In today’s reading, Peter quotes from the prophet Joel: “Your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old . . . shall dream dreams, and your young . . . shall see visions. Even on my servants, both men and women, I will pour out my Spirit in those days” (Joel 2:28-29, niv).
In the biblical world, the ability to dream dreams, have visions, and prophesy is reserved for a chosen few, and they are usually powerful men—Moses, Abraham, Joseph, David, and the prophets. Of the fifty-five prophets the Hebrew scriptures identify, only seven are women.
We can appreciate the radical inclusion of Joel’s prophecy by the fact that he specifically mentions both sons and daughters, old and young, men and women, and even servants (in some translations, slaves) as people who would have the abilities of a prophet, a spokesperson who conveys messages from God.
At the beginning of this story, Jesus’ followers are powerless and afraid because their future is uncertain, overshadowed by the threat of persecution. Peter explains the event of Pentecost as the fulfillment of Joel’s prophecy: the weak, the powerless, the ignored, and the excluded are the ones who speak for God. The disciples’ speaking and the crowd’s understanding at Pentecost signals the coming of the new age, when the prophetic voices will come from the powerless in society.
Who are the prophets in our society today? How do we prepare ourselves to listen to the powerless in our communities? How do we take seriously the idea that they may well be the ones appointed by God to be the prophetic voices in our time?
Breath of God, breathe on the powerless of our society to empower them to speak your truth and share your vision of the world. Breathe on us so that we can have the courage to seek them out and listen to your voice through them. 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?
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