Notation for This Sunday
Following the resurrection of Jesus, he spent forty days exclusively with his followers who would then be the ones to lead the new followers to the ‘Be the Church.’ Then after those forty days Jesus ascended to Heaven but not before he told his followers to return to Jerusalem and wait for the arrival of the Paraclete (the helper, the advocate, the one comes along side, the Holy Spirit). The followers, who were more than glad to go and hide out as they waited (they were already targets for the religious institution leaders as well as the Roman authorities). This Sunday is the recognition of the day that the followers were pushed out of hiding and into the streets by the Paraclete (Holy Spirit). This was the day of Pentecost, the day the Holy Spirit came to those who were willing and ready to receive. Our readings this week all address the Paraclete, – the prophesies and promises about the Spirit and the actual events of the Day of Pentecost.
The Holy Spirit, the Paraclete, is not unique to the New Testament. There are many references to the Spirit beginning with the Genesis story of creation. Probably one of the most significant and visually portrayed is the experience in the desert of the dry bones where the Spirit brings life through breath. It may be of assistance to read Ezekiel 37:1-14 before you read the assigned readings for this week. As you read this Ezekiel account look for the power and actions of the Spirit as well as the promise about the Spirit.
Psalm 104:24-34, 35 • John 20:19-23 • Acts 2:1-21 • 1 Corinthians 12:3b-13
Psalm 104:24-34, 35
Our Psalm reading continues our look at the Spirit, here we see the Spirit in the creation. In this passage we see in verses 24-28 that God delights in the giving of life in his creation. Verses 29-32 reveal that the Spirit is the sustainer of creation and recreation (use the understanding of ‘recreation’ when reading the word ‘creation’ in verse 30 – it points to our understanding of the resurrection). Then, verses 33-35 we witness our response to the work of the Spirit in our lives and in our community.
FYI: The Leviathan in verse 26 is a creature with the form of a sea serpent from Jewish belief, referenced in the Hebrew Bible in the Book of Job, Psalms, Isaiah, and Amos.
As is common with the gospel of John, in this account of Jesus with his disciples following the resurrection but before the ascension, Jesus breathes the Paraclete (Holy Spirit) on them. Consider also, Jesus appeared to Mary Magdalene prior to his appearance to the disciples, in which she recognized who Jesus was – many experts believe that Mary was actually the first to receive the Spirit which was the catalyst for he recognizing Jesus. This also was the reason for her immediate act of telling/witnessing to the disciples.
Another particularity about the gospel of John is his understanding of sin. While most of our reference to the topic of ‘sin’ is to immediately think of our list of top ranking sins, often a list that leads us to judge and condemn others – John’s depiction of sin is much larger. To John, sin is not necessarily areas of immorality and other grave matters of forbidden behaviors, instead, John sees sin as being anything and everything that disrupts, or restricts, our relationship with God. This is why Jesus died for our sins – to free us up to have relationship with him. John does not speak of sin for the believers, or the church, to become the sin police to their community and their world. John brings the negative impact of sin to the believers in order that we will experience the freedom of forgiveness in regard to our own sin and also in regard to our own practice of faith and relationship in the world. That will not only receive forgiveness but, of equal importance, that we will give forgiveness so that sin does not continue to be a roadblock in our relationship with God.
‘Forgiveness of sins is the community’s spirit powered mission to continue Jesus’ work of making Jesus known in the world.’Gail R. O’Day, Biblical Scholar, and former Dean of Wake Forest University School of Divinity
See, in verse 23 of this passage, the how the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives is intrinsically connected with the forgiveness we receive as well as the forgiveness we give.
On the day of Pentecost, a small crowd gathered in a room on the highest floor of a house in Jerusalem to wait for the manifestation of the promise Jesus made before his ascension. The promise was that the followers of Jesus would be baptized, not with water, but with the Holy Spirit. The baptism of the Holy Spirit would give the people power to be witnesses of Jesus, in word or deed, in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.Debra J. Mumford, Professor of Homiletics at the Presbyterian Theological Seminary in Louisville, KY
This promise that they were waiting for was not a new promise, long before this day they it had been given by the Prophet Joel (Joel 2:28-29) among many others. A promise of power for all and a promise that would go beyond the lines of division that existed in their own culture.
If you read beyond our passage for this week, to the end of chapter two, you will see the power given by the Spirit, the power to be witnesses, as well as the creation of a new community that flowed out of the power.
The appearance of the Spirit, in Acts 2, is an entirely new presentation of the Spirit than we see anywhere else. This appearance of the Spirit is only possible because of the work of Jesus that took place prior to this day.
I Corinthians 12:3b-13
This passage is considered Paul’s greatest writing on the work of the Holy Spirit. Paul points to salvation and community as the two essential works of the Spirit.
Salvation – Paul just uses one sentence to explain the role of the Paraclete in our acceptance of Jesus. He proclaims that a decision to become a follower of Jesus is only possible through the Holy Spirit. It is the Spirit that reveals to us our need for the Salvation and that only way to follow is by the prompting of the Spirit.
Community – Paul teaches the different way the Spirit enables us play different roles in our faith community, the Church. Gifts, as they are referred to are the individual roles given to us by the Spirit to empower and enable the church. Paul specifically does communicates the importance of each and every gift noting that all are essential and necessary.
Paul’s teaching about he work of the Spirit is not a blueprint of a well operating machine but of a community of believers commissioned and called to reflect the unity of God through our differing roles in the community.