2:1 When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place.
2:2 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.
2:3 Divided tongues, as of fire, appeared among them, and a tongue rested on each of them.
2:4 All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages, as the Spirit gave them ability.
2:5 Now there were devout Jews from every nation under heaven living in Jerusalem.
2:6 And at this sound the crowd gathered and was bewildered, because each one heard them speaking in the native language of each.
2:7 Amazed and astonished, they asked, “Are not all these who are speaking Galileans?
2:8 And how is it that we hear, each of us, in our own native language?
2:9 Parthians, Medes, Elamites, and residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia,
2:10 Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya belonging to Cyrene, and visitors from Rome, both Jews and proselytes,
2:11 Cretans and Arabs–in our own languages we hear them speaking about God’s deeds of power.”
2:12 All were amazed and perplexed, saying to one another, “What does this mean?”
2:13 But others sneered and said, “They are filled with new wine.”
2:14 But Peter, standing with the eleven, raised his voice and addressed them, “Men of Judea and all who live in Jerusalem, let this be known to you, and listen to what I say.
2:15 Indeed, these are not drunk, as you suppose, for it is only nine o’clock in the morning.
2:16 No, this is what was spoken through the prophet Joel:
2:17 ‘In the last days it will be, God declares, that I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh, and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams.
2:18 Even upon my slaves, both men and women, in those days I will pour out my Spirit; and they shall prophesy.
2:19 And I will show portents in the heaven above and signs on the earth below, blood, and fire, and smoky mist.
2:20 The sun shall be turned to darkness and the moon to blood, before the coming of the Lord’s great and glorious day.
2:21 Then everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.’
A Question or Two:
- The people gathered in Jerusalem were from every nation under the sky.
- Why does it matter that it was EVERY nation?
Some Longer Reflections:
Last Pentecost I wrote about one of the interesting oddities in the scene in Acts. You can read the whole Provocation by going to https://wordpress.com/post/provokingthegospel.wordpress.com/5327
In particular, where the English translation (2:6) refers to people in the crowd hearing in their “native language,” the Greek identifies it as the “language into which they were born.” The meaning is the same, or closely similar, but the nuance is worth thinking about. The miracle is not that all the differences that separate people were removed. Quite the opposite: the differences were explicitly preserved, recognized, and approved. All the people heard about the mighty acts of the God who alone is God, and they each heard about God from the heart of the culture into which they were born.
I find myself thinking more and more about what this implies. Pentecost, read carefully, hands us the obligation to find a way to honor the differences that are too often used to separate, divide, and isolate people.
Today begins the month of Ramadan for my Muslim friends, colleagues, and students. You may well have sent greetings to your friends, colleagues, or students. I have, this year like every year.
But this year I am thinking about Pentecost and the life-giving task of understanding and honoring truths that come across lines of difference. And I am thinking about one of the traditional greeting for Ramadan: Ramadan kareem, which wishes that one may have a generous Ramadan, a month of weaving gratitude and generosity together.
I would like to understand that blessing in the language into which I was born. I am a Christian, a Lutheran, in fact. But I share with my Muslim friends, colleagues, and students a confession that God is One, despite the crazy fragmentation of the world. That does not mean that I imagine that I should observe Ramadan. But it does mean that this year I take it as a Pentecost discipline to absorb what Muslims in my community can teach me about being a human being, and about worshipping the God who alone is God.
Here are some other suggestions that might help:
May the blessings of gratitude and generosity embrace us all.