Environmental Stewardship Commission (MEESC)

Episcopal Diocese of Minnesota

Lectionary Reflection Year B, Pentecost (Whitsun) Sunday, New Testament Reading

Acts 2:1-11
When the day of Pentecost had come, the disciples were all together in one place. And suddenly from heaven there came a sound like the rush of a violent wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. Divided tongues, as of fire, appeared among them, and a tongue rested on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages, as the Spirit gave them ability.

Now there were devout Jews from every nation under heaven living in Jerusalem. And at this sound the crowd gathered and was bewildered, because each one heard them speaking in the native language of each. Amazed and astonished, they asked, "Are not all these who are speaking Galileans? And how is it that we hear, each of us, in our own native language? Parthians, Medes, Elamites, and residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya belonging to Cyrene, and visitors from Rome, both Jews and proselytes, Cretans and Arabs-- in our own languages we hear them speaking about God's deeds of power."

Reflection on Acts 2:1-11 by John G. Gibbs, PhD

The day of Pentecost reversed humanity’s efforts to scale the heights of heaven. Pentecost negates the fall into chaos when the Tower of Babel collapsed. That tower was built by both pride and fear: that is, both in order to “make a name for ourselves” and to prevent being “scattered abroad” (Genesis 11:4). But neither goal was accomplished. The quest for domineering power that was signaled by the effort to build “a tower with its top in the heavens” led to the opposite result. Chaos came into human interactions. Indeed, the very thing they most feared happened: they were ‘scattered abroad” as if into outer space of utmost remoteness from one another.

Pentecost was the event, on the other hand, when God’s Spirit moved “from heaven” downward into the nascent Church, restoring understanding across linguistic and cultural barriers.

Luke’s descriptions borrow from Judaism’s apocalyptic imager. Pentecost is a cosmic event that joins heaven and earth, “God’s deeds of power” and “devout Jews from every nation under heaven living in Jerusalem.” Galileans are empowered beyond their imagination, literally “en-spirited” to the point of apparent intoxication (2:13). Or, you could say that the Spirit filled them with a kind of “fire,” perhaps like that of prophetic fire in one’s mouth (Jeremiah 5:14).

So here’s the picture of the earliest Church: nothing staid and settled here, no over-reaching either, no fearful falling into chaotic confusion. To the contrary, the engines are revved up, takeoff is underway, great energy is vibrating throughout “the entire house,” and they all are about to burst forth onto the scene of world history.

Such a Spirit-filled community, living among themselves with understanding, will live the same way among all other creatures. The Church does not approach the creation with the over-reaching quest for power that vainly tried to grasp highest heaven and claim the powers of God. The Church will rather know that ultimate “deeds of power” belong to God, and that we become human by learning how to speak “in other languages,” how to identify with the needs and viewpoints of the others.

The Church will remember, if she listens to this Pentecost story, that all creation is out there and in us because at the start of it all “a wind [Spirit] from God swept over the face of the waters.” The same Spirit that filled all Creation with form, life and meaning, fills the Church with the same.

Copyright Statement

To Reflections on other Readings for Pentecost (Whitsun) Sundays:
Old Testament Year A Ezekiel 11:17-20
no reflection available
Old Testament Year B Isaiah 44: 1-8
this page
Old Testament Year C Joel 2: 28-32
no reflection available
Psalm 104:25-37 or 33:12-15, 18-22
no reflection available
New Testament Acts 2:1-11 or 1 Corinthians 12:4-13
this page
Gospel John 20:19-23 or John 14:8-17
this page

John Gibbs, PhD, a retired theologian, attends Trinity Episcopal Church, Park Rapids, MN. He originally wrote this reflection in 2003. He and we welcome your comments. Please address your comments or additional reflections to John Gibbs or any MEESC member, or mail them to:
MEESC Holy Trinity Church Box 65 Elk River, MN 55330-0065 USA

The MEESC assumes that all correspondence received is for publication on this web site. If your comments are not for publication, please so note on your correspondence. The MEESC reserves the right to decide which items are included on the website.

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