Tomorrow’s Pentecost, let’s remember what God did for us

Published 12:01 am Saturday, May 23, 2015

By the Rev. Bob Madsen

Tomorrow is Pentecost, the day on which the Spirit of God came upon the disciples of Jesus and sent them into the world to proclaim the gospel.

According to Luke, the author of the biblical book of Acts, it was an extraordinary event accompanied by the sound as of a rushing wind and the manifestation of something that looked like tongues of fire. (Not your typical fare in a Presbyterian sanctuary.)

The best part of the account of the event is what happens after the disciples are inspired by the Spirit: they rush out into the streets of Jerusalem and begin proclaiming the gospel in languages from all over the known world and in some languages that were no longer spoken.

Luke says that people from all over the known world were there for the Jewish festival of Pentecost and all could hear and understand the disciples as if they were speaking in the native languages of the religious pilgrims.

Some folks like to think about the day of Pentecost as the day on which the confusion of human languages at the Tower of Babel is undone.

It may be more precise to say that the stumbling block created by the confusion of languages is overcome on the day of Pentecost.

I am frequently amazed by the ways in which the gospel overcomes the barriers behind which we are trapped and even those we build to trap ourselves.

Human communities often form around ties that are specific to families or groups of friends or like-minded folk.

The gospel invites us to move beyond those places where we are most comfortable and embrace folks we often think of as foreign and unlikable.

It even asks us to consider that the love God has for God’s children includes those we might want to exclude.

Jesus’ critics condemned him because he ate with sinners, tax collectors, and prostitutes and welcomed outcasts, aliens, and the overlooked.

Psalm 104 describes the wonder of God’s providential care for God’s creation and observes that when God’s face is hidden from God’s creatures we wither, but when God’s Spirit is set loose we thrive.

Pentecost is a day for remembering what God’s children can do when we are gripped in the power of God’s Spirit. It isn’t just a day to celebrate; it is a way of life.