Reflection 5/20: Pentecost
Dear Beloved Community of St. John’s
The details and sweep of the Pentecost story resonate precisely with those Jews inclined to be part of the early Jesus movement after Jesus’ ascension. This story is perfectly crafted to be familiar to any one with an association with Old Testimony, scripture, and faith practice. The elements of the story sound precisely like what people of faith know about God. God is God and will be God. Although early followers of Jesus go in a surprising direction, they are led by stories from of old, familiar tropes, metaphors, and energy.
What are the crucial, hefty elements that accompany that first Pentecost morning? God’s people gathered in fear and confusion. The rush of wind and a source of fire that breaks apart into “tongues” that land on and inspire Jesus’ followers. Witnesses to the power, awesomeness, and truth of the vital, essential message from God. Revelation impossible to ignore or misunderstand. Stories that simply must be told and heard. Changed lives.
What’s familiar here? The burning bush from which God speaks, with a fire that does not consume the bush. The mountaintop where Moses receives the law through the Ten Commandments, where thunder, fire, and pure drama attend God’s speaking directly to Moses and the Nation. The ability of people to listen and hear in ways that are unmistakable, and in a manner that seems crafted person to person. The early disciples would be reminded of the burning coal on the lips of Isaiah that gave him the voice and the authority of a prophet. The people prostrate by fear that only direct divine interventions can ameliorate. The powerful truth that simply has to be told: People can’t be quiet about God’s movement across the earth embedded deeply within the human heart. All of this is true about Christian Pentecost. Moreover, it is true through the sweep of God’s relationship with his people in the unstoppable, inevitable progress of salvation history through Hebrew scripture, story, and mindfulness.
It’s as if the narrative of the Pentecost story is like a check list of how God is alive, verbal, and a leader of his people in the world; and, the response is to check, check, check the various familiar components to corroborate the way that the people know how God works. God will choose, inspire, send out, and ensure that God’s Word is comprehensible to people who need to hear the message of God’s Kingdom and God’s incessant liveliness in human events.
The story of the first Christian Pentecost comes from somewhere recognizable. Our God is doing a surprising thing in a familiar way. God is the genuine article because we know God well, and God always guides us through the next steps.