INSIGHTS: Pentecost, Year B

Insights on the Lectionary
May 27, 2012

As the wind is your symbol, so forward our goings.
As the dove, so launch us heavenward.
As water, so purify our spirits.
As a cloud, so abate our temptations.
As dew, so revive our languor.
As fire, so purge out our dross. Amen
(Christina Rossetti)

I love all the major feast days of the Church year, but there is just something about Pentecost that delights the “church girl” within me.  I love birthday parties and Pentecost is essentially the “Birthday of the Church”.  The church began with a passionate onslaught of the Holy Spirit which transcended the limitations of language and culture. The disciples were consumed with the fiery desire to spread the good news and everyone present responded with equal fervor.[i]

The lections emphasize the Holy Spirit as the harbinger of hope and possibilities.[ii]  In Acts 2:1-21, the disciples followed Jesus’ instructions to wait for their baptism by the Spirit.  It was the Festival of Weeks celebrated fifty days after the Feast of Unleavened Bread (Pentecost means “fifty”).[iii]  They were all together in one place.  All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages, as the Spirit gave them ability.  Some translations say that everyone heard them in their own language. Either way we can be assured that the Spirit enables God’s people to understand each other. Later in the text Peter suggests that this is the out pouring of the Spirit foretold by the prophet Joel.  Women, men, Gentile, Jew, rich and poor alike are drenched in the power of the Holy Spirit, receiving many gifts. This allows the church to be a new or renewed fellowship, opened wide to all, eager to discern and participate in God’s work in the world.[iv]

The Epistle (Romans 8:22-27) speaks of our ongoing relationship with the Holy Spirit.  In times of despair and fear we wait with patience for the unseen hope and likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but that very Spirit intercedes with sighs too deep for words.  I know that there are times when individuals and/or the community can be so weighted that prayer seems difficult.  I love the idea of the Holy Spirit easing into that space in our hearts and souls with a breath and a sigh leading us in prayer too deep for words.

The context of the Gospel (John 15:26-27: 16: 4-15) is the Last Supper.  Jesus wishes to prepare his disciples for the persecution, confusion, and suffering to come. He talks of the Paraclete (translated as Comforter, Advocate, Counselor and Spirit of Truth) he will send to testify on their behalf and establish Christ’s victory over the “world”.[v]

It is easy for human beings to misunderstand each other, especially in matters of faith.  It is equally easy to doubt our call, our ministry, and to wonder if we effectively serve our Lord. It’s nice to know that the Holy Spirit has been sent to help sort all of that out.  We have an advocate, someone on our side, but here’s the amazing thing: this Advocate, this Comforter is on everyone’s side!  That is the great truth that sets us free to look about, seeing situations and people with hearts wide open, knowing that God is guiding our sight.  The season after Pentecost is a time of action and growth.  The fiery passion of Pentecost makes us ready to go forth spreading the Word and trusting that we are not alone in this task.

Exuberant Spirit of God,
 bursting with the brightness of flame
into the coldness of our lives to warm us with
a passion for justice and beauty, we praise you.
Exuberant Spirit of God,
 sweeping us out of the dusty corners of our apathy to
breathe vitality into our struggles for change, we praise you.
Exuberant Spirit of God,
speaking words that leap over barriers of mistrust to convey
messages of truth and new understanding, we praise you/
Exuberant Spirit of God, flame, wind, speech.
burn, breathe, speak in us:
fill your world with justice and joy. Amen
(Jan Berry)

[i] Imaging the Word,  Vol. 2,  p. 209

[ii] Preaching God’s Transforming Justice Year B, p. 257

[iii] Keeping Holy Time  Year B, pp. 200-201

[iv] Daly Feast  Year B, p. 295

[v] Ibid # ii,  p. 203


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