Pentecost

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A great ball of fire descends from heaven and crashes towards earth, it is Pentecost. (I made that up.)

What marvels first about this day is that Mary and the Apostles a locked in a room with the wind blowing outside. It sounds as if they are weathering a storm. I first think fear, but then I think again. I think of wind blowing across the sea and of a breath across water, God is with them. It’s the breath of life. God is with them and they learned the nature of God from their LORD. What do they fear? God is with them.

Pentecost is not unique to the New Testament, the feast does follow Jewish tradition. Perhaps the Old celebration might shed some light on the new? Some research might be required. The Jewish feast is Shavuot and is the final celebration of a grain harvest that lasted seven weeks. Last week was the seventh Sunday of Easter. Coincidence? No. Pentecost is a harvest festival, and particularly the harvest of wheat. The gathering in that upper room is the first Apostles, the first harvest. From the Old celebration an image of wheat and bread begins to appear. It’s the first harvest of wheat and suddenly the gospel of the multiplication of loaves and fishes enters the subconscious. These Apostles are the first but they will multiply. Pentecost, wheat, bread; they are all related. Pentecost is known as the birth of the Church. Interesting story; Shavuot celebrates the grain harvest, Sukkot celebrates the fruit harvest. If I recall correctly Sukkot is at the same time as the transfiguration. Bread and wine.

Pentecost, Shavuot, in the older tradition celebrates something other than an agricultural harvest. It also celebrates the receiving of the Torah on Mount Sinai. To one group the receiving of law, the other Spirit. A new creation, a new testament. A wind blows outside, Jesus enters the room through closed doors. The barrier between heaven and earth is shattered. What was closed is now opened. It is more than the barrier between heaven and earth that disappears. The reading of today tells of the Tower of Babel. That tower was destroyed and tongues confused because those people tied to become gods. At Pentecost the tongues are understood. Although many languages are spoken, they can all understand. Sometimes I think of that tower destroyed so that man might shut up and listen, in that upper room they listen and understand. A bridge between heaven and earth, a bridge between nations. Creation restored. I can’t miss the story if creation with that wind blowing outside. I also remember Noah’s storm.

With all of this babble, what was the message that the Lord gives as he enters through those closed doors. The first is simply “Peace be with you.” How often does that message become lost among men pretending to become gods? To allow for peace is to shatter the barriers of hostility and hatred. Peace turns a raging storm into a breath of fresh air. That storm outside can either be a torrent of fear and destruction or the breath of life. Jesus’s second message? “Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them, and whose sins you retain are retained.” It is a message that gives a path to peace. A breath of fresh air that sustains life, not destroys it. Odd to think how dark and frightening the Pentecost story is with all doors shut and windows shuttered. What a refreshing difference once they are opened. I becomes a breath of fresh air. The breath of life revisited.

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