During our Living in The Story effort, we’ve been following the story of one biblical family: Abraham to Isaac to Jacob to Joseph to Moses and now Joshua. After forty years of wandering in the wilderness, the people of Israel finally cross the Jordan River under Joshua’s leadership and move into the land God had promised to their ancestors.
We’ve also been following the Gospel according to Luke, his version of the significance of the Christ event. Luke’s Jesus stands squarely in the lineage of Abraham and the tradition of Moses. He is a son of Israel – perhaps The Son of Israel; the one who lived his life in obedience to Torah, loving God and loving neighbor as no one had done before or since.
Now we add Luke’s second volume, The Acts of the Apostles, to our readings. In Acts, we encounter the Resurrected Christ and the Spirit of the Risen Christ enlarging in astounding ways and expanding what it means to be the Chosen People, what it means to belong to the People of the Covenant.
The story in Acts 2 is the story of the ancient feast of Pentecost celebrated fifty days after Passover. Pentecost, “Shavuot” gives thanks for the early harvest that has arrived with all of its refreshing renewal. The mystery of life, the reminder of abundance, the promise of new beginnings. How fitting that Pentecost was the occasion for this one little family, grown from a small like-minded kinship group to begin exploding into an expansive diverse people!
When Jesus entered his public ministry within his Jewish community, he came with one primary message: “the reign of God is here. The kingdom of God is coming. The presence of God is not out there; it’s here, among you” (Luke 17). The people who heard that message didn’t really know what to make of it – especially since Jesus’ idea of kingdom and power and privilege was very different from their own notions.
Jesus ate with anyone who sought him out.
Now all the tax collectors and sinners were coming near to listen to him. And the Pharisees and the scribes were grumbling and saying, “This fellow welcomes sinners and eats with them” (Luke 15).
Jesus sought out people whom others isolated and taught his followers to do the same.
When you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, and the blind…
Jesus shepherded the lost sheep, went after the lost coins, embraced the lost sons. Jesus washed feet and broke bread. Jesus took up his cross and carried it straight into the worst violence the world of his day could muster.
And then, fifty days later on Pentecost, a small group of disciples gathered in Jerusalem after the death of Jesus: disciples who were floundering and wondering: What’s real? What’s true? What’s next?
It was this little group that experienced the wind of Pentecost. The doors of their small lives were blown off their hinges. The safely shuttered windows of their preconceptions were whooshed wide open. The walls of all their Jericho’s came tumbling down.
Because of that Pentecost morning, that small questioning group multiplied into a multitudinous community of Christ made up of people from every nation and every language and every walk of life.
Now some of them did not get that.
Some of us still don’t get it today.
The Holy Spirit keeps expanding boundaries and enlarging the territory of God’s reign, so that now – here we are: gathered into God’s enlarged community. Here we are: men and women and old and young and gay and straight and black and white and brown and red and blue and …. How many other differences could we name?
But when we live as Pentecost people, none of those differences would ever become dividers because we recognize that God’s kingdom includes all of us. We understand we have all become part of God’s multi-cultural, multi-faceted, multitudinous people.
You probably noticed that the Pentecost wind Acts describes is not a gentle breeze. Sometimes, of course, God’s way is a soothing breath of fresh air. Sometimes God’s way is the way of cocoons and apple seeds and gradually greening fields in the patient springtime.
But sometimes, we know that God’s way is to blow the roof off of our small settled lives. And when the Holy Spirit rushes like a mighty wind, God may well intend to blow away every insecure, inadequate thing upon which we ground our lives. Sometimes God’s Pentecost wind is supposed to drive us toward new possibilities and new directions.
Whenever that starts happening, it will be very uncomfortable and quite disorienting. But even if we are blown into new places, even if new people come gusting into our lives, even if old familiar ideas give way to new challenging insights, so what?
What do we have to fear? When we are willing to live as God’s Pentecost people, then we are willing to allow our coifed and structured lives be tousled by the Spirit’s wind that is ever fresh and new.
“Be strong and courageous,” Joshua’s God proclaimed to the people standing on the edge of a new future; “Everywhere your foot will trod, there – I will be with you wherever you go.”
Every time we move away from established security and imagined safety, there – “I will be with you.”
Every time we step up and step out into a bold open journey of faith, there – “I will be with you.”
Every time we act like God’s reign actually has come into our lives, into our relationships, into our work, into our world, there – “I will be with you.”
That’s why Pentecost People are strong and courageous; the Spirit of the Risen Christ is still breathing the mystery of life, the reminder of abundance and the promise of new beginnings.
Thanks be to God.
Living in The Story reflections for Week 20 from Joshua 1-12, Luke 14-15 and Acts 1-2