The Least, First

Monte Asbury's blog

Race, gender, age barriers smashed! (readings for Pentecost 05)

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Pentecost, Nora Kelly (Ireland)What a day of surprises that first Christian Pentecost must have been! We’re not used to them even yet.

Peter stands up amidst a throng of foreigners and is heard by each in their native language. He calls out the centuries-old prophecies of Joel. And he says, “This is it. Now.” [at left, Pentecost by Irish artist Nora Kelly]

Shocking indeed, that barriers of communication among people of many nations were miraculously bridged (in amusing contrast to that which we today label Pentecostal). But look what other barriers are declared finis:

“I will pour out my Spirit on all people.
Your young … your old …
Your sons and your daughters will prophesy …
Even on my servants, both men and women, I will pour out my Spirit … and they will prophesy.”

National/racial barriers removed. Age barriers removed. Gender barriers removed (as if knowing people will have a hard time believing it, he says that one twice.) It’s a perfect summary of the example of Jesus. And this is the way it was to be from then on.

But how falteringly have we Christians taken up Peter’s cry! How unquestioningly we permit nation or race to cancel Jesus’ command to love all people. How pathetic that male privilege still trumps the equity Peter announced as the new norm (and prophesy does not here mean so much a telling of the future as it does speak for God). How tragic that old and young are segregated and mutually devalued in “communities” of faith.

Back to our roots, Church! Let all see that Jesus Christ means radically egalitarian love, radically egalitarian roles, radically egalitarian hope. And let no one imprison our faith in the rule-books of restriction and exclusion.

Related post:  The radicalism of Jesus Christ

Read on for the Scriptures themselves …

Day of Pentecost
May 27, 2007
*Acts 2:1-21
or

Genesis 11:1-9
Psalm 104:24-34, 35b Romans 8:14-17
or
Acts 2:1-21
John 14:8-17, (25-27)
Acts 2:1-21

View commentary related to this passage

A Sound Like a Strong Wind

1-4 When the Feast of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place. Without warning there was a sound like a strong wind, gale force—no one could tell where it came from. It filled the whole building. Then, like a wildfire, the Holy Spirit spread through their ranks, and they started speaking in a number of different languages as the Spirit prompted them. 5-11There were many Jews staying in Jerusalem just then, devout pilgrims from all over the world. When they heard the sound, they came on the run. Then when they heard, one after another, their own mother tongues being spoken, they were thunderstruck. They couldn’t for the life of them figure out what was going on, and kept saying, “Aren’t these all Galileans? How come we’re hearing them talk in our various mother tongues?

Parthians, Medes, and Elamites;
Visitors from Mesopotamia, Judea, and Cappadocia,
Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia,
Egypt and the parts of Libya belonging to Cyrene;
Immigrants from Rome, both Jews and proselytes;
Even Cretans and Arabs!
“They’re speaking our languages, describing God’s mighty works!”

12Their heads were spinning; they couldn’t make head or tail of any of it. They talked back and forth, confused: “What’s going on here?”

13Others joked, “They’re drunk on cheap wine.”

Peter Speaks Up

14-21That’s when Peter stood up and, backed by the other eleven, spoke out with bold urgency: “Fellow Jews, all of you who are visiting Jerusalem, listen carefully and get this story straight. These people aren’t drunk as some of you suspect. They haven’t had time to get drunk—it’s only nine o’clock in the morning. This is what the prophet Joel announced would happen:

“In the Last Days,” God says,
“I will pour out my Spirit
on every kind of people:
Your sons will prophesy,
also your daughters;
Your young men will see visions,
your old men dream dreams.
When the time comes,
I’ll pour out my Spirit
On those who serve me, men and women both,
and they’ll prophesy.
I’ll set wonders in the sky above
and signs on the earth below,
Blood and fire and billowing smoke,
the sun turning black and the moon blood-red,
Before the Day of the Lord arrives,
the Day tremendous and marvelous;
And whoever calls out for help
to me, God, will be saved.”

The Message (MSG)Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson

Psalm 104:24-35

View commentary related to this passage

24-30 What a wildly wonderful world, God!
You made it all, with Wisdom at your side,
made earth overflow with your wonderful creations.
Oh, look—the deep, wide sea,
brimming with fish past counting,
sardines and sharks and salmon.
Ships plow those waters,
and Leviathan, your pet dragon, romps in them.
All the creatures look expectantly to you
to give them their meals on time.
You come, and they gather around;
you open your hand and they eat from it.
If you turned your back,
they’d die in a minute—
Take back your Spirit and they die,
revert to original mud;
Send out your Spirit and they spring to life—
the whole countryside in bloom and blossom.

31-32 The glory of God—let it last forever!
Let God enjoy his creation!
He takes one look at earth and triggers an earthquake,
points a finger at the mountains, and volcanoes erupt.

33-34 Oh, let me sing to God all my life long,
sing hymns to my God as long as I live!
Oh, let my song please him;
I’m so pleased to be singing to God. …
35b O my soul, bless God!

The Message (MSG)Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson

John 14:8-17

View commentary related to this passage

8Philip said, “Master, show us the Father; then we’ll be content.”

9-10“You’ve been with me all this time, Philip, and you still don’t understand? To see me is to see the Father. So how can you ask, ‘Where is the Father?’ Don’t you believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me? The words that I speak to you aren’t mere words. I don’t just make them up on my own. The Father who resides in me crafts each word into a divine act.

11-14“Believe me: I am in my Father and my Father is in me. If you can’t believe that, believe what you see—these works. The person who trusts me will not only do what I’m doing but even greater things, because I, on my way to the Father, am giving you the same work to do that I’ve been doing. You can count on it. From now on, whatever you request along the lines of who I am and what I am doing, I’ll do it. That’s how the Father will be seen for who he is in the Son. I mean it. Whatever you request in this way, I’ll do.

The Spirit of Truth

15-17“If you love me, show it by doing what I’ve told you. I will talk to the Father, and he’ll provide you another Friend so that you will always have someone with you. This Friend is the Spirit of Truth. The godless world can’t take him in because it doesn’t have eyes to see him, doesn’t know what to look for. But you know him already because he has been staying with you, and will even be in you!

Romans 8:14-17

View commentary related to this passage

12-14So don’t you see that we don’t owe this old do-it-yourself life one red cent. There’s nothing in it for us, nothing at all. The best thing to do is give it a decent burial and get on with your new life. God’s Spirit beckons. There are things to do and places to go!

15-17This resurrection life you received from God is not a timid, grave-tending life. It’s adventurously expectant, greeting God with a childlike “What’s next, Papa?” God’s Spirit touches our spirits and confirms who we really are. We know who he is, and we know who we are: Father and children. And we know we are going to get what’s coming to us—an unbelievable inheritance! We go through exactly what Christ goes through. If we go through the hard times with him, then we’re certainly going to go through the good times with him!

The Message (MSG)Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson

John 14:25-27

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25-27“I’m telling you these things while I’m still living with you. The Friend, the Holy Spirit whom the Father will send at my request, will make everything plain to you. He will remind you of all the things I have told you. I’m leaving you well and whole. That’s my parting gift to you. Peace. I don’t leave you the way you’re used to being left—feeling abandoned, bereft. So don’t be upset. Don’t be distraught.

The Message (MSG)Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson


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4 Responses

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    Vena Nocon

    September 3, 2016 at 9:43 am

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  3. Do you know where I can purchase a print of Nora Kelly’s Pentecost?

    Maria Tasto

    June 28, 2009 at 7:41 pm


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