It has been a long time since I felt inspired to write. But as I listened to the First Reading this morning while preparing to go to Mass, a couple of thoughts came to mind, that have compelled me to take to keyboard and blog once again.
“Acts 2:1-11”, they read.
“When Pentecost day came round, they had all met in one room, when suddenly they heard what sounded like a powerful wind from heaven, the noise of which filled the entire house in which there were sitting; and something appeared to them that seemed like tongues of fire; these separated and came to rest on the head of each of them. …”
I had heard this passage before, and knew what happened next. I had a vision in my mind of the Apostles, and experienced the feeling one does when one hears a strong wind blowing by… saw the tongues of fire… then my mind wandered straight to Moses and the burning bush in Exodus 3:2.
“And the angel of the Lord appeared to him in a flame of fire out of the midst of a bush; and he looked, and lo, the bush was burning and yet it was not consumed.”
My mind switched once again to the Apostles… with tongues of fire resting on the head of each of them…. And yet they were not consumed.
I struggle to express my awe at the sudden understanding of what had happened with this event of Pentecost in relation to the burning bush in the wilderness at Horeb, the mountain of God.
Today, I struggle to express even my understanding, but I will do my best to share what I understood in that moment.
When Moses saw the burning bush in that wilderness, he turned to it… and God spoke to him. God instructed Moses to put off the shoes from his feet, to not go near, for the place on which he was standing was holy ground. God had made His presence known through something… a bush … and made the bush and the gound around it holy.
But here we are on Pentecost day, and God no longer made His presence known through a thing, but through the Apostles themselves. The Holy Spirit had not descended upon a thing, separate from the people in the room, but upon the people themselves.
This was a seismic shift!
A shift which Jesus himself had predicted, ever so gently when he also confirmed to the woman at the well in Samaria that he was the Messiah.
My thoughts raced as I recalled the woman at that well. Yes, when Jesus met the Samaritan woman at the well, in the middle of the day, and asked her to give him some water… you know the story don’t you?
Just in case you do not recall, here is an extract from John 4:19-24:
The woman said to him, “Sir, I perceive that you are a prophet. Our fathers worshiped on this mountain; and you say that Jerusalem is the place where men ought to worship.”
Jesus said to her, “Woman, believe me, the hour is coming when neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you worship the Father. You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews. But the hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshippers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for such the father seeks to worship him. God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.”
From the burning bush in the wilderness at Horeb, to Jacob’s well in that Samaritan City of Sychar, to that house in Jerusalem where the apostles were sitting, God had taken us through a change in His interaction with us. It was no longer the burning bush or the temple that He made Holy and filled with His Holy Spirit, but the Apostles themselves … the tongues of fire rested upon their heads, not upon something else in the house in which they were sitting… and in so doing, opened the door for all mankind to receive the Holy Spirit so that we worship Him in spirit and in truth.
Yet, even in the midst of that incredible change… that incredible shift, there is something I recognised we should not lose sight of: that from the burning bush to pentecost, something remained the same… when God made his presence felt, he was always speaking to men and drawing us to Him, like a mother hen does her chicks, to keep them safe.
In the event of the burning bush, God was giving Moses an instruction to save His people, Israel, from physical slavery. Then at Pentecost, God was communicating through the apostles to the people in Jerusalem (and to all of us), instructing them (and us) to turn to Him, believe in Jesus Christ, and whorship the Father in spirit and in truth, so that we may be freed from the slavery of sin.
God spoke at the event of the burning bush after he made the bush and the ground around it Holy, then God spoke through the apostles whom He had made holy at the event of Pentecost… and when God speaks, He makes sure we all understand Him.
To me, the miracle that we often talk about in relation to pentecost is not so much about the apostles speaking in different tongues… after all Acts 2:7-8 says:
‘And they were amazed and wondered, saying, “Are not all these who are speaking Galileans? And how is it that we hear, each of us in his own native language?…” ‘
To me it is more a miracle of the people hearing God’s word clearly in their own language, irrespective of what language was being spoken by the Apostles. To me, this is the power of one of God’s miracles that we celebrate today… that when God speaks, we understand Him clearly, in the language that we know today.
So today has been quite an incredible Pentecost Sunday for me – a day when I have gained profound clarity about Pentecost, understanding 3 powerful lessons:
- How God shifted His temple from Jerusalem built by man, to us, whom He Himself created.
- That God speaks to us in a language we can understand… the communication of God to us is key in the coming of the Holy Spirit.
- That God’s message is for all people. Yes, in the miracle of Pentecost, God made it clear that He wants us all to understand His message clearly, irrespective of what our own native language is.
I pray that in this I have understood correctly. I pray that in explaining my understanding I have expressed it correctly, and that as I continue to walk in this beautiful Garden, God’s grace and truth continue to draw me ever closer to Him.
I am continuing my walk in the Garden, worshiping God to the best of my ability in spirit and truth… will you join me?
Come… walk with me in the Garden.
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