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A Spiritual Renewal: Reflections on Pentecost

Peter then stands in their midst and begins to preach a sermon that certainly offers something like a model of early Christian preaching. He first rejects the mocking claim of drunkenness; it is only 9:00 in the morning after all, assuming that morning drunkenness is hardly the norm among the inhabitants of Jerusalem! He quickly then turns to the prophecy of Joel 3:1-5 in the attempt to describe what is happening and to prove that what is happening has been long expected by any true believers. This Joel text played a prominent role in the early church, outlining the inclusiveness of the emerging community and especially its prophetic nature. Luke quite pointedly adds to the Greek text of Joel in Acts 2:18 "and they will prophesy," a phrase not found in the Greek of Joel. In other words, old and young, men and women, slave and free, will all preach the good news of Jesus Messiah as the world awakens to the great gift of the Gospel. Such hope, of course, echoes Paul's rich belief that the coming of Jesus has indeed leveled the hierarchies of the world and made all believers one in him (see Galatians 3:28).

"And everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved" (Acts 2:21). This is another well-known verse, used by many as a club, coercing belief in Jesus in certain prescribed ways. "Sister, are you saved?" is a line that has echoed from many a street-corner and pulpit. But just what does Luke mean by it? The Greek word "save" has a wide range of meaning, from "save from eternal death" to protect from danger to gaining health again. I wonder if here it does not have something of the meaning of Hebrew shalom? Calling on the name of Jesus brings the caller into the community of the saved, that is the new community forming around the event and promise of Jesus Messiah, a community characterized by justice and equality, joy and hope, unity and wholeness.

Perhaps that too is the miracle of Pentecost. What we witness in Acts 2 is not merely the birthday of the church, but the renewal, as Joel announces it, of the realm and rule of God in the world. We can in fact live in the world as God designed from the beginning, and Pentecost is the sign of that possibility. Happy birthday indeed to the new community of God, together as one, hearing the announcement of God's hope for the world and living as if that hope is not only true but fully possible now.

5/22/2012 4:00:00 AM