A small group of Jews who follow a teacher named Jesus, who had been killed like a criminal, gather in one place at Pentecost, a Jewish festival celebrated fifty days after Passover. A few days before, the resurrected Jesus had ascended and left this small group leaderless and powerless. Certainly no one would expect this group of people to be spokespersons for God. But on that Pentecost day, they prophesy.
Ever since I was a child, this text has always been interpreted to me as a miracle of tongues: the Spirit gives the followers of Jesus the power to speak in different languages in order to communicate the “mighty work of God.” Then one day, Walter Wink, a New Testament scholar and great teacher asked, “Is this a miracle of the tongue or a miracle of the ear?” This simple question cracked open a persistent interpretation of this text. To understand the Pentecost event exclusively as a miracle of tongues captures only half of what happens.
Read today’s passage again. Notice that starting in verse 5, listening is just as prominent as speaking in this story. The full miracle of Pentecost includes devout Jews from every nation living in Jerusalem who hear the sound and come to listen. The miracle of tongues puts out words in other languages and gives information. The miracle of the ear involves listening and receiving information.
When the Spirit comes upon us, on which side of the Pentecost miracle do you find yourself—tongue or ear? Do you respond to the Spirit by speaking and acting? Or do you respond to the Spirit by listening and receiving?
Holy Spirit of surprises, come upon us and help us discern when we should speak and when we should listen, so that your vision of the peaceable realm can be realized. Amen.
Many contemporary Christians wrestle with the theology of the Holy Spirit. Some are perceived as emphasizing the Spirit too much, while others talk about the Spirit only vaguely or even not at all. Both extremes can mislead us. The Spirit is powerful and active, and we understand the role of the Spirit within larger truths about God and God’s activities in the world. God empowers the disciples on Pentecost by the Spirit, and the psalmist emphasizes the role of the Spirit in creation. Paul tells the Corinthians that the Spirit enables us to recognize Jesus as Lord and serve one another. Jesus gives the power of the Spirit to his disciples. May we also seek God’s help in receiving the power of the Spirit to serve and reach those far from God.
Read Acts 2:1-21. What moments from your lifetime might you consider Pentecost moments? How have you seen the Spirit empowering God’s people in these moments or movements?
Read Psalm 104:24-34, 35b. When have you experienced God’s rhythm of withholding and releasing? How can your breath remind you of your place in this rhythm of creation?
Read 1 Corinthians 12:3b-13. How does your faith guide you to a tension between sameness and difference that might help you create a diverse unity among your family or faith community?
Read John 20:19-23. How does your relationship with Christ help you break through fear?
Respond by posting a prayer.
I join many of those who will pray for you as you seek to discern what you are called to be at this moment. May God grant you the courage to fulfill that calling. May we all open our eyes and see the misery, open our ears and hear the cries of God’s people, and, like God through the Lord Jesus Christ, be incarnate amongst them.”
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