4 June 2017
When Pentecost day came round, they had all met in one room, when suddenly they heard what sounded like a powerful wind from heaven, the noise of which filled the entire house in which they were sitting; and something appeared to them that seemed like tongues of fire; these separated and came to rest on the head of each of them. They were all filled with the Holy Spirit, and began to speak foreign languages as the Spirit gave them the gift of speech.
Now there were devout men living in Jerusalem from every nation under heaven, and at this sound they all assembled, each one bewildered to hear these men speaking his own language. They were amazed and astonished. ‘Surely’ they said ‘all these men speaking are Galileans? How does it happen that each of us hears them in his own native language? Parthians, Medes and Elamites; people from Mesopotamia, Judaea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya round Cyrene; as well as visitors from Rome – Jews and proselytes alike – Cretans and Arabs; we hear them preaching in our own language about the marvels of God.’
1 Corinthians 12:3-7,12-13
No one can say, ‘Jesus is Lord’ unless he is under the influence of the Holy Spirit.
There is a variety of gifts but always the same Spirit; there are all sorts of service to be done, but always to the same Lord; working in all sorts of different ways in different people, it is the same God who is working in all of them. The particular way in which the Spirit is given to each person is for a good purpose.
Just as a human body, though it is made up of many parts, is a single unit because all these parts, though many, make one body, so it is with Christ. In the one Spirit we were all baptised, Jews as well as Greeks, slaves as well as citizens, and one Spirit was given to us all to drink.
In the evening of the first day of the week, the doors were closed in the room where the disciples were, for fear of the Jews. Jesus came and stood among them. He said to them, ‘Peace be with you’, and showed them his hands and his side. The disciples were filled with joy when they saw the Lord, and he said to them again, ‘Peace be with you.
‘As the Father sent me,
so am I sending you.’
After saying this he breathed on them and said:
‘Receive the Holy Spirit.
For those whose sins you forgive,
they are forgiven;
for those whose sins you retain,
they are retained.’
“Yet we hear them speaking in our own tongues of the mighty acts of God”
What is the meaning of Pentecost? The word itself means ‘fifty’ in Greek. Originally a harvest feast in the Hebrew calendar, Pentecost is, for the Jewish people, the celebration of Moses receiving the Law on Mt Sinai. Much like how Passover coincides with Easter, the Jewish feast of Pentecost coincides with our Christian celebration of Pentecost. For us, Pentecost is the celebration of the founding of the early Church. In the upper room, the apostles along with “one hundred and twenty followers of Christ” (Acts 1:15) received the gift of the Holy Spirit and thus, the new ‘Israel of God’ (Gal 6:16) was born. The ‘Israel of God’ (Gal 6:16) in the upper room differed from the Israel of the Old Testament in its ability to embrace outwards. The Jewish people of the Old Testament were told that they were “a people consecrated to Yahweh”. They were instructed to “keep the commandments, the norms and laws”. They were not to assimilate into the pagan cultures of the lands they conquered. But at the celebration of the Christian Pentecost in the upper room, the Holy Spirit compelled the believers to speak of God’s miracles in a multitude of tongues. Hebrew was not the only language spoken. God’s word was proclaimed thus so that foreigners would understand it in their own language. In the upper room, God bestowed citizenship into His kingdom to all, regardless of language and culture. God would meet the people of his new church where they were. “All of us, whether Jews or Greeks, slaves or free, have been baptized into one Spirit, to form one body and all of us have been given to drink from the one Spirit” (1 Cor 1:12).
We are so fractured today. We’re divided by every issue imaginable — race, gender, religion, political beliefs, education, sexual orientation, age. Even how we eat has become contentious. We’ve forgotten that long ago, in that upper room, one hundred and twenty people from all walks of life put aside their differences and worshipped as one body. They all received the same Holy Spirit. They were all given the same gift of faith. This Pentecost, let us embrace our diversity and celebrate the things that make us unique. Christ embraced all and welcomed all. Let’s honor that and give thanks for that, and the faith that unites us as Christians.
(Today’s Oxygen by Sharon Soo)
Prayer: We pray for greater inter-faith unity amongst all peoples, that there be mindfulness and respect for each other’s diversity.
Thanksgiving: We give thanks for the things that unite us – family, faith, fellowship, friendship.