Pentecost did not begin as a Christian holiday. The followers of Jesus gather together to await the visitation of the Spirit that Jesus promised, but hundreds and perhaps thousands of other Jewish people from across the world have come to Jerusalem to celebrate the Jewish holiday Shavuot, or the Feast of Weeks, which was called Pentecost in Greek. The Greek name is based on the word for fifty because this holiday comes fifty days after Passover.
Too often when Christians read Acts 2 we focus on the fact that the disciples speak in languages that are not native to them and that they have never studied. As remarkable as that experience must be, it is incomplete, however, unless there is someone to hear and to understand the words of the languages they speak. Perhaps the greater miracle of Pentecost is that people from many countries who speak many languages hear the good news of God’s love for them in a language each can understand. Perhaps listening and comprehending belongs at the heart of our celebration of Pentecost.
In our day and time we don’t listen to each other very carefully. Often we listen in a distracted fashion or only partially as we prepare our response. Perhaps the best way we can celebrate Pentecost as Christians is to open our ears, to focus our minds, and to listen deeply to those around us. We might hear some comments that disturb us as well as some words that encourage us. We might hear some things that make us sad as well as some that give us joy. But if the heart of Pentecost lies in listening, may listening become the spiritual practice at the heart of who we are as the followers of Jesus, just as it did on that Shavuot long ago.
Speaking God, help me to listen for your voice in the voices of others. Amen.
In preparing for Pentecost, we focus again on the work of the Holy Spirit. Acts 2 recounts the famous story in which the disciples are miraculously able to speak in other languages in order to preach to the crowds in Jerusalem. The psalmist states that God creates and renews creation through the Spirit. According to Paul, if we are led by God’s Spirit, the Spirit confirms that we are children of God. In the Gospel of John, Jesus promises to send the Helper, the Holy Spirit, who will teach us how to love him and to keep his commandments. In some branches of Christianity, fear of excess causes hesitation about the Holy Spirit; however, we must never forget that the Spirit is central to God’s redeeming work.
Read Acts 2:1-21. The miracle of Pentecost is not only in the multitude of languages but also in the act of listening. How can you experience worship in many languages or offer deep listening this Pentecost?
Read Psalm 104:24-34, 35b. How do you witness God’s experience woven through all of creation?
Read Romans 8:14-17. The author reminds us that spirit also means breath. When have you felt led by the breath of God?
Read John 14:8-17, 25-27. How has fear kept you from trusting God?
Respond by posting a prayer.