The Least, First

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The radicalism of Jesus [readings for Pentecost Sunday, May 11, 08]

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I was magnetized, attracted, to Jesus Christ. Especially as a university student, thirty-five years ago, his fearless declarations of world altering radicalism gave me goosebumps. He felt the tragedies that others overlooked. He saw the people that others overlooked.

And he infected his disciples. Imagine how, in an ethnocentric culture, these words might have been heard on the day of Pentecost:Aimee Semple McPherson

“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!

God, whom we believe had entered human culture through Jesus Christ, was at it again. This time, he began by stripping away barriers between human cultures, valuing each by speaking their native languages. He builds the bridge. He shows respect.

And there’s more. Peter insists that a long-predicted day has come – and is coming – to pass. And that day marks the beginning of a new social order that was surely shocking to their ears. [at right, Aimee Semple McPherson preaching in 1938, from a photo of the Regional History Center]

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.

Male and female prophets! Indeed, through the Acts, you’ll find both men and women in positions of authority and instruction. Paul later will add:

In Christ’s family there can be no division into Jew and non-Jew, slave and free, male and female. Among us you are all equal.

And, from today’s readings (below):

Each of us is now a part of his resurrection body, refreshed and sustained at one fountain-his Spirit-where we all come to drink. The old labels we once used to identify ourselves-labels like Jew or Greek, slave or free-are no longer useful. We need something larger, more comprehensive.

From the beginning of the church, utter equality of races, genders, and ages was proclaimed as the norm. What a tragic mistake it is, then, to take the few words from the writings of Paul that seem to imply otherwise – perhaps in sensitivity to certain local situations – and make them the norm in the church! What we have missed, and how we have limited our mission, by refusing to fully concede to God’s barrier-breaking Spirit!

He pioneers: through Jesus, esteeming the poor over the rich; through his Spirit, building bridges of language and respect to people of other cultures; and through his church, opening doors of spiritual leadership to all who are called.

May we live in fulfillment of the dreams of God, and in fearless non-conformity to the chains of misunderstanding.

Related post: Rage, Gender, Age Barriers Smashed!

Day of Pentecost

May 11, 2008
Acts 2:1-21; Psalm 104:24-34, 35b; 1 Corinthians 12:3b-13; John 20:19-23

Acts 2
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

1 Corinthians 12:3b-13
Spiritual Gifts
[No one would] be inclined to say “Jesus is Master!” without the insight of the Holy Spirit. 4-11God’s various gifts are handed out everywhere; but they all originate in God’s Spirit. God’s various ministries are carried out everywhere; but they all originate in God’s Spirit. God’s various expressions of power are in action everywhere; but God himself is behind it all. Each person is given something to do that shows who God is: Everyone gets in on it, everyone benefits. All kinds of things are handed out by the Spirit, and to all kinds of people! The variety is wonderful:

wise counsel, clear understanding, simple trust, healing the sick, miraculous acts, proclamation, distinguishing between spirits, tongues, interpretation of tongues.

All these gifts have a common origin, but are handed out one by one by the one Spirit of God. He decides who gets what, and when.

12-13You can easily enough see how this kind of thing works by looking no further than your own body. Your body has many parts-limbs, organs, cells-but no matter how many parts you can name, you’re still one body. It’s exactly the same with Christ. By means of his one Spirit, we all said good-bye to our partial and piecemeal lives. We each used to independently call our own shots, but then we entered into a large and integrated life in which he has the final say in everything. (This is what we proclaimed in word and action when we were baptized.) Each of us is now a part of his resurrection body, refreshed and sustained at one fountain-his Spirit-where we all come to drink. The old labels we once used to identify ourselves-labels like Jew or Greek, slave or free-are no longer useful. We need something larger, more comprehensive.

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

Psalm 104:24-35
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.

33-35 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. […]
O my soul, bless God!

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

John 20:19-23
To Believe
19-20Later on that day, the disciples had gathered together, but, fearful of the Jews, had locked all the doors in the house. Jesus entered, stood among them, and said, “Peace to you.” Then he showed them his hands and side.

20-21The disciples, seeing the Master with their own eyes, were exuberant. Jesus repeated his greeting: “Peace to you. Just as the Father sent me, I send you.”

22-23Then he took a deep breath and breathed into them. “Receive the Holy Spirit,” he said. “If you forgive someone’s sins, they’re gone for good. If you don’t forgive sins, what are you going to do with them?”

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


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Written by Monte

May 5, 2008 at 2:04 pm

Posted in Politics

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