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Lenten Devotions from Fourth Presbyterian Church

Sunday, June 9, 2019              

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)

Reflection
From childhood I have found that this astonishing passage from the Acts of the Apostles sparks my imagination and inspires hope. Think of the disciples gathered in a room, pondering what Jesus had meant, before he ascended on a cloud (amazing enough), when he told them that by the power of the Holy Spirit they would carry his teachings to the “ends of the earth.”

Were they expecting the Holy Spirit to come in the form of the sound of a violent wind followed by tongues of fire? Were they expecting the tongues of fire to enable them to speak in their native tongue and yet be understood by people who spoke different languages?        

What does this extraordinary ability mean? Why were they so gifted? Perhaps speech is a form of communication that is reflected in actions as well. Are there not some deeds that are understood by everyone, regardless of language? For example, kindness to the person sitting on cardboard and holding a cup, respect for those who look and think differently than we do, and encouragement for the least among us, all “speak” to the soul. From this Pentecost moment, the disciples went forth, quite literally, to the ends of the earth, spreading the good news by their words and their actions.

The Holy Spirit continues to enable us to bring the good news through our words and actions. As St. Francis of Assisi advised, “Preach always; use words if necessary.”

Prayer
“Come Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of the faithful and enkindle in them the power of your love.” Amen.

Written by Margaret Brennan, Replogle Center for Counseling and Well-Being

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