June: The Holy Spirit among us
Pentecost, Acts 2:1-21
This story of a group of peasants inexplicably enabled to tell forth the great works of God in all manner of languages is both remarkable and unprecedented. But not unexpected! Any who read the prophet Joel knew this was precisely where history was heading. A day of renewed capacity to overcome communication barriers, where differences would not mean misunderstanding or fear. A day of telling forth the great works of God to all.
This event was about much more than simply overcoming a language barrier. This is the overturning of Babel (Genesis 11)! No longer shall communities be separated into family/ethnic/religious/linguistic divides. When the spirit comes among us — when we live in a manner consistent with the self-giving Spirit of Christ — we can work together across all barriers to do the good work of the kingdom of God.
In what ways has your experience of the Holy Spirit enabled you to overcome social barriers, as you have shared the love of Christ?
I love that those who were doubtful were numbered among the worshippers in this passage. When Jesus addressed them he did not rebuke any for their doubt but simply assured them all of his authority, his call and his ongoing presence.
Jesus’ authority is acknowledged in our observance of all he commanded (following him in what he taught and modelled). It is not primarily in reciting facts, attending worship, formulating theology or telling others how they should live. It is most essentially about the way we live and relate to others. How we relate to others is key in the way we make disciples. It is also where we discover Christ’s ongoing presence in our midst as we live, work, play and gather together.
When you consider the authority, call and presence of Christ, what does it look like for you?
Jesus here puts forth one of the most startling and disturbing evangelism strategies ever uttered. Do not go out in strength, go out in vulnerability! Do not prepare all that you need before you go. Go out needing to be cared for by those to whom you go.
Really?! The genius of this strategy is precisely that as a person responds in welcome and generosity to the disciple (who is a stranger), the person enjoys an experience of the kingdom. In the act of self-giving generosity, those who respond to the sent disciples gain a deeper understanding of what salvation and the kingdom are about than many sermons could provide.
It is extraordinarily risky both for those being sent and for those receiving them… and it takes considerable faith on the part of those going out and just as much faith on the part of those receiving the strangers. It is not surprising we prefer less risky strategies. But it seems less vulnerability means a reduced encounter with the power of the gospel.
What is your experience of sharing Christ from a position of vulnerability?
There are some very challenging ideas in this passage. Jesus starts by letting us know that if we do well following him, we should expect to be rejected just as he was! But this is not to be feared. It is to be embraced in the confidence that all will come out in the open in due course. God — and the truth — will hold us secure in eternity. There is a sense that our capacity to live this out in adverse circumstances is a penetrating diagnostic of our spiritual wellbeing.
Did the Prince of Peace not come to bring peace on earth?! (Matthew 10:34) Jesus here unmasked the sacrificial mechanism. His death will reveals that this age-old mechanism uses violence against an innocent victim to contain violence and maintain order. This means humanity’s only known, sure-fire way to stop people killing each other has been rendered increasingly impotent. The very structures of culture and society are challenged by this disabling of violent control. Those who follow Jesus in self-giving love inadvertently speed the demise of the former order of control — and many passionately dislike this.
Where have you encountered opposition or rejection on account of acting from self-giving love?
These Lectionary Reflections were prepared by Rev. Dave Gore, Minister at Ultimo Mustard Seed Uniting Church.
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