Pentecost Sunday Sermon 2013
Bringing Things full circle at Pentecost
Jews would gather in Jerusalem 3 times a year for the 3 great feasts.
- Passover – when they remembered their delivery out of Egypt
- Pentecost, also known as the feast of Weeks (Shavuot) – when they celebrated the first harvest, a harvest festival, celebrated 7 weeks/50 days after Passover
- Tabernacles – when they celebrated the wandering in the wilderness and entry into the promised land
Pentecost for the Jews was originally a thanksgiving and an acknowledgement on their dependence on God for food which is now celebrated more for the giving of the Law, a tradition started in the diaspora
It’s because it’s a Holy Festival that there are ‘God fearing Jews from every nation under heaven’ in Jerusalem as Luke records in Acts
But this Pentecost things would be different. Rather than gathering to give thanks to God for the abundance of the fields a different event would take place.
In the Old Pentecost the earth would bring forth the harvest, the food planted by human hand, which would be celebrated by the Jews
In the New Pentecost God’s Spirit would bring forth a harvest of good works, in co-operation with human hands, which would be celebrated by all people, the Jew and the Gentile together
And as the Old Pentecost give way to the New, it’s as if history has come full circle.
Jews traditionally read the book of Ruth at Pentecost. The book dates from the time of the early Judges around 1180 BC. Ruth, who is a Gentile, a Moabitess, comes to follow the God of her mother-in-law, a Jew named Naomi. Naomi, Ruth and Naomi’s other daughter in law Orpah, all lose their husbands in a time of famine and Naomi invites Ruth and Orpah to go back to their families so that they can be fed as none of the three of them have any means of support. Orpah goes back but Ruth elects to stay with Naomi and utters the words which are familiar to many, and often used as a reading in the marriage service
‘Where you go, I will go, and where you stay, I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God.’ Ruth 1 v 16b
Ruth finds a kinsman redeemer in Boaz, who she marries, and becomes the Great Grandmother to King David, (Boaz the father of Obed, Obed the father of Jesse, and Jesse the father of David – Mt 1 v 5b – 6) a lineage that would eventually lead to Joseph and Jesus Himself
Ruth is unique in that apart from Mary, she is the only woman listed in the genealogy of Christ in Matthew.
She is also unique in that 1200 years before Christ she is a gentile who finds a Jewish redeemer, a foreshadowing of the event the Pentecost we read about in Acts would bring to fulfilment
History has come full circle.
We also see history coming full circle when we compare the reading from Genesis to the reading in Acts, a united people who were scattered are transformed into a scattered people who are united. In Genesis their language is confused. In Acts language differences are no longer a barrier to hearing the message of salvation and a new life of unity.
Indeed, unity and communicating and living out the word of God become the key themes of Pentecost. The unity and living out we saw in Ruth and Boaz, the unity we see in the disciples in Acts as they are ‘all ltogether in once place’, or put another way, ‘together together’
Jews and Gentiles, ‘together together’, Ruth and Boaz, ‘together together’. God and His people, all people, ‘together together’ with Him through the Holy Spirit, the Counsellor that John tells us about. The Spirit of truth, the Spirit of God, with us now and always.
It has been said there are 4 phases to a relationship (Nilofer Merchant).
- Romance – which is all about exploring the relationship
- Struggle – trying to make sense of it all
- Commitment – which is about loyalty and a decision
- Co-creation – participating in the act of creating something new, perhaps children in the sense of marriage
The disciples had been through the first 3 phases of their relationship with Christ. They had explored that relationship in their calling, they had struggled to make sense of what was happening, especially so at the time of the crucifixion and resurrection, and even now as they were in the house at Pentecost, but they had made the commitment to Christ which saw them ‘together together’ in that place.
Now would be the time of co-creation as they would leave that place empowered to spread the word of God and make new disciples across the world as they themselves were transformed.
And perhaps that’s one of the keys to Pentecost. The Holy Spirit is given so that we can be transformed and empowered to become Christ’s disciples.
So that we can know God’s renewing presence in our lives and empowered for the ministry he has for each one of us. All of us reflect a part of His glory and all are part of His plan for the world, a plan which took a decisive new turn at Pentecost.
The reading from Acts tells us we are in the last days, history has come full circle as the creation which had fallen is now redeemed. A new creation is upon us.
We are co-creators in that new creation with God. So often we too, like the disciples before the Spirit came at Pentecost had experienced the romance with Christ as we explore life with Him, we too struggle to make sense of our faith at time but come through that struggle to make a commitment to Him and His way of life.
Now is the time for co-creation, something we all find hard, but something which is enabled through the coming of the Spirit at Pentecost. The Spirit has come on us and we are transformed and being transformed.
Sometimes it’s all too easy to hope that the Spirit will fall on others and transform and change them (so that we don’t have to do anything). That may happen but if God is to fully transform our world and the people in it He wants to do so with us as active participants, co-creators of the New Creation.
We celebrate Pentecost in the knowledge that history has come full circle, and we are part of that circle, being transformed by the Holy Spirit and helping to transform the world though the Spirit of God which is in each one of us.