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Lenten Devotions from Fourth Presbyterian Church

Sunday, June 4, 2017

Today’s Scripture 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)

One of my favorite Pentecost moments happened when I served a church in Irving, Texas. We decided to have Pentecost Sunday worship on the large, grassy courtyard that led up to the sanctuary steps. The Worship Committee thought worship outside that day could open us up in new ways to the wild, free Spirit of our God. I was excited about this new thing—until Saturday night. “What if things went badly?” I wondered. “What if it just feels too chaotic outside of the church walls?” “What if,” I asked myself, “people from the neighborhood heard my preaching and our singing? What would they think?”

All my worrying was for naught, and we worshiped outside on subsequent Pentecost Sundays. But my fear about other people hearing us worshiping lingered with me—not because I was proud of that fear, but because it surprised me. I was an ordained minister of the gospel. Why would I not want to proclaim God’s goodness for all people to hear! I realized I had been having anti-Pentecost thoughts about Pentecost worship.

One of the most impactful parts of this text from Acts is that folks on the “outside” of that disciple group heard the good news of God’s love in their own languages. They were surprised to hear the proclamation of God’s goodness expressed in a way they could understand, and while some of them were suspicious, others were captivated and came to understand God in a new way, in a way that claimed their lives and set them free.

I don’t remember if anyone from the neighborhood ever reacted to those outside worship services. But I would like to think that the wild, free Spirit of our Pentecost God was at work in our worshipful chaos, not just opening us up to experience God anew, but perhaps even opening up people who were surprised to hear our voices.

Wildly creative God, I am glad your Spirit blows where it will and refuses to be contained, even by me. I pray you will keep opening me up again and again so that I might take part in all the ways you bring newness and life. Amen.

Written by Shannon J. Kershner, Pastor

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