Acts 2 The Holy Spirit Comes at Pentecost
Sunday May 31st, 2020
In the Cambridge Dictionary, the definition of “howl” or “howling” provides three options: 1) wind blowing hard and making noise 2) a dog or wolf sound 3) a communal noise made by a group of people.
Lori Wagner found interesting that in defining “howl,” the wind came first. But then, perhaps our idea of what a “howl” is comes from our experience in nature. In fact, in the movie, “Frozen,” Elsa sings, “The wind is howling like the swirling storm inside,” as she describes her emotions creating a tumult inside of her, much like a howling wind around her. The sounds around us often help us to define what we are feeling inside, emotionally and spiritually.
I like to think of the “howl” we read about in Acts 2 today, likewise, as a celebration. God’s primal “voice” howls through the disciples’ upper room and beyond, filling all present to saturation with the joy and freedom of the Holy Spirit. God not only is celebrating Jesus’ evangelistic mission cry and God’s victory over all the earth but the resilience and natural bonding of the human spirit, the primal love and communal nature of the true disciples’ soul. In that instant when the Holy Spirit’s howl touched down, humanity was united in something bigger than themselves, bigger than their politics, their viewpoints, even their languages. Nothing could separate God from kindness or humankind from itself, but all are joined in an ecstatic, primal shout of collaborative, supernatural joy.
Imagine for a moment how that must have sounded when that Holy Spirit howl filled the entire house! The sound seemed to come directly from the heavens, a sound like a fierce, howling wind, resonating through the very walls. The onset of that howl brought visuals too –flames seemed to alight on the heads of those present. They glowed with Holy Spirit fire. And immediately their spirits were filled, provoked, and energized into vocalizations of their own –they could speak the languages of all those around them, those they would seek out in mission to proclaim Jesus’ salvation. All dialects of the earth were united in that single primal howl.
Today, on this day of Pentecost, you are part of that communal message of God to all people. You are a beloved son or daughter of God, blessed in Jesus’ name and invited to participate in His mission. You are united in the Holy Spirit and the Unity of Christian of all denominations.
We encourage you to join in your communal howl. An utterance of joy and victory, of happiness, love, friendship, and freedom, acknowledging that no matter what happens on this earth, the human spirit can never be quenched, because the Holy Spirit is our healing elixir and our uniting bond. Howl, people of God. In your howling lies your healing.
Stephen P. McCutchan says that It is common to speak of Pentecost as the birthday of the church. He wants to add to that the image of marriage. As most of you are aware, marriages do not just happen with the signing of a contract. There is the courting period, and the public declaration of engagement before the formal ceremony takes place that lifts the importance of the couple's commitment to each other. Even the formal service does not make a marriage.
A marriage without a period of courting is based on blind chance. It may work, but the percentages of its success are greatly lessened. A marriage without the public declaration and ceremony may work as well, but it also tends to have an ephemeral quality. It is as if somehow the couple is not sure enough to publicly and pridefully declare to the world that they are committed to working out the delicate and difficult dimensions of a truly intimate relationship. The public ceremony invites a larger community to celebrate the couple's declaration of commitment to each other and support them in fulfilling that commitment.
A marriage is developed as we live out that commitment to each other, discovering our differences, our commonality, and developing that third something that did not exist until we came together. There are moments of joy, friction, boredom, and ecstasy as a couple begins to utilize every experience as an opportunity to deepen their relationship.
Those same sorts of dynamics are present in a healthy church community. Like in a marriage, members of a church discover that they carry into the community a lot of unconscious assumptions having to do with values, relationships, roles, and responsibilities. When I am counselling a young couple in preparation for marriage, I often suggest that they are entering into something like the formation of a new architectural partnership whose first contract is to design a new community. Fresh out of their respective schools of architecture, replete with all of the individual quirks of their professors who trained them, they enter into their new project with full enthusiasm.
Soon they begin to notice points of tension and disagreement over apparently trivial things. They need to be aware of and openly discuss that their training came from different schools of architecture. In those schools, they absorbed, unconsciously, different customs, values, and manners of working that each assumes to be generally true of everyone. Since they understand what they believe is generally acceptable truth, they see as irrational behaviour or resolute stubbornness the partner's insistence on doing it a different way.
Those same tensions often occur in a church among members and between members and their pastor. Each acts on assumptions and customs that they believe to be accurate and cannot understand any reason for changing. It is only as they learn to value the presence of various assumptions that they will begin to build a truly healthy church.
With that image in mind, let us turn to Pentecost. As he mentioned, Pentecost has often been referred to as the birthday of the church. The book of Acts records that the disciples and followers of Jesus were gathered together in Jerusalem following the cross's events. Most likely, they were a mixed, disorganized, frightened group of people. Their hopes had been raised so high by this man Jesus, then dashed to pieces by his execution as a criminal on the cross. Then some among them spoke of having experienced Jesus alive again. But even if that were so, he was not among them now to give them direction. The world outside seemed cold, inhospitable, and unresponsive. If people would not listen to Jesus and have rejected both him and his message, what hope was there for this small, frightened group of people to have any effect on the world?
Aware of their many weaknesses, confused as to their role in the world, and disoriented as to the direction they should move, they gathered for Pentecost's feast. Pentecost was the Greek name for the second of the three great religious feasts of the Jewish year. It was originally an agricultural festival celebrating the completion of the harvest, something like our Thanksgiving. As Israel became more urbanized, it became a time to celebrate the renewal of the covenant or agreement between God and God's people.
Then, after years of the Jewish people celebrating this Pentecost festival, a mixed group of frightened Jews who had followed Jesus sought to rededicate themselves as part of the people of God. They wanted to make a new beginning as followers of "the way" in which Jesus had instructed them. Like their Jewish ancestors before them, they wanted to reflect upon their covenant with God and to seek a new direction for their life together.
Acts 2 is the second chapter of the Apostles' Acts in the New Testament of the Christian Bible, this chapter records the events on the day of Pentecost, about ten days after the ascension of Jesus Christ.
The biblical narrative of Pentecost is given in the second chapter of the Book of Acts. Present were about one hundred and twenty followers of Christ (Acts 1:15), including the Twelve Apostles, Jesus' mother Mary, various other women disciples and Jesus' brothers (Acts 1:14). Their reception of the Holy Spirit in the Upper Room and their empowerment to speak in tongues are recounted in Acts 2:1–6:
Verses 1–6 1When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place. 2 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. 3 Divided tongues, as of fire, appeared among them, and a tongue rested on each of them. 4 All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages, as the Spirit gave them ability. 5 Now there were devout Jews from every nation under heaven living in Jerusalem. 6 And at this sound, the crowd gathered and was bewildered, because each one heard them speaking in the native language of each.
While those on whom the Spirit had descended were speaking in many languages, the Apostle Peter stood up with the eleven and proclaimed to the crowd that this event was the fulfillment of the prophecy of Joel (in Book of Joel 2:28–29): " ... I will pour out my Spirit...". (Acts 2:17).
Verse 15 For these are not drunk, as you suppose since it is the third hour of the day. The third hour of the day (about 9:00 AM): Peter explains that it is only breakfast time.
Verses 16–21 16 But this is what was spoken by the prophet Joel: 17 In the last days it shall be, says God, that I will pour out My Spirit on all flesh; your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams. 18 Even on My menservants and maidservants, I will pour out My Spirit in those days; and they shall prophesy. 19 And I will show wonders in heaven above and signs on the earth below: blood, and fire, and vapour of smoke. 20 The sun shall be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood, before that great and glorious day of the Lord comes. 21 And whoever calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved. The extended quotation from Joel 2:28–32 (LXX) is to support that this event is something predicted in Scripture, and it clarifies some points about the apostolic proclamation.
The Christian holiday of Pentecost, which is celebrated the 49th day (the seventh Sunday) after Easter Sunday, commemorates the descent of the Holy Spirit upon the Apostles and other followers of Jesus Christ while they were in Jerusalem celebrating the Feast of Weeks, as described in the Acts of the Apostles (Acts 2:1–31).
The holiday is also called "White Sunday" or "Whitsunday" or "Whitsun", especially in the United Kingdom, where traditionally the next day, Whit Monday, was also a public holiday (since 1971 fixed by statute on the last Monday in May). In German, Pentecost is called Pfingsten, developed through contracting the Greek term pen[te]k[os]te, and often coincides with scholastic holidays and the beginning of many outdoor and springtime activities, such as festivals and organized outdoor activities by youth organizations. The Monday after Pentecost is a legal holiday in many European countries.
Pentecost is one of the Great Feasts of the Eastern Orthodox Church, a Solemnity in the Roman Rite of the Catholic Church, a Festival in the Lutheran Churches, and a Principal Feast in the Anglican Communion. Many Christian denominations provide a special liturgy for this holy celebration.
Scholars believe that Pope Leo, Sermons 75 – 77, were given on Pentecost Sunday. In these sermons, Pope Leo discusses Macedonianism dating to the 5th century, which the Catholic Church denounced as heresy because it considered the Holy Spirit inferior to the Father and Son, thereby undermining the Trinity. He also denounces Manichean doctrine on the Holy Spirit, which taught that the Holy Spirit was present in Mani. Pope Leo discusses other Catholic doctrines about the Holy Spirit, especially emphasizing the Spirit's relationship to the Father and Son of the Trinity and the Catholic Church. He draws an analogy between Jewish practices and the Christian feast day: "As once to the Hebrew people, freed from Egypt, the law was given on Mt. Sinai on the fiftieth day after the sacrifice of the lamb, so after the Passion of the Christ when the true Lamb of God was killed, on the fiftieth day from his Resurrection, the Holy Spirit came down on the apostles and the community of believers." Pope Leo calls this the Second Covenant and says that it is established by the same Spirit who has set up the first. He describes the Holy Spirit's descent upon the disciples on Pentecost as the fulfillment of a long-awaited promise.
This year it falls during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Tragedy can strike so quickly and capriciously. While going about our everyday lives, in a moment, in the blink of an eye, the world can be changed. Natural disasters: tsunamis, earthquakes, floods, tornadoes. If you have avoided tragedy at this point in your life, thank God that you have been spared, but consider yourself lucky.
Today as a world, we are dealing with the COVID-19 virus and the uncertain nature it has brought to our everyday lives. Recognize it is only a matter of time.
On this Sunday of Pentecost, Christians worldwide are away from their church due to the COVID 19 infections, and we need to keep our distances from other Christians. With me pray God for the end of this epidemic, COVID-19 is a death threat that has already made unenjoyable on many lives. Celebrate the Lord, who gives endurance and restores vitality, now and always.
Pray with us with Eric Michel Ministries International
Bill Bouknight's prayer
"Lord, you who permit my grief
Are the only one
Who can assuage it?
Do you permit grief
That I might learn
To be content
With nothing less
Then the comfort of God?
Whatever the reason
One thing I am learning:
You make it useful to me
All that you permit.
So, dear God
Though a great ache
Wells within my heart
I ask you to grip my life.
Empower me to go
From depth to depth with You
Until I am a wounded healer.
Bringing your comfort to others
As you are now comforting me.
Rev. Eric Michel Archbishop
Source for Bible Verses: Wikipedia.org