Day of Pentecost

Pentecost, meaning fifty days, is the name in Greek for the Feast of Weeks (Shavuot) in the Hebrew Bible. It occurs seven weeks after the beginning of Passover, on the fiftieth day. With consistently covenantal associations, Pentecost came to be seen among Jesus’ followers as the seal of his continuing, risen presence with them in the form of the divine Spirit that he sent to them. The reading from Genesis (11:1-9) refers to God’s division of human speech into different languages, while the passage from Acts stresses the Spirit’s renewal of mutual understanding among all peoples. The passage in Acts (2:1-21) is the most famous of the readings appointed for the day, but the Gospel reading (John 14:8-17 [25-27]) stresses the continuing empowerment of the Spirit in the actions and teaching of Jesus’ followers. Paul views the coming of the Spirit as realized in baptism (Romans 8:14-17), while Psalm 104 articulates the theology that God’s Spirit animates the whole of creation. 

The First Reading
Acts 2:1–21
The Coming of the Spirit on Pentecost

The Apostle RockPeterreminds Gentile believers of their inclusion into the family of God by way of adoption through the receiving of the Spirit. With this reminder, Rock seeks to encourage believers to see their current suffering in light of the glory to come.

When the day of Pentecost arrived, they were all together in one place. Suddenly from heaven came a sound like a forceful, rushing wind that filled the entire house where everyone was gathered. And dividing tongues like fire appeared to them, and they rested upon each one of them. And they were all filled with the holy Spirit and began to speak other tongues as the Spirit gave utterance to them. Now there were residing in Jerusalem devout Jews from every nation under heaven. When this sound occurred, the crowd gathered and was confused, because each one was hearing the others speaking in his own language. They were both bewildered and astonished asking, “Look! Are not all of these who are speaking Galileans? How are we hearing—each one of us—our own native language? Parthians, Medes, Elamites, and those living in Mesopotamia, Judea, and also Cappadocia, Pontus, and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya belonging to Cyrene, and visiting Romans, both Judeans and also proselytes, Cretans and Arabians. We all hear them speaking in our own languages about the mighty works of God!” All were astonished and bewildered, saying to one another, “What does this mean?” Others mocked, “They are full of sweet wine.” Rock—Peter—standing with the Eleven raised his voice and addressed them: “People of Judea and all those living in Jerusalem, let this be known to you and pay attention to my words. For these people are not drunk as you are assuming, for it is only the third hour in the day, but this is what had been foretold through the prophet Joel. It will be in the last days, God declares—‘I will pour out from my Spirit upon all flesh, and your sons and daughters will prophesy, and your young will see visions and your old will dream dreams. Even upon my male servants and female servants in the last days I will pour out from my Spirit, and they will prophesy. And I will give wonders in the heavens above and signs upon the earth below—blood and fire, and column of smoke. The sun will be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood, before that great and magnificent day of the Lord comes. And it will be that all who call upon the name of the Lord will be saved.’”

or Genesis 11:1-9
The Tower of Babel

In the Tower of Babel story, human hubris is expressed in peoples’ attempts to make a name for themselves. The Israelite model is that God chooses people whose name God will make great (Abraham and his descendants; Genesis 12:1-3), and who in turn will honor and witness to God’s name. In response, God diminishes the perfection of creation by dividing humans into mutually unintelligible languages. Read in conjunction with the Tower of Babel narrative, Acts 2:1-21’s portrayal of people understanding each other across languages suggests that the availability to them of divine Spirit signals the world’s return to the perfect state God intended it to have at the time of creation. The Hebrew Bible’s story depicts the shattering of human cohesion in society. The book of Act’s story suggests that, through Jesus, the shattered social world is fully repaired.

The entire earth spoke one language and the same words. When they traveled from the east, they found a plain in the land of Shinar and settled there. Now, they said to each other, “Let’s make bricks and bake them thoroughly.” So they had bricks for stone and tar for mortar. They said, “Let’s build ourselves a city with a tower that reaches to the sky, to make a name for ourselves, so that we do not become scattered across the face of the earth.” The Lord came down to see this city and the tower people had built. The Lord said, “If, as one people with one language, they have begun to do this, nothing they want to accomplish will be beyond their ability. Let us therefore go down and confuse their language so that no person will understand the other’s language.” So the Lord scattered them from there across the face of the earth, and they ceased building this city. For this reason, it is called Babel, since there the Lord confused the language of the entire earth, and from there the Lord scattered them across the face of all the earth.

The Psalm
Psalm 104:23-34, 35b
God, Who Created All Living Things

God’s Spirit animates the whole of creation, reflected in all aspects of nature.

  • 23. A person goes out to labor,
    to work until evening.
  • 24. How many are your works, Lord!
    All of them you carried out with wisdom.
    The earth is full of your creations.
  • 25. There is the sea, vast and wide,
    swarming with unnumbered creatures,
    living things big and small.
  • 26. Ships traverse it,
    and Leviathan, which you created to play there.
  • 27. All of them turn to you for sustenance,
    to give them their food at the right time.
  • 28. You give it to them; they take it up;
    you open your hand; they are well satisfied.
  • 29. When you hide your face, they are terrified;
    when you make an end to their breath, they perish;
    to dust they return.
  • 30. When you extend your breath, they are created,
    and you renew the face of the earth.
  • 31. The Lord’s glory is forever;
    may the Lord rejoice in God’s creations,
  • 32. the one who stares at the earth and it trembles,
    who touches the mountains and they smoke.
  • 33. I shall sing to the Lord during my life,
    praise my God while I live.
  • 34. My contemplations will please God;
    I will rejoice in the Lord.
  • 35b. Praise the Lord, my inner being!
    Hallelujah!

The Second Reading
Romans 8:14–17
Heirs Along with the Anointed by Way of the Spirit

The Apostle Paul reminds Gentile believers of their inclusion into the family of God by way of adoption through the receiving of the Spirit. With this reminder, Paul seeks to encourage believers to see their current suffering in light of the glory to come.

For all who are being led by the Spirit of God, these very ones are the children of God. For you did not receive a spirit for slavery again resulting in fear, but you received the Spirit to become God’s sons and daughters, by virtue of which we cry out, “Abba, Father!” That Spirit is bearing witness together with our spirit that we are children of God. So, if children, then heirs—heirs of God and co-heirs along with the Anointed—if indeed we are suffering with him, it is so that we can also be glorified with him.

or Acts 2:1–21
The Coming of the Spirit on Pentecost

The Apostle RockPeterreminds Gentile believers of their inclusion into the family of God by way of adoption through the receiving of the Spirit. With this reminder, Rock seeks to encourage believers to see their current suffering in light of the glory to come.

When the day of Pentecost arrived, they were all together in one place. Suddenly from heaven came a sound like a forceful, rushing wind that filled the entire house where everyone was gathered. And dividing tongues like fire appeared to them, and they rested upon each one of them. And they were all filled with the holy Spirit and began to speak other tongues as the Spirit gave utterance to them. Now there were residing in Jerusalem devout Jews from every nation under heaven. When this sound occurred, the crowd gathered and was confused, because each one was hearing the others speaking in his own language. They were both bewildered and astonished asking, “Look! Are not all of these who are speaking Galileans? How are we hearing—each one of us—our own native language? Parthians, Medes, Elamites, and those living in Mesopotamia, Judea, and also Cappadocia, Pontus, and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya belonging to Cyrene, and visiting Romans, both Judeans and also proselytes, Cretans and Arabians. We all hear them speaking in our own languages about the mighty works of God!” All were astonished and bewildered, saying to one another, “What does this mean?” Others mocked, “They are full of sweet wine.” Rock—Peter—standing with the Eleven raised his voice and addressed them: “People of Judea and all those living in Jerusalem, let this be known to you and pay attention to my words. For these people are not drunk as you are assuming, for it is only the third hour in the day, but this is what had been foretold through the prophet Joel. It will be in the last days, God declares—‘I will pour out from my Spirit upon all flesh, and your sons and daughters will prophesy, and your young will see visions and your old will dream dreams. Even upon my male servants and female servants in the last days I will pour out from my Spirit, and they will prophesy. And I will give wonders in the heavens above and signs upon the earth below—blood and fire, and column of smoke. The sun will be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood, before that great and magnificent day of the Lord comes. And it will be that all who call upon the name of the Lord will be saved.’”

The Gospel
John 14:8-17 [25-27]
Jesus’ Promise that God will send his Spirit as an Advocate

John conceives of the presence of God’s Spirit with Jesus’ followers as the living proof that Jesus and the Father are one. On that basis, Jesus could show who God truly is and could speak and act on the Father’s behalf. That power continues in the lives of Jesus’ students, because the Spirit sent by the Father enables them to act in even greater ways than Jesus did, and to teach the wisdom that he conveyed.

Philip said to him, “Master, show us the Father, and it will be enough for us.” Jesus said to him, “How long have I been with you all and you do not know me, Philip? Who has seen me has seen the Father! How can you say, ‘Show us the Father?’ Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me? The sayings that I say to you I do not speak from myself, but the Father who is in me does his deeds. Believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me, but if not, believe because of these very deeds. Amen, amen, I say to you, the one who believes in me—that one will do the deeds that I do, and will do greater than these, because I proceed to the Father. And if anyone should ask something in my name, this I will do, so that the Father might be glorified in the Son. If you ask anything in my name, I will do it. If you love me, you will keep my commands, and I will appeal to the Father and he will give you another advocate, to be with you forever—the Spirit of truth—whom the world does not receive, because it does not perceive or know. You know, because Spirit remains with you and will be in you.”

“I have spoken these things to you while with you, but the advocate, the holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you everything and remind you of everything that I said to you. Peace I leave you, my peace I give you: not as the world gives do I give you. Your heart shall not be troubled nor afraid.”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *