Sunday, May 27, 2012


"When the time for Pentecost was fulfilled, they were all in one place together. And suddenly there came from the sky a noise like a strong driving wind, and it filled the entire house in which they were. Then there appeared to them tongues as of fire, which parted and came to rest on each one of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in different tongues, as the Spirit enabled them to proclaim.

"Now there were devout Jews from every nation under heaven staying in Jerusalem. At this sound, they gathered in a large crowd, but they were confused because each one heard them speaking in his own language. They were astounded, and in amazement they asked, 'Are not all these people who are speaking Galileans? Then how does each of us hear them in his native language? We are Parthians, Medes, and Elamites, inhabitants of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the districts of Libya near Cyrene, as well as travelers from Rome, both Jews and converts to Judaism, Cretans and Arabs, yet we hear them speaking in our own tongues of the mighty acts of God' (Acts 2:1-11).

Jews from every nation were gathered in Jerusalem for Shavu'ot, the Festival of Weeks, also known by its Greek name, Pentecost. This festival is written about in the Torah (i.e., the Pentateuch) in Leviticus 23:15-16.21: "Beginning with the day after the sabbath, the day on which you bring the sheaf for elevation, you shall count seven full weeks; you shall count to the day after the seventh week, fifty days. Then you shall present a new grain offering to the LORD... On this same day you shall make a proclamation: there shall be a declared holy day for you; no heavy work may be done. This shall be a perpetual statute through all your generations wherever you dwell."

In addition to being an agricultural festival marking when the first fruits were harvested and brought to the Temple, known as Hag ha-Bikkuri (i.e., Festival of First Fruits), it is also a celebration of the giving of the Torah at Mount Sinai, and is also known as Hag Matan Torateinu (i.e., the Festival of the Giving of Our Torah).

Pentecost, then, is the surest proof that as Christians we are not People of the Book, but People of the Holy Spirit, who is the risen Christ's resurrection presence in and among us, the Gospel being poured into our hearts, transforming us and empowering us to transform the world- "Come Holy Spirit and fill the face the of earth!"

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