Malankara World Journal Monthly
Volume 9 No. 514 June, 2019
II. Bible Study: Old Testament and New Testament Passages That Are Important in Understanding Pentecost
II. Bible Study: Old Testament and New Testament Passages That Are Important in Understanding Pentecost
Text of Genesis 11:1-9 Babel: the confusion of language  Now the whole earth had one language and few words.
 And as men migrated from the east, they found a plain in the land of Shinar and settled there.
 And they said to one another, “Come, let us make bricks, and burn them thoroughly.” And they had brick for stone, and bitumen for mortar.
 Then they said, “Come, let us build ourselves a city, and a tower with its top in the heavens, and let us make a name for ourselves, lest we be scattered abroad upon the face of the whole earth.”
 And the Lord came down to see the city and the tower, which the sons of men had built.
 And the Lord said, “Behold, they are one people, and they have all one language; and this is only the beginning of what they will do; and nothing that they propose to do will now be impossible for them.
 Come, let us go down, and there confuse their language, that they may not understand one another’s speech.”
 So the Lord scattered them abroad from there over the face of all the earth, and they left off building the city.
 Therefore its name was called Babel, because there the Lord confused the language of all the earth; and from there the Lord scattered them abroad over the face of all the earth. Commentary on Genesis 11:1-9: 11:1-9. The text goes on to describe the growth of evil (cf. 8:21; 9:20-27), and, as one of its results, the fact that mankind is scattered and its God-given unity is fragmented. Thus, the text begins by talking about mankind when it was still together; it came from the east, where it originated and settled in the plains of Mesopotamia (in Shinar; cf. 10:10). But the people are filled with pride, and want to make a name for themselves, and to guarantee their own security by reaching heaven by their own efforts. This attitude is epitomized by the project of building a massive tower (we can get some idea of it from the tower-temples of Mesopotamia, the ziggurats, on whose high terraces the Babylonians thought they could gain access to the godhead and thus dominate God). The text also offers an explanation for why there are so many languages; it sees language as a sign of division and misunderstanding between individuals and nations. It is based on the popular meaning of the word “babel”, connecting it with the Hebrew balbalah, confusion; but in fact Babel means “gate of God”. We have here an instance of literary devices being used to expound deep convictions – in this case the view that disunion in mankind is the outcome of men’s pride and sinfulness. Babel thus becomes the opposite of Jerusalem, the city to which, the prophets say, all the nations will flock (cf. Is 2:2-3). And it will be in the Church, the new Jerusalem, that men of all nations, races and tongues will join in faith and love, as will be seen in the Pentecost event (cf. Acts 2:1-13). There the phenomenon of Babel will be reversed: all will understand the same language. In the history of mankind, in effect, the Church is a kind of sign or sacrament of the union of God and men, and of the unity of the whole human race (cf. Vatican II, “Lumen Gentium”, 1). 11:4. St Augustine explains the frustration of man’s designs against God in this way: “Where would man’s vain presumption have ended if it succeeded in rearing a building of such size and height, even to the sky in the face of God – since they would have been higher than any mountain and would have reached beyond the limits of our atmosphere? In any case, no harm could have come to God from any straining after spiritual or physical elevation” (”De civitate Dei”, 16, 4). This new sin of mankind is basically the same sort of sin as was committed in paradise; it is a kind of continuation of it. It is the sin of pride to which man is always prone and it has been well described in the following words of St. Jose- maria Escriva when he comments on 1 John 2:16: “The eyes of our soul grow dull. Reason proclaims itself sufficient to understand everything, without the aid of God. This is a subtle temptation, which hides behind the power of our intellect, given by our Father God to man so that he might know and love him freely. Seduced by this temptation, the human mind appoints itself the centre of the universe, being thrilled with the prospect that ‘you shall be like gods’ (cf. Gen 3:5). So, filled with love for itself, it turns its back on the love of God. In this way does our existence fall prey unconditionally to the third enemy: pride of life. It’s not merely a question of passing thoughts of vanity or self-love, it’s a state of general conceit. Let’s not deceive ourselves, for this is the worst of all evils, the root of every false step. The fight against pride has to be a constant battle, to such an extent that someone once said that pride only disappears twenty-four hours after a person dies. It is the arrogance of the Pharisee whom God cannot transform because he finds in him the obstacle of self-sufficiency. It is the haughtiness which leads to despising other people, to lording it over them, and so mistreating them. For ‘when pride comes, then comes disgrace’ (Prov 11:2)” (”Christ Is Passing By”, 6) Source: “The Navarre Bible: Text and Commentaries”. Biblical text from the Revised Standard Version and New Vulgate. Commentaries by members of the Faculty of Theology, University of Navarre, Spain. Published by Four Courts Press, Kill Lane, Blackrock, Co. Dublin, Ireland, and by Scepter Publishers in the United States.
Text of Exodus 19:3-8a, 16-20b God promises a Covenant  And Moses went up to God, and the Lord called to him out of the mountain saying, “Thus you shall say to the house of Jacob, and tell the people of Israel:  You have seen that I did to the Egyptians, and how I bore you on eagles’ wings and brought you to myself.  Now therefore, if you will obey my voice and keep my covenant, you shall be my own possession among all peoples; for all the earth is mine,  and you shall be to me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation. These are the words which you shall speak to the children of Israel.”  So Moses came and called the elders of the people, and set before them all these words which the Lord had commanded him.  And all the people answered together and said, “All that the Lord has spoken we will do.”  On the morning of the third day there were thunders and lightnings, and a thick cloud upon the mountain, and a very loud trumpet blast, so that all the people who were in the camp trembled.  Then Moses brought the people out of the camp to meet God; and they took their stand at the foot of the mountain;  And Mount Sinai was wrapped in smoke, because the Lord descended upon it in fire; and the smoke of it went up like the smoke of a kiln, and the whole mountain quaked greatly.  And as the sound of the trumpet grew louder and louder, Moses spoke, and God answered him in thunder.  And the Lord came down upon Mount Sinai, to the top of the mountain; Commentary on Exodus 19:1-25 This chapter is written as part of a magnificent liturgy in which the events of Sinai are re-enacted for the reader. The sacred author, then, does not seek to provide an exact, scholarly report on what happened there; what he is providing, rather, is a theological interpretation of the real contact which took place between God and his people. As in other important sections of this book, it draws on the great traditions of Israel but combines them so skillfully that they have become inseparable; only now and then can one identify traces of particular traditions. The text as it now stands is all of a piece. In this chapter there is a prologue (v. 9), summing up what follows, and the theophany proper (vv. 10-25). 19:3-9. This passage summarizes the meaning of the Covenant that is going to be established. So, it contains the idea of election, though it does not use the term, and the idea of demands being made by God. Furthermore, we can see here the new status of the people (it is God’s own property) and the basis of its hope (in the sense that Israel attains its dignity as a people to the extent that it is faithful to the divine will). All the basic teachings are contained herein: a) The basis of the Covenant is Israel’s deliverance from bondage (this has already happened: v. 4): the people are the object of God’s preferential love; God made them a people by bringing about that deliverance. b) If they keep the Covenant, they will become a very special kind of people. This offer will take effect the moment they take on their commitments, but Israel will develop towards its full maturity only to the extent that it listens to/obeys the will of God. c) What God is offering the people is specified in three complementary expressions – “My own possession”, “holy nation”, “kingdom of priests”. The first of these expressions means private property, personally acquired and carefully conserved. Of all the nations of the earth Israel is to be “God’s property” because he has chosen it and he protects it with special care. This new status is something which will be stressed frequently (cf. Deut 7:6; 26:17-19; Ps 135;4; Mal 3:17). By being God’s possession Israel shares in his holiness, it is a “holy nation”, that is, a people separated out from among the nations so as to keep a close relationship with God; in other passages we are told more – that this is the relationship of “a son of God” (cf. 4:22; Deut 14:1). This new way of being means that there is a moral demand on the members of the people to show by their lives what they are by God’s election: “You shall be holy; for I the Lord your God am holy” (Lev 19:2). And the expression “kingdom of priests” does not mean that they will be ruled by priests, or that the entire people will exercise the role of priest (which is in fact reserved to the tribe of Levi); rather, it reflects the fact that God gives Israel the privilege of being the only nation in his service. Israel alone has been chosen to be a “kingdom for the Lord”, that is, to be the sphere where he dwells and is recognized as the only Sovereign. Israel’s acknowledgment of God is shown by the service the entire people renders to the Lord. This section (vv 7-8) ends with Moses’ proposal of God’s plans to the people and their acceptance of these plans by the elders and by all the people; “All that the Lord has spoken we will do” (v. 8). The same wording will be used twice again in the ceremony to ratify the Covenant (cf. 24:3, 7). In the New Testament (1 Pet 2:5; Rev 1:6; 5:9-10) what happened here will be picked up again with the very same words, applying it to the new situation of the Christian in the Church, the new people of God and the true Israel (cf. Gal 3:20): every Christian shares in Christ’s priesthood through his incorporation into Christ and is “called to serve God by his activity in the world, because of the common priesthood of the faithful, which makes him share in some way in the priesthood of Christ. This priesthood – though essentially distinct from the ministerial priesthood–gives him the capacity to take part in the worship of the Church and to help other men in their journey to God, with the witness of his word and his example, through his prayer and work of atonement” (St. J. Escriva, “Christ is Passing By”, 120). 19:10-25. This description of the theophany on Sinai contains features of a solemn liturgy in order to highlight the majesty and transcendence of God. Verses 10-15 cover as it were the preparation for the great event, and vv. 16-20 the event itself. The preparation is very detailed: ritual purification in the days previous, ablutions and everything possible done to ensure that the participants have the right dispositions, even a ban on sexual intercourse (cf. Lev 15:16ff) as a sign of exclusive concentration on God who is coming to visit. Also, the fact that the people have to keep within bounds is a tangible way of showing the transcendence of God. Once Jesus Christ, God made man, comes, no barrier will any longer be imposed. The manifestation of God took place on the third day; The smoke, the fire and the earthquake are external signs of the presence of God, who is the master of nature. The two trumpet blasts (vv. 16, 19), the people’s march to the foot of the mountain and then standing to attention – all give a liturgical tone to their acknowledgment of the Lord as their only Sovereign. All these things and even the voice of God in the thunder convey the idea that this awesome storm was something unique, for what was happening this special presence of God on Sinai, could never happen again. Israel will never forget this religious experience, as we can see from the Psalms (cf. Ps 18:8-9; 29:3-4; 77:17-18; 97:2ff). In the New Testament, extraordinary divine manifestations will carry echoes of this theophany (cf. Mt 27:45; 51; Acts 2:2-4). Source: “The Navarre Bible: Text and Commentaries”. Biblical text from the Revised Standard Version and New Vulgate. Commentaries by members of the Faculty of Theology, University of Navarre, Spain. Published by Four Courts Press, Kill Lane, Blackrock, Co. Dublin, Ireland, and by Scepter Publishers in the United States.
Text of Psalm 104:24-35 24 O Lord, how manifold are Your works!
In wisdom You have made them all.
The earth is full of Your possessions 25 This great and wide sea,
In which are innumerable teeming things,
Living things both small and great. 26 There the ships sail about;
There is that Leviathan
Which You have made to play there. 27 These all wait for You,
That You may give them their food in due season. 28 What You give them they gather in;
You open Your hand, they are filled with good. 29 You hide Your face, they are troubled;
You take away their breath, they die and return to their dust. 30 You send forth Your Spirit, they are created;
And You renew the face of the earth. 31 May the glory of the Lord endure forever;
May the Lord rejoice in His works. 32 He looks on the earth, and it trembles;
He touches the hills, and they smoke. 33 I will sing to the Lord as long as I live;
I will sing praise to my God while I have my being. 34 May my meditation be sweet to Him;
I will be glad in the Lord. 35 May sinners be consumed from the earth,
And the wicked be no more. Bless the Lord, O my soul!
Praise the Lord!
(NKJV) Commentary on Psalm 104:24-34, 35b by Courtney Pace This creation psalm celebrates the goodness, splendor, complexity, and interrelatedness of creation, which reflect God’s wisdom. With strategic repetition of “your works” throughout the chapter, Psalm 104 celebrates the world as evidence of God’s wisdom in creating and sustaining the world, such that everything connects with everything else. The phrase “Bless the Lord, O my soul” appears in Psalms 103 and 104, joining these two psalms as a larger celebration of God’s creation and as a guide for the people to pray in praise of God for creation. The psalmist agrees with Psalm 103 that God rules over all that is, and Psalm 104 expands upon this by detailing God’s works of creation. Verse 24 begins with a new vocative, “O Lord,” proclaiming God’s sovereignty and dominion over all of the earth and the heavens, all of which are God’s creation. The psalm is somewhat reminiscent of Genesis 1 but is not intended to be read as a narrative. Humankind are workers within God’s ordered world, built upon interdependence between all living things. The whole world depends on God for sustenance, and none can survive without God. As the creator and source of life, God will always be sovereign, but God guides creation like a loving and compassionate parent. God has made creation and providence continuous with each other, just as those are continuous within God’s very self. Verse 30 points to God’s ruach, or breath, which brings life to our physical and spiritual lives simultaneously. Just as God raised the dry bones (Ezekiel 37:1-14), God’s breath/Spirit is our complete source of life in every possible meaning. The psalmist is suggesting that the purpose of creation is life itself and that delight in life must always be rooted in deep connection to God. Creation exists in polyrhythm, and just as God’s life-giving breath animates all of creation, humanity is to echo this life-giving breath with their praise of God. Similarly, because the world was created with interdependence, everything we do impacts God’s world, and also God. Ecology and theology cannot be separated because every human action impacts God’s creation, therefore, they impact God as well. Note that in verse 16, the psalmist refers to “trees of the Lord” but never to “people of the Lord,” which suggests that humans are not above creation but rather are one piece within its majestic whole. God tasked humans to serve creation and take care of it, not to rule over it and exploit it for human gain. Human interference in the delicate balance of interconnectedness threatens the system which God has put into place. This begs us to consider the root cause of our contemporary concern with environmental justice. Is it rooted in preserving our way of life for future generations (self-interest), or is it rooted in praise for God the Creator (worship)? Wickedness is a jarring discord between the world and what it was created to be. Wickedness seeks to disconnect and deal harm, whereas the world was created for life-giving interconnectedness. As J. Clinton McCann referenced, “we have seen the wicked, and it is us!” (McCann, 1100). The mention of the sea monster Leviathan recalls the ancient association between the ocean and chaos and between sea monsters and evil. Even these, this psalmist says, are subject to God, for God has ordered the chaotic waters to become life-giving springs (verses 6-13) and quieted the sea monsters (verses 25-26). The psalmist wishes that God would rule over creation for eternity and that this will bring God joy. While verse 35a seems disconnected from the rest of Psalm 104, the psalmist so rejoices in creation that he wishes wickedness were not at work attempting to dismantle what God has built. This also points to the fact that those who view themselves as part of creation cannot praise God and tolerate wickedness within the world. Either one lives in praise of God as creator/life-giver/sustainer, or one undermines God’s sovereignty by seeking to harm what God has made. Verse 35 also offers the first instance of “hallelujah” in the psalter, which is one of the reasons this passage tends to be used on the Day of Pentecost in celebration of God’s spirit (breath, wisdom) over creation. Just as God is the source of life for all of creation -- physically, cosmically, and spiritually -- God has created the church and sustained the church, through which all humankind and creation are interconnected. What amazes you about creation? For what do you find yourself repeatedly praising God? How does God reveal God’s self through creation? What responsibilities do humans have to and for creation, and how does your preaching form your congregation in this regard? Resources: Bruggemann, Walter, Israel’s Praise: Doxology against Idolatry and Ideology (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1988). Cotter, Jim, Psalms for a Pilgrim People (Harrisburg, PA: Morehouse, 1998). deClaissé-Walford, Nancy, Introduction to the Psalms: A Song from Ancient Israel (St. Louis, Chalice Press, 2004). Mays, James L., Preaching and Teaching the Psalms (Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 2006). Mays, James L., Psalms: Interpretation: A Bible Commentary for Teaching and Preaching (Louisville: John Knox Press, 1994). McCann, J. Clinton, “Psalms,” In The New Interpreter’s Bible, Vol 4, ed by Leander E. Keck, et al. (Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1996). Reid, Stephen Breck, Listening In: A Multicultural Reading of the Psalms (Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1997). About the Author Courtney Pace is the Associate Professor of Church History and Director of Admissions at Memphis Theological Seminary, Memphis, Tenn.
Text of Ezekiel 37:1-14
The dry bones The hand of the Lord was upon me, and he brought me out by the Spirit of the Lord, and set me down in the midst of the valley; it was full of bones.  And he led me round among them; and behold, there were very many upon the valley; and lo, there were very dry. And he said to me, “Son of man, can these bones live?” And I answered, “O Lord God, thou knowest.” Again he said to me, “Prophesy to these bones, and say to them, O dry bones, hear the word of the Lord. Thus says the Lord God to these bones: Behold, I will cause breath to enter you, and you shall live.  And I will lay sinews upon you, and will cause flesh to come upon you, and cover you with skin, and put breath in you, and you shall live; and you shall know that I am the Lord.”  So I prophesied as I was commanded; and as I prophesied, there was a noise, and behold, a rattling; and the bones came together, bone to its bone.  And as I looked, there were sinews on them, and flesh had come upon them, and skin had covered them; but there was no breath in them.  Then he said to me, “Prophesy to the breath, prophesy, son of man, and say to the breath, Thus says the Lord God: Come from the four winds, O breath, and breathe upon these slain, that they may live.”  So I prophesied as he commanded me, and the breath came into them, and they lived, and stood upon their feet, an exceedingly great host.  Then he said to me, “Son of man, these bones are the whole house of Israel. Behold, they say, ‘Our bones are dried up, and our hope is lost; we are clean cut off.’  Therefore prophesy, and say to them, Thus says the Lord God: Behold, I will open their graves, and raise you from your graves, O my people; and I will bring you home into the land of Israel.  And you shall know that I am the Lord, when I open your graves, and raise you from your graves, O my people.  And I will put my Spirit within you, and you shall live, and I will place you in your own land; then you shall know that I, the Lord, have spoken, and I have done it, says the Lord.” Commentary on Ezekiel 37:1-14 37:1-14. This remarkable vision of the bones being brought back to life sets the scene for the climax of the resurgence of Israel, the unification of the two kingdoms (cf. 37:15-28). The dramatic contrast drawn here between death and life, bones and spirit, shows that the revitalization that God will bring about goes much further than material reconstruction or simply a return to the promised land; it implies, rather, a new beginning, both personal and social. The vision itself (vv. 2-10) takes place on an immense plain (cf. 3:22-23) and it addresses the exiles’ profound concern about their future: “Our bones are dried up, and our hope is lost” (v. 11). It is one of Ezekiel’s most famous and most commented-on visions because it is very vivid and easy to understand. The pro- phet himself explains it as having to do with the destruction-restoration of Israel (vv. 11-14), though the Fathers of the Church see in it veiled references to the resurrection of the dead: “The Creator will revive our mortal bodies here on earth; he promises resurrection, the opening of sepulchers and tombs, and the gift of immortality […]. And in all this, we see that he alone is God, who can do all things, the good Father who from his endless bounty will give life to the lifeless” (St Irenaeus, Adversus haereses, 5, 15, 1). St Jerome writes in similar terms: “The image of the resurrection would not have been used to describe the resto- ration of the people of Israel if the future resurrection of the dead had not been foreseen, because no one can be led to draw a conclusion from an idea that has no basis in reality” (Commentarii in Ezechielem, 27, 1ff.) “I will put my Spirit within you” (v. 14). The spirit of the Lord is, at least, the power of God (cf. Gen 2:7) performing an act of creation. It is also the principle of life causing man to “become a living being” (Gen 2:7); and, certainly, it is the principle of supernatural life. The same God that created all things can revitalize his demoralized people in Babylon and can allow humankind to partake of his own life. This promise, like others found in the prophets (cf. 11:19; Jer 31:31-34; Joel 3:1-5) will find its complete fulfillment at Pentecost, when the Spirit descends on the apostles: “According to these promises, at the ‘end time’ the Lord’s Spirit will renew the hearts of men, engraving a new law in them. He will gather and reconcile the scattered and divided peoples; he will transform the first creation, and God will dwell there with men in peace” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 715). Source: “The Navarre Bible: Text and Commentaries”. Biblical text from the Revised Standard Version and New Vulgate. Commentaries by members of the Faculty of Theology, University of Navarre, Spain. Published by Four Courts Press, Kill Lane, Blackrock, Co. Dublin, Ireland, and by Scepter Publishers in the United States.
Text And Commentary on Joel 2:28-32 (3:1-5) Joel 2:28-32 (RSVCE) Joel 3:1-5 (New American Bible) The Spirit poured out  And it shall come to pass afterward, that I will pour out my spirit on all flesh; your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, and your young men shall see visions.  Even upon the menservants and maidservants in those days, I will pour out my spirit.  and I will give portents in the heavens and on the earth, blood and fire and columns of smoke.  The sun shall be turned to darkness, and the moon to blood, before the great and terrible day of the Lord comes.  And it shall come to pass that all who call upon the name of the Lord shall be delivered; for in Mount Zion and in Jerusalem there shall be those who escape, as the Lord has said, and among the survivors shall be those whom the Lord calls. Commentary: 2:18-3:21. The second part of the book is all about salvation. The Lord's compassion (2:18) is shown by the message he sends via the prophet to the people in response to their conversion: "The Lord answered and said to his people" (2:19). On the Lord's behalf the prophet encourages Judah and Jerusalem, telling them that they have no reason to be afraid, for the Lord is going to deliver them from their afflictions and provide them with every sort of earthly good (symbolized here by the produce of the earth – grain, wine, oil: 2:19-27). But the high point will be when God pours out his "spirit on all flesh …" (2:28). The outpouring of the Spirit is the definitive sign that the "day of the Lord" has come. That "day" is mentioned five times in the book (1:15; 2:1, 11, 31; 3:14), each time with greater emphasis. The day of the Lord is an End time when a number of things will happen: wickedness will be punished (1:15; 2:1-3); the power of the Lord will be manifested by portents in the heavens and on earth (2:30- 31); and, above all, it is the day when the Lord will judge all nations (3:1-8). 2:28-32. This is the great passage about the outpouring of the Holy Spirit. The word "afterward" in v. 28 marks the transition from the material benefits described in the previous verses to spiritual benefits. The outpouring of the Spirit involves charismatic and prophetical gifts primarily (moral gifts derive from these). This infusion of the Spirit is the fulfillment of an ancient promise, found in Numbers 11:16-30: "Gather for me seventy men of the elders of Israel, […] and I will take some of the spirit which is upon you and put it upon them, […] Would that all the Lord's people were prophets, that the Lord would put his spirit upon them!" This hope is accentuated in Joel, for now no limits are placed on who will benefit from it – elders, young people, and even servants (vv. 28-29). And the Lord will once more perform wondrous things through them (v. 30), like those done by prophets in the strict sense (cf. Deut 13:2; etc.). St Peter sees this promise being fulfilled when the Holy Spirit is poured out on the day of Pentecost (Acts 2:1-21). "Peter turns to this passage from Joel to explain the significance of what has occurred, and the signs which those present have seen: 'the pouring out of the Holy Spirit'. It is a super-natural work of God, carried out with the signs typical of the coming of the Lord, as they were foretold by the prophets and realized in the New Testament with the coming of Christ" (Pope John Paul II, Address, 8 November 1989). Therefore, too, in the tradition of the Church, this descent of the Holy Spirit is seen as an extension of his descent on Jesus in the river Jordan: "God promised through the mouths of his prophets that in the last days he would pour out his Spirit on all his servants, and that they too would prophesy. Thus, the Spirit of God, who had become the Son of man, so that by remaining within him, he would inhabit the heart of mankind and animate all the works carried out by the hands of God, fulfilling the will of the Father through all men and making all men new – new creations in Christ. Luke tells us that after the ascension of the Lord, the Spirit descended on the apostles at Pentecost, to restore men to new life and to bring the new covenant to completion. Therefore, the disciples praised God in all the tongues of men, laying all peoples open to the action of the Spirit and all nations open to the power and authority of God" (St Irenaeus, "Adversus haereses", 3, 17, 1-2). Source: "The Navarre Bible: Text and Commentaries". Biblical text from the Revised Standard Version and New Vulgate. Commentaries by members of the Faculty of Theology, University of Navarre, Spain. Published by Four Courts Press, Kill Lane, Blackrock, Co. Dublin, Ireland, and by Scepter Publishers in the United States.
Text: Acts 2:1-21 (NKJV) Coming of the Holy Spirit 2 When the Day of Pentecost had fully come, they were all [a]with one accord in one place. 2 And suddenly there came a sound from heaven, as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting. 3 Then there appeared to them [b]divided tongues, as of fire, and one sat upon each of them. 4 And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance. The Crowd’s Response 5 And there were dwelling in Jerusalem Jews, devout men, from every nation under heaven. 6 And when this sound occurred, the multitude came together, and were confused, because everyone heard them speak in his own language. 7 Then they were all amazed and marveled, saying to one another, “Look, are not all these who speak Galileans? 8 And how is it that we hear, each in our own [c]language in which we were born? 9 Parthians and Medes and Elamites, those dwelling in Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, 10 Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya adjoining Cyrene, visitors from Rome, both Jews and proselytes, 11 Cretans and [d]Arabs—we hear them speaking in our own tongues the wonderful works of God.” 12 So they were all amazed and perplexed, saying to one another, “Whatever could this mean?” 13 Others mocking said, “They are full of new wine.” Peter’s Sermon 14 But Peter, standing up with the eleven, raised his voice and said to them, “Men of Judea and all who dwell in Jerusalem, let this be known to you, and heed my words. 15 For these are not drunk, as you suppose, since it is only [e]the third hour of the day. 16 But this is what was spoken by the prophet Joel: 17 ‘And it shall come to pass in the last days, says God,
That I will pour out of My Spirit on all flesh;
Your sons and your daughters shall prophesy,
Your young men shall see visions,
Your old men shall dream dreams. 18 And on My menservants and on My maidservants
I will pour out My Spirit in those days;
And they shall prophesy. 19 I will show wonders in heaven above
And signs in the earth beneath:
Blood and fire and vapor of smoke. 20 The sun shall be turned into darkness,
And the moon into blood,
Before the coming of the great and awesome day of the Lord. 21 And it shall come to pass
That whoever calls on the name of the Lord
Shall be saved.’
(NKJV) Commentary on Acts 2:1-21 by Amy G. Oden It happened on the subway platform in Moscow. I’d been there for a week and I don’t speak Russian or understand it. For several days, my ears had been in a sea of gibberish, random sounds that I couldn’t understand. Then, in an instant of clarity, I heard English from the other end of the platform. It was like a beam of light, piercing through all other sounds, straight to my ear. American English, no less. My native language. It was a homing beacon, sharpening my senses to its signal. I felt every molecule in my body relax as I focused on the voice and understood the words. It felt like coming home. In the Pentecost story, we see this dynamic played out ten-fold. The disciples are empowered to speak some 15 different languages not their own. And not just any foreign languages. The Spirit empowers them specifically to speak the languages of the “devout Jews from every nation” in Jerusalem (verse 5). Just imagine Parthians, Mesopotamians and Cappadocians, as immigrants or visitors in Jerusalem, hearing their mother tongues spoken for perhaps the first time in years! Did each receive that homing beacon tuning the ear to its signal? Did each have that sense of coming home? This gift of the Holy Spirit that marks the birth of the church is a gift expressly for those outside the Jesus movement, those who had lived displaced in a language-world not their own. We cannot miss this! It is a spiritual gift given not for the disciples themselves, but for the outsiders listening. God’s gift reaches outward to those outside of this immediate circle of Jesus followers. It seems that one mark of the Holy Spirit’s gifting is that it empowers us to connect to others. And this gift given for the sake of others can sound crazy, ridiculous, so that “others sneer” (verse 13). Peter responds to the sneer-ers by calling on the ancient prophetic tradition. He doesn’t hesitate to claim this Pentecost experience as the fulfillment of Joel’s inspiring vision of what is looks like for God’s Spirit to be poured out “on all flesh” (verses 17-21). “All flesh” means young and old, women and men, slave and free. All will prophesy, which means speaking God’s word into reality. Peter says, “it’s happening now!” The Jesus community, through the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, challenges existing religious norms just as Joel did. These dreams and visions turn the Jesus community outward, proclamation through outsiders’ mother tongues. What language would you speak in your missional location, if you were filled with the Holy Spirit? How might those outside your congregation hear their mother tongue and be welcomed home? Invite your hearers to consider the native language of those outside your congregation: It might be a specific human language like Vietnamese, English, or Somali, spoken in the surrounding neighborhood. Or it might be a form of communication, like emojis, texting or digital images. Or perhaps the native language of those outside your circle of Jesus followers is the language of science or music. Or perhaps it is a particular spiritual dialect, a language of the heart that speaks deeply into people’s lives. Can we ask the Holy Spirit to gift us with such native languages? Pentecost was the Jewish celebration 50 days after Passover that marked the giving of the Torah and was also the time of giving first fruits at the temple. The gathered disciples would already be celebrating God’s gifts, unawares that another gift was coming. This new gift of mother tongues turned them outward, toward those outside their movement. The church birthed at Pentecost carries this deep DNA, to make a home in God’s life and invite others, in a way they can understand, to make a home in God’s life, too. About the Author Amy G. Oden is the Visiting Professor of Early Church History and Spirituality at Saint Paul School of Theology, Oklahoma City, Okla. Source: working Preacher © 2019 Luther Seminary
Text: Romans 8:14-17 (NKJV) 14 For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God. 15 For you did not receive the spirit of bondage again to fear, but you received the Spirit of adoption by whom we cry out, “Abba, Father.” 16 The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, 17 and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him, that we may also be glorified together. Commentary on Romans 8:14-17 by Jane Lancaster Patterson Both culture and translation stand between this significant passage and twenty-first century English-speaking interpreters. I offer the following translation as a tool for understanding, not an example of English prose worthy of proclamation: For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. For you did not receive a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear,
but you have received a spirit of adoption as sons. When we cry, “Abba! Father!”
it is that very Spirit
co-witnessing with our spirit
that we are children of God,
and if children, then heirs,
heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ -- if, in fact, we co-suffer with him
so that we may also be co-glorified with him. I hope that -- in spite of the awkwardness of this translation -- you can see some of the charged points at which this short passage invites the hearers into dynamic relationship with the Trinity, before the Trinity had a name and a place in Christian doctrine. Sons of God by adoption The meaning of this passage is highly dependent upon an understanding of the role of sons in first-century Roman culture, as well as Roman practices of and motivations for adoption. Adult sons were understood to have the responsibility of carrying on the work of their father, and doing so in a way that embodied the father’s values. The agency of daughters, on the other hand, was limited by laws that treated them essentially as minors. The metaphor of sonship, and the understanding of Jesus as “Son of God” is dependent upon this understanding of the role of sons as partners in, and then heirs of, their father’s work. Jesus was seen to be God’s Son because he faithfully carried out God’s work in the world, exactly as God would have it done. When Christians, led by God’s Spirit, do likewise, then they are living faithfully into their baptismal identity in Christ, living as sons of God. This important theme in the New Testament -- that the baptized have the high calling of living as partners and heirs of God -- is masked by translations that render “son” as “child.” As a woman, I understand and appreciate the rationale of gender inclusion; as someone concerned with Christian moral practice, I lament the infantilizing of Christians as children, without the responsibilities of adult members of the household of God. Adoption in Greco-Roman culture was not pursued primarily as a way for childless couples to experience the love of children, but for families without a male heir to ensure that the work that sustained the family could continue. The word used here for adoption is huiothesia, literally “son-making.” The imagery is especially potent for Gentiles, who were not previously members of God’s family. Paul contrasts two spirits:
who cry out to God as naturally as to a trusted parent;
whose practices of faith repeat the courageous patterns of Christ’s self-offering, no matter the cost;
who entrust themselves to their hope of eventual glorification by a loving God.
In each of these dimensions of their witness, the baptized are filled with the Spirit of God in a profound co-agency for the salvation of the world. About the Author Jane Lancaster Patterson is the Associate Professor of New Testament and Director of Community Care at the Seminary of the Southwest, Austin, Texas source: working Preacher; © 2019 Luther Seminary
Text: 1 Corinthians 12:3b-7, 12-13 Kinds of Spiritual Gifts [3b] Brothers and sisters: no one can say "Jesus is Lord" except by the Holy Spirit.  Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit;  and there are varieties of service, but the same Lord;  and there are varieties of working, but it is the same God who inspires them all in every one.  To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. Unity and Variety in the Mystical Body of Christ  For just as the body is one and has many member, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ.  For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body Jews or Greeks, slaves or free and all were made to drink of one Spirit. Commentary on 1 Corinthians 12:3-7,12-13 3. This provides a general principle for discerning signs of the Holy Spirit — recognition of Christ as Lord. It follows that the gifts of the Holy Spirit can never go against the teaching of the Church. "Those who have charge over the Church should judge the genuineness and proper use of these gifts [...], not indeed to extinguish the Spirit, but to test all things and hold fast to what is good (cf. Thess 5:12 and 19-21)" ("Lumen Gentium", 12). 4-7. God is the origin of spiritual gifts. Probably when St Paul speaks of gifts, service (ministries), "varieties of working", he is not referring to graces which are essentially distinct from one another, but to different perspectives from which these gifts can be viewed, and to their attribution to the Three Divine Persons. Insofar as they are gratuitously bestowed they are attributed to the Holy Spirit, as he confirms in v. 11; insofar as they are granted for the benefit and service of the other members of the Church, they are attributed to Christ the Lord, who came "not to be served but to serve" (Mk 10:45); and insofar as they are operative and produce a good effect, they are attributed to God the Father. In this way the various graces which the members of the Church receive are a living reflection of God who, being essentially one, in so is a trinity of persons. "The whole Church has the appearance of a people gathered together by virtue of the unity of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit" (St Cyprian, "De Dominica Oratione", 23). Therefore, diversity of gifts and graces is as important as their basic unity, because all have the same divine origin and the same purpose — the common good (v. 7): "It is the Holy Spirit, dwelling in those who believe and pervading and ruling over the entire Church, who brings about that wonderful communion of the faithful and joins them together so intimately in Christ that he is the principle of the Church's unity. By distributing various kinds of spiritual gifts and ministries he enriches the Church of Jesus Christ with different functions 'in order to equip the saints for the work of service, so as to build up the body of Christ' (Eph 4:12)" (Vatican II, "Unitatis Redintegratio", 2). 12-13. In Greek and Latin literature, society is often compared to a body; even today we talk of "corporations", a term which conveys the idea that all the citizens of a particular city are responsible for the common good. St Paul, starting with this metaphor, adds two important features: 1) he identifies the Church with Christ: "so it is with Christ" (v. 12); and 2) he says that the Holy Spirit is its life- principle: "by one Spirit we were all baptized..., and all made to drink of the Spi- rit" (v. 13). The Magisterium summarizes this teaching by defining the Church as the "mystical body of Christ", an expression which "is derived from and is, as it were, the fair flower of the repeated teaching of Sacred Scripture and the holy Fathers" (Pius XII, "Mystici Corporis"). "So it is with Christ": "One would have expected him to say, so it is with the Church, but he does not say that [...]. For, just as the body and the head are one man, so too Christ and the Church are one, and therefore instead of 'the Church' he says 'Christ"' (Chrysostom, "Hom. on 1 Cor", 30, "ad loc".). This identification of the Church with Christ is much more than a mere metaphor; it makes the Church a society which is radically different from any other society: "The complete Christ is made up of the head and the body, as I am sure you know well. The head is our Savior himself, who suffered under Pontius Pilate and now, after rising from the dead, is seated at the right hand of the Father. And his body is the Church. Not this or that church, but the Church which is to be found all over the world. Nor is it only that which exists among us today, for also belonging to it are those who lived before us and those who will live in the future, right up to the end of the world. All this Church, made up of the assembly of the faithful — for all the faithful are members of Christ — has Christ as its head, governing his body from heaven. And although this head is located out of sight of the body, he is, however, joined to it by love" (St Augustine, "Enarrationes in Psalmos", 56, 1). The Church's remarkable unity derives from the Holy Spirit who not only assembles the faithful into a society but also imbues and vivifies its members, exercising the same function as the soul does in a physical body: "In order that we might be unceasingly renewed in him (cf. Eph 4:23), he has shared with us his Spirit who, being one and the same in head and members, gives life to, unifies and moves the whole body. Consequently, his work could be compared by the Fathers to the fun- ction that the principle of life, the soul, fulfils in the human body" (Vatican II, "Lumen Gentium", 7). "All were made to drink of one Spirit": given that the Apostle says this immediately after mentioning Baptism, he seems to be referring to a further outpouring of the Holy Spirit, possibly in the sacrament of Confirmation. It is not uncommon for Sacred Scripture to compare the outpouring of the Spirit to drink, indicating that the effects of his presence are to revive the parched soul; in the Old Testament the coming of the Holy Spirit is already compared to dew, rain, etc.; and St. John repeats what our Lord said about "living water" (Jn 7:38; cf. 4:13-14). Together with the sacraments of Christian initiation, the Eucharist plays a special role in building up the unity of the body of Christ. "Really sharing in the body of the Lord in the breaking of the eucharistic bread, we are taken up into communion with him and with one another. 'Because the bread is one, we, who are many, are one body, for we all partake of one bread' (1 Cor 10:17). In this way all of us are made members of his body (cf. 1 Cor 12:27), 'and individual members of one another' (Rom 12:5)" ("Lumen Gentium", 7). Source: "The Navarre Bible: Text and Commentaries". Biblical text from the Revised Standard Version and New Vulgate. Commentaries by members of the Faculty of Theology, University of Navarre, Spain. Published by Four Courts Press, Kill Lane, Blackrock, Co. Dublin, Ireland, and by Scepter Publishers in the United States.
Text: John 14:8-17, 25-27 (NKJV) 8 Philip said to Him, “Lord, show us the Father, and it is sufficient for us.” 9 Jesus said to him, “Have I been with you so long, and yet you have not known Me, Philip? He who has seen Me has seen the Father; so how can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? 10 Do you not believe that I am in the Father, and the Father in Me? The words that I speak to you I do not speak on My own authority; but the Father who dwells in Me does the works. 11 Believe Me that I am in the Father and the Father in Me, or else believe Me for the sake of the works themselves. The Answered Prayer 12 “Most assuredly, I say to you, he who believes in Me, the works that I do he will do also; and greater works than these he will do, because I go to My Father. 13 And whatever you ask in My name, that I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. 14 If you ask anything in My name, I will do it. Jesus Promises Another Helper 15 “If you love Me, keep My commandments. 16 And I will pray the Father, and He will give you another [a]Helper, that He may abide with you forever— 17 the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees Him nor knows Him; but you know Him, for He dwells with you and will be in you. The Gift of His Peace 25 “These things I have spoken to you while being present with you. 26 But the [a]Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all things that I said to you. 27 Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid. Footnotes: John 14:16, 14:26 Comforter, Gr. Parakletos Commentary on John 14:8-17, [25-27] by Osvaldo Vena When we think of Pentecost we immediately think of the book of Acts, when the Spirit came on the primitive community gathered in one place in the form of a strong wind that filled the house, and divided tongues of fire that rested on each of them (Acts 2:1-3). Nothing like that is to be found in the gospel of John which has its own version of Pentecost. John talks about the coming of the Holy Spirit and gives it a name, parakletos (counselor) and Spirit of truth. And while in Acts the coming of the spirit is public and noisy, in John it is subtle and intimate (John 20:22). Our passage for today starts with Philip asking Jesus: “Show us the Father, and we will be satisfied.” The word Father, used more than 125 times in John, appears eleven times in this section alone. These are some of the ideas connected with these occurrences: Seeing the Father is the same as seeing Jesus (8-9)
The Father and Jesus dwell reciprocally in each other (10-11).
This reciprocal in-dwelling is the reason why Jesus’ words carry so much authority: they are the Father’s works (10-11).
The Father will be glorified when Jesus answers the believer’s petitions (13).
Jesus will ask the Father to send the parakletos (15). When Jesus uses the word Father, he is pointing at a very special and intimate relationship with God, and not necessarily, as later orthodoxy will declare, to an ontological oneness. Jesus acknowledges the Father as the source of his authority and always subordinates himself to the Father. But this relationship between Jesus and the Father is not there to be acknowledged only: it is also to be imitated. When Jesus is gone, and the Spirit comes, the community will replace Jesus as instruments of God. God will be incarnated again, this time not in a person, Jesus (John 1:14), but in a group of people who will continue Jesus’ work to an even greater degree (John 12). The same kind of symbiotic relationship that existed between Jesus and the Father will now exist between the community and the Holy Spirit. The word used for this relationship is meno, which is a favorite word of the evangelist “to denote an inward, enduring personal communion”1 that has many different levels and applications: God to Christ (John 14:10), the community to Christ (14:4), Christ to the community (14:4), the Spirit to the community (14:17). Through this relationship, Jesus’ words (teachings) will be actualized, contextualized if you please, in new situations. I call this the hermeneutics of the Spirit, that is, the Spirit as an interpretive source and force. This coming of the Spirit is not only John’s version of Pentecost but also his version of the Parousia, for it is Jesus who comes in the person of the Counselor. He says it clearly in verse 18: “I will not leave you desolate; I will come to you.” The Spirit is at present remaining with the disciples. He is “with” (para) them, but then it will be “in” (en) them. What’s the difference between these two Greek prepositions? Para, with the personal pronoun in the dative case (humin), means “beside, in the presence of.” Jesus is then besides the disciples, he is in their presence, he is visible. En, also with the personal pronoun in the dative case, means “in, on, among.” Jesus will then be in the community, among the community, no longer physically seen (see also John 16:10, “ ... because I go to the Father and you will see me no more;”) but spiritually felt (see also 16:14, “… he will take what is mine and declare it to you”). The Spirit of truth (14:17) is the Spirit of Jesus! (14:6). This is his “second” coming. This dwelling of the Holy Spirit in the community is exclusive because it does not include the larger society of which the Johannine community is a part of. This is called “the world” and refers to anything and anybody that does not belong to John’s group. It is a sectarian view that is problematic for contemporary readers living in a pluralistic, multicultural, and multi-religious world. These are the words of a sectarian community at odds with society. We, on the other hand, belong to the mainstream of society, enjoying religious and economic privileges, something John’s community did not. We should never forget that, lest we become intolerant of other people’s beliefs. The exclusivism of the Johannine community was perhaps necessary at the time because they needed to survive in a world that they perceived as hostile, whether this was true or not, for we only have their side of the story. We don’t know what their “adversaries” looked like or thought about. But obviously John’s group felt the need to survive so they encircled the wagons and built ideological walls around themselves (not a good idea, really, then or now; walls do not accomplish anything, religiously or politically!). Verse 27 brings that often-quoted bit of Jesus’ lore: “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives.” The peace John is referring to is not only internal, spiritual, but also external and social. It is an alternative to, and a criticism of, the Pax Romana and all its repercussions in people’s lives both physically and psychologically. The empire affected not only people’s bodies but also their minds.2 What does it all mean today? Here are some ideas: Jesus represents the presence of God in our midst through the agency of the Holy Spirit.
This presence needs to be shared, not monopolized.
The Holy Spirit is the interpreter of Jesus’ words. That implies contextualization and not mere repetition.
The Holy Spirit will enable us to become communities of peace, distributing it around the world as an alternative to other understandings of peace that depend on force and domination. Notes: William F. Arndt and F. Wilbur Gingrich, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament, translated by W. Bauer (Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1979), 504. Frantz Fanon, in his book The Wretched of the Earth (New York: Grove Press, 1963), has demonstrated how colonialism affects people psychologically About the Author Osvaldo Vena is the Professor of New Testament Interpretation at Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary, Evanston, Ill. Source: Working Preacher; (c) Luther Seminary
(A biblical refection on the Penticost Sunday, John 20:19-23) Gospel Reading: John 20:19-23 The Scripture Text: John 20:19-23 On the evening of that day, the first day of the week, the doors being shut where the disciples were, for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said to them, “Peace be with you.” When He had said this, He showed them His hands and His side. Then the disciples were glad when they saw the Lord. Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent Me, even so I send you.” And when He had said this, He breathed on them, and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.”
(John 20:19-23 RSV). Reflection on John 20:19-23 “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent Me, even so I send you.” (John 20:21) Pentecost is a Greek word that means “fifty days”. It originally referred to a religious feast observed fifty days after Passover, on which the Jews thanked God for the wheat harvest. Today Christians celebrate Pentecost fifty days after Easter to commemorate the day God sent the Holy Spirit to the early Church. In today’s Gospel, “Peace” is the first word the resurrected Jesus says to the apostles, a word the Jews used in everyday speech as both a greeting and a farewell. Jesus then shows them His hands and His side to prove that it really is Him. He truly is alive! During this post-resurrection appearance, Jesus tells His disciples He is sending them out on a mission just as His Father sent Him on one. He then breathes on them and tells them He is giving them the Holy Spirit so they can go out and bring forgiveness to all people. The word “apostle” comes from a Greek word that means “one who is sent” (John never calls them apostles, but he calls them disciples). In today’s reading, Jesus sends the apostles to tell the world about the forgiveness of sins made possible through His death and resurrection. Breathing on the apostles like Jesus did may seem a bit crude but this action had much religious meaning. In the book of Genesis, we read that God gave life to the first man by breathing into his nostril (Genesis 2:7) and in the book of Ezekiel the prophet describes a dream he had in which a valley of dry bones comes to life with the breath of God (Ezekiel 27:1-14) the prophet describes a dream he had in which a valley of dry bones comes to life with the breath with new life, we should understand Jesus’ actions in today’s Gospel as Him giving new life to His Church by breathing the Holy Spirit into it. Finally, today’s reading is the closest the four Gospels come to describing the arrival of the Holy Spirit on Pentecost. We are accustomed to hearing about the strong wind and the tongues of fire appearing while the apostles and friends of Jesus gathered in prayer, a story we find not in the Gospels but in the Acts of the Apostles. Matthew, Mark, and Luke all end their Gospels with Jesus promising He will soon send the Holy Spirit but only John, in today’s reading, gives us an account of the Holy Spirit actually arriving. However, since John’s story is so simple and uneventful, we often overlook it. (Adapted from Jerome J. Sabatowich, “Cycling Through the Gospels”, pages 44-45) PRAYER: Blessed Holy Spirit, come! Stir up faith and hope in me today. Fill me with confidence how You are working through me when I am with my family or while I am working. I pray to You also with the hope that I will become more aware of how You are working in my life. Amen. Source: A Christian Pilgrim
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