June 5, 2022
The Pentecost story carries the excitement of a community realizing its purpose. The gathered disciples and the crowd with them have an electric sort of experience. Something like a rush of wind fills the house the disciples are sitting in, with visions of fire appearing upon them. Luke, sharing this story with us, describes them as being filled with the Holy Spirit and speaking with new ability in other languages.
Devout crowds gather, drawn by the sounds they have heard, and are astonished to find that they are able to hear and understand the Galileans in the variety of native languages represented in that throng. How can this be? Some reacted to this wonder with cynicism: they must have gotten into the wine.
God’s Spirit seems to work both sides of the conversation here, equipping the disciples to speak in new ways and inspiring the crowds to gather and hear. But that human inclination to resist and avoid is still part of our nature, just as it was for those who scoffed or laughed at the Pentecost moment. We find temporary refuge in feelings of sufficiency and superiority, even if we don’t intend malice.
Peter takes the opportunity to connect this moment with the prophet Joel, recalling God’s promise to pour out the divine Spirit on all flesh. Neither age nor gender nor status will limit God’s people from being part of this gift that points to the “great and glorious” day of the Lord. Peter speaks of a great hope at hand. He even manages to do this kindly, taking the accusations of drunkenness without offense. No, Peter says, what’s happening here is something more generous than you’ve imagined. Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.
These days, it often seems like people are determined to misunderstand one another. We can fairly well roll our eyes before somebody even speaks, certain about the wrongness of what they might say, certain that we’ll never understand one another. Not as long as they see the world like that.
But the same Spirit that blew through that Pentecost gathering still enlivens the church. God is still more generous than we’ve imagined. Perhaps today we can pray to be like Peter, not reacting to others in offense or anger because we’re caught up in the great and glorious love of God.