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Sunday, May 19, 2013
Today’s Reading | Acts 2:1–21
When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place. And suddenly from heaven there came a sound like the rush of a violent wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. Divided tongues, as of fire, appeared among them, and a tongue rested on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages, as the Spirit gave them ability.
Now there were devout Jews from every nation under heaven living in Jerusalem. And at this sound the crowd gathered and was bewildered, because each one heard them speaking in the native language of each. Amazed and astonished, they asked, “Are not all these who are speaking Galileans? And how is it that we hear, each of us, in our own native language? Parthians, Medes, 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 Arabs—in our own languages we hear them speaking about God’s deeds of power.” All were amazed and perplexed, saying to one another, “What does this mean?” But others sneered and said, “They are filled with new wine.”
But Peter, standing with the eleven, raised his voice and addressed them, “Men of Judea and all who live in Jerusalem, let this be known to you, and listen to what I say. Indeed, these are not drunk, as you suppose, for it is only nine o’clock in the morning. No, this is what was spoken through the prophet Joel:
‘In the last days it will be, God declares,
that I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh,
and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy,
and your young men shall see visions,
and your old men shall dream dreams.
Even upon my slaves, both men and women,
in those days I will pour out my Spirit;
and they shall prophesy.
And I will show portents in the heaven above
and signs on the earth below,
blood, and fire, and smoky mist.
The sun shall be turned to darkness
and the moon to blood,
before the coming of the Lord’s great and glorious day.
Then everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.’ (NRSV)
I like to think of myself as fairly articulate and capable of explaining pretty well the ins and outs of our Presbyterian expression of the Christian faith. After all, it’s a pretty important part of doing the work of welcoming new members to Fourth Church.
However, I will never forget the time I was being examined by my Session at my home church and an Elder I knew well asked me, “What is your relationship with Jesus Christ?” In sincerely attempting to answer that question, I found that my words fell short. They couldn’t convey the overwhelming emotions that tumbled through my heart. I stumbled through an answer, but I could barely keep my composure, and I think all the Elders knew that the true answer to the question went far beyond my words. I still remember the burning feeling that overcame me.
In the story of Pentecost, the miracle is that the Holy Spirit descends, like fire, upon Jesus’ followers, and so they’re empowered to speak words that testify to the truth of Jesus Christ. They bring people of faith from all over the empire into a new relationship with God in Jesus Christ.
Perhaps you’re like me: the burning fire of your relationship of faith and love with Jesus Christ doesn’t rest visibly on your head, but you can feel the power and brightness of your relationship with Christ in your heart. And maybe your words, like mine, aren’t enough to truly explain the richness and depth of it to others.
I pray that, by some miracle, the Holy Spirit might empower us to find a way—perhaps by our actions or in our relationships—to convey our love of Christ to a world that needs the grace only he can offer.
Batter my heart, three-personed God, for you
As yet but knock, breathe, shine, and seek to mend;
That I may rise, and stand, o’erthrow me, and bend
Your force to break, blow, burn, and make me new.
. . . Take me to you, imprison me, for I,
Except you enthrall me, never shall be free,
Nor ever chaste, except you ravish me. Amen.
(Holy Sonnet 14 by John Donne)
Reflection written by Hardy H. Kim, Associate Pastor for Evangelism
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