Beauty surrounds us, but we usually need to be walking in a garden to know it - Rumi
This Sunday, Pentecost, celebrates the coming of the Holy Spirit on the disciples gathered together in the upper room. The first reference to the word Pentecost appears in the Acts of the Apostles (2:1), the second volume of the writings of St Luke, who tells us that there were: ‘devout Jews from every nation under heaven living in Jerusalem.’ Acts 2:5, so what festival were they in Jerusalem to celebrate?
To find the answer we need to look back to the Book of Exodus where we learn that some fifty days after their hasty Passover meal before their escape from the Egyptians into the wilderness, the Israelites reached Mount Sinai and camped there. It was there, we are told, in simple but breath-taking words, that ‘Moses brought the people out of the camp to meet God’ Exodus 19:17 NRSV. Here God established his covenant and gave his law to the Israelites, creating them as his special chosen people and conferring the law, or Torah (instruction), on them as a charter of national identity and dignity they were to cherish (Exodus 19:1-6). In Greek ‘fiftieth day’ translates as pentekosta from which the name of the festival derives. As the Israelites were dramatically punished by God by loss of their land and exile to Babylon, for their disobedience towards Him, their prophets, including Jeremiah and Ezekiel, predicted a time in the future when a forgiving God would confer a ‘new law’ and a ‘new covenant’ on Israel, when God’s rule would spread throughout Israel and encompass the whole world. This is exactly what happened when the grace of the Holy Spirit was conferred on the disciples at that Pentecost 2000 years ago. It illustrates the theological connection between the Mosaic Law given to Moses and God’s free gift to the disciples, fifty days after Easter.
All very interesting I hear you say but what has that to do with me? That is exactly the question the crowd asked Peter. “What are we to do?” ‘Peter said to them, ‘Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ so that your sins may be forgiven; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.’ Acts 2:38 NRSV. On that day 3000 people were baptized and became disciples (Acts 2:41). As Christians we, having received the grace of baptism for the remission of our sins, are called to be disciples, followers of the Way, just like those disciples baptized by Peter and the Apostles. We are called to live our lives following the example that Jesus set us in His earthly life. The disciples, went out to proclaim the Good News to all nations, continuing Jesus’ mission on earth.
Are we willing to go and do likewise? Remembering Moses’s words to Joshua: ‘It is the LORD who goes before you. He will be with you; he will not fail you or forsake you. Do not fear or be dismayed.’ Deuteronomy 31:8, what’s stopping us?
Peter is a father and a grandfather who has been retired from full time employment for a number of years