23 May 2021
The power and significance of the Pentecost celebration is impossible to overstate, and this year the readings really reveal how far this gift of God’s Spirit reaches. Pentecost is not just about a few individuals receiving a euphoric experience. Rather, the outpouring of God’s Spirit reveals a whole new order for the entire cosmos!
May our celebration this year empower us and open us to find our place in the glorious, God-sustained unity of creation.
Acts 2:1-21: The believers are filled with the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost, and they start to praise God in various languages.
OR Ezekiel 37:1-14: The prophet is given a vision of dry bones in a desolate valley, and God asks if they can live again. Then God commands him to speak and as he does, the bones come together, are clothed with flesh, and receive the breath of life.
Psalm 104:24-34, 35b: The world and all its creatures depend on God for provision and breath – which leads the Psalmist to commit to praise God.
Romans 8:22-27: All of creation, and we, hope for the day when God’s children receive their “full rights.” In the meantime, when we are weak, the Holy Spirit helps us by praying for us in groans beyond words.
OR Acts 2:1-21: See Above
John 15:26-27; 16:4b-15: Jesus tells his disciples that he is going away, and that this is a good thing, because then he can send the Holy Spirit to be their advocate, to convict of sin and to lead people into truth.
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REFLECTIONS ON THEME:
This year the Pentecost celebration has a particular emphasis on how the gift of God’s Spirit impacts, not just followers of Christ, or even human beings, but the whole of creation. As usual, the reading from Acts 2 describes the experience of the disciples when they receive God’s Spirit. The John reading supports this narrative with the account of Jesus’ promise of the gift of the Holy Spirit whose presence and action will be experienced not just by the followers of Christ but also by the world. The life-giving power of the Spirit is also reflected in Ezekiel’s prophecy in which God promises to revive and “resurrect” God’s people. But, when these readings are placed beside the Psalm, which describes how all of creation depends on God for breath and life, and the Romans passage, which describes all of creation as awaiting the time when God’s life flows through God’s children, the cosmic implications of this day become clear. The giving of God’s Spirit is not just about personal empowerment, or an individual experience of God’s presence. It is about God’s life and grace flowing into the entire cosmos. It is about followers of Christ being empowered to bring God’s resurrection life to the whole of creation, finding our place in the unity of God’s universe. The reverse of the Babel confusion of languages is simply an image of the reuniting of all things under Christ by God’s Spirit, and the experience which the disciples shared is recognised, in the Scriptures, to be available to all people, and ultimately, to all of creation.
CONNECTING WITH LIFE:
The message of Pentecost for all creation is further strengthened when we remember that it was originally the feast of first fruits – a thanksgiving for the harvest. Today, we seem to have lost this appreciation for the earth and the life God gives us through it. Rather than taking care to protect and preserve our planet, we debate whether climate change is our fault. Rather than appreciate and care for the resources that our planet provides to ensure sustainability, we exploit the earth to the maximum, damaging the creatures with whom we share the world, and jeopardising our children’s future. When we view Pentecost as nothing more than a personal gift of empowerment and presence from God to us, we run the risk of increasing our selfishness and ignoring the wider call of God for which we have been empowered. But, neither we nor our world can afford such self-indulgence. Rather, we need to hear the message of the Scriptures which proclaim that God’s “breath” gives life to all creation, and which reminds us that creation longs for us to take our place as Spirit-filled, loving, life-bringing children of God. This means, on a personal level, that part of our spirituality must include making daily choices for simple, sustainable living, and on a global scale, it must mean that we work, in whatever capacity we can, for governments, corporations and communities to make choices for sustainability and planetary care. God’s salvation, and the dream of God’s Reign, are not just about personal, human restoration. Eternal life is about the entire cosmos brought together in Christ, and this is the Pentecost challenge this year.
It is unfortunate that Pentecost has largely been presented, in the Church of today, as a personal “second blessing” experience that “fills” or “baptises” us with God’s Spirit. There are a number of problems with this view from both a theological and a practical perspective. Theologically, this denies the Scriptural testimony that God is omnipresent. As Richard Rohr says, God is either everywhere or nowhere. Pentecost has to have been less an outpouring of God’s Spirit and more an “outpouring” of awareness of God’s Spirit that has always been the sustaining breath of creation. From a practical perspective, the individualistic view of Pentecost too often leads to rather un-Christlike attitudes of superiority, judgment and exclusivity. The Pentecost moment, however, is far more far-reaching and significant than just a personal experience of blessing. If are truly to open ourselves, both as individuals and as communities, to the Pentecost Spirit, we must also open ourselves to our connection with others and with the cosmos – not just with God. This means that we receive God’s gift as an empowerment which comes with a responsibility to grow in love, to grow in compassion and respect for other people, for all creatures and for the earth. Then, as we live out of this empowerment, we must inevitably make daily choices in the direction of unity, sustainability, peace and inclusivity.
RESOURCES FOR WORSHIP:
A Pentecost Thanksgiving
Building Blocks Of The Kingdom
Breathe On Me Breath Of God
O Thou Who Camest From Above
Spirit Divine Attend Our Prayers
O Spirit Of The Living God
All Creatures Of Our God And King
Breathe (Link to YouTube video)
All Who Are Thirsty (Link to YouTube video)
Shine Jesus Shine (Link to YouTube video)
A Pentecost Liturgy
A Liturgy of Creation and Communion
Pentecost – Acts 2
The Holy Spirit at Pentecost