …!"

Video I

Video II

Source: Archdiocese of Washington Blog

The Day Heaven Burst Open

by The Rev. Grace Imathiu

Scripture: Acts 2:1-21

Festivals. Most of us love festivals. Imagine a festival that was celebrated exactly fifty days after Passover. The Festival of Weeks! Fifty days after Passover. From the Greek word for fifty, the festival eventually acquired the same name Pentecost in the Greek speaking world. Jerusalem was the place to be for that festival of weeks. They came from all over. As far as Phrygia and Pamphylia. As far as Egypt and Libya. Parthians, Medes, Elamites. Residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia. Pontus and Asia. Oh, so many of them. Young, old, rich, poor, men and women. It was going to be one wonderful festival.

The Scriptures tell us how the Festival of Weeks was to be celebrated. Leviticus 23 and Deuteronomy 16 tell us that this was the day each person was to bring to God a special gift in proportion to the blessing the Lord had given. Take stock of God's blessing and bring to God a special gift in proportion to the blessings. Can you see someone bringing a ton of wheat another five, six or even seven pieces of hand-woven linen. Another bringing 5 dollars and another $5,000.

All daily work was to be set aside. The people were to gather and worship and rejoice before the Lord. Each and everyone was invited. No one was to be excluded. The guest list was God's guest list and was clearly stipulated in the Scripture for all to read. Listen, the following are invited: You, your sons and daughters, your men servants and maid servants, the Levites in your towns, the aliens, the fatherless and the widows living among you.

What a guest list! Did you hear that you were invited? And everybody in your household too? Your relatives and those who work with you and for you. And did you hear that those who are or have a differing theological position are also invited? And the immigrants and non-citizens and foreigners too. And those who are orphaned and widowed. Those who live in the margins. The homeless. If invitations were sent out it was not for the purpose of excluding but simply to inform. None was to be excluded to God's party. Each one was invited regardless of religion, race, gender, status of age. All the barriers that divide us throughout the year were to come down on that day of celebration.

What a celebration this was going to be! The day was in commemoration of the day the Law was given to Moses on Mt. Sinai. Oh, you can remember how it was back then when a raggedy band of escaped slaves had been called to the incredible relationship of being a covenant people of God. A holy nation. A people with an identity that began and ended with God. And God had given them the Law. The great gift of the law. A blessing. The Law was not just rules and regulations, do's and don't, but the Law was the revelation of how to do relationship. The Law was a gift of Love for God's People. What a time to be in Jerusalem! The city was buzzing with all kinds of culture and languages and excitement in the air. What a great time to celebrate being marked to God's holy nation!

But look! On such a day, in such an occasion, the believers were indoors. Outside was all the excitement and the believers were indoors behind closed doors. Those who were there tell us that they suddenly heard a sound. A sound like blowing. Wind blowing and gathering momentum until it became a mighty wind. A storm. And that stormy wind sound filled the very place where they were gathered. Then fire, they tell us. Tongues of fire falling and reaching and touching each and every person in the room. Each one became filled. Filled with the Holy Spirit.

Then they began to speak. They found the words to say. They found the courage to speak words. They no longer whispered only among themselves. They opened the doors. They walked out of their safe space room and took the risk of going into the crowd gathered outside. And they began to speak to those who had not seen the fire nor heard the wind. Speaking to strangers the good news of Jesus. And as the crowd listened, they were amazed and said, "Hey! We can understand what these people are saying. They are speaking our language. They are speaking our mother-tongue, the vernacular!"

What a sight! Spectacular? Yes! Amazing? Yes!

One writer has read about this Pentecost story and says that the disciples were trying to describe this presence which moved them from despair to hope; from fear to love. The disciplines were trying to describe what had happened to then in physical terms as a sound from heaven as a rushing of a mighty wind or tongues of flames. Another writer says "It was as though the heavens had burst and streams of heavenly influences were flooding down into their lives." What happened at Pentecost was that their hearts and lives were opened wide for the spirit of God in all its fullness to descend upon them and take them captive for the purposes of God.

The disciples tell us it was a matter of language! Oh, but how very much we know about language! You see language in our world has often been a matter of power. Who speaks what language and where and when is often an indication of who is allowed to be seen and who is to remain invisible. Colonialism has always worked to silence languages and force natives to speak the language of those in power. For many of us who come from post colonial backgrounds, our native languages have often been ridiculed and we have struggled to learn the languages of power. Often nation states have imagined that the way to unite people into one nation is to have one language and in the process to silence other languages. Considering such situations, imagine what amazing good News that each language has a place in God's world! The incredulous realization that each one could be allowed to hear and speak the Gospel of Jesus Christ in their own language! Amazing! This is amazing news! The good News is that you do not have to change cultures. You and I do not have to pretend to be someone we are not in order to hear the Good News! Guess what? God speaks every language.

Pentecost is breaking down the walls of the cocoon of despair and fear. Pentecost is the powerful entry of the Holy Spirit into our lives to rearrange our world in surprisingly new ways. Oh, languages and cultures are not erased, but languages that are foreign no longer intimidate us into xenophobia and prejudices. Suddenly the differences between peoples of the world, be they in accent, language, race or ethnicity are not something to fear but something to appreciate about God. Pentecost is the invasion of God's time, God's Kairos, God's point of view into our lives. Pentecost is like wearing new glasses and suddenly our sight is restored to see that, "Hey! We are more connected than we imagined. We who share the same planet are connected in more powerful ways.

I was once in a retreat where we were invited to consider how small the world was and how we were interrelated. The retreat leader told us to consider our clothes. The cotton your clothes are made of may have come from Nicaragua or India. Your watch may be made of metals that perhaps came from Chile or Zaire. The coffee, cocoa, and sugar that are part of your breakfast may have come from El Salvador, Columbia or Kenya. The medicines that some of us take may have ingredients that were taken out of a tropical forest. So each time we eat a hamburger, drink some coffee or look at the watch, we were challenged to think of the living things, human and nonhuman, that are part of our daily life.

When each one of us in our world hears the Good News in our own language, something wonderful happens. We are healed. We are empowered. Only when we hear and speak our own language can we be authentic in our discipleship. No longer imitating. No longer trying to be what we are not! Each one of us. God's amazingly diverse guests!

About The Author:

The Rev. Grace Imathiu is a United Methodist minister who has served congregations in Kenya Africa, Washington, Ohio, Tennessee and Wisconsin.

Source: Day 1
Copyright © by The Rev. Grace Imathiu

Letting the Holy Spirit Work

by Greg Laurie

When He has come, He will convict the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment.
- John 16:8

Why has the Spirit come into this world? What does God's Holy Spirit want to do in the life of the unbeliever? The Holy Spirit is very involved in the actual work of conversion. You see, before we were Christians, it was the Holy Spirit who convicted us of our sin (see John 16:8). Another way to translate the word convict in John 16:8 is "convince." Notice this verse doesn't say that He will convict the unbeliever of a specific sin. Rather, He wants to convince him or her of sin in general, the root cause of all sins.

Now, we can try to produce in someone a sense of guilt and wrongdoing. In an effort to help the conversion process along, we want to make them feel really bad or guilty about something. (Mothers seem to have an unusual ability in this area.) But only the Holy Spirit can effectively produce a guilt that will bring a person to their senses.

Sometimes we get in the way of someone's conversion. We get impatient, or we try to assist the Spirit. We can be telling someone about the Lord, maybe a friend or a coworker or a family member, and as they become interested and start asking questions, we start trying to convert that person in our own strength. We try to complete the transaction while the Spirit is still working.

The best thing we can do after we have shared the Word of God with someone is to simply pray that it takes root. We should just do our part and leave it in the hands of God. We don't need to force the issue. He will do the convincing. Let God's Spirit do His work.

Source: Excerpted from 'Every Day with Jesus' by Greg Laurie, 2013

Come down, O Love divine,
seek thou this soul of mine,
and visit it with thine own ardor glowing;
O Comforter, draw near,
within my heart appear,
and kindle it, thy holy flame bestowing.

O let it freely burn,
till earthly passions turn
to dust and ashes in its heat consuming;
and let thy glorious light
shine ever on my sight,
and clothe me round, the while my path illuming.

And so the yearning strong,
with which the soul will long,
shall far outpass the power of human telling;
for none can guess its grace,
till Love create a place
wherein the Holy Spirit makes a dwelling.


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