Pentecost Sunday


Pentecost Sunday
3 June 2019

Today Christians all over the world are celebrating the feast of Pentecost and we are reminded how our traditions grow out of Jewish roots. The texts given in the Lectionary readings of today invite us to discover and appreciate this anew. Acts 2:1 teaches that on the day of Pentecost all were together in one place, Luke is describing the disciples of Jesus, all Jews, gathering for Shavuot, the “feast of weeks” taking place on the 50th day (pentecost) after Pesach. Shavuot was a harvest festival and in later Jewish tradition, it was also connected to the giving of the Torah at Mount Sinai. Because it was one of the pilgrimage feasts of the Jewish people, many Jews with their families from all over the world gathered in Jerusalem.

Luke speaks of a mighty wind and tongues of fire as physical signs accompanying the outpouring of the Holy Spirit on all the disciples (Acts 2,2-3). Both the Greek pneuma as well as the Hebrew ru’ah can mean breath, wind and also spirit. With regard to the symbol of fire we can turn to the book of Exodus, chapter 19, describing the people of Israel at Mount Sinai and Moses about to receive the Torah on the mountain. Ex 19:18 describes the mountain completely wrapped in smoke, because the Lord was descending on fire.  We see a parallel between the giving of the Torah, written on tablets of stone on Mount Sinai and the giving of God’s Spirit, written on tablets of the heart (2 Cor. 3:3) in the upper room on Mount Zion. As soon as we picture this, we are reminded of another parallel in the Tanakh or Old Testament. The prophet Micah, speaking about future times when many nations are going to the mountain of the Lord and to the house of the God of Jacob, so that he will teach them his ways, “for instruction shall come forth from Zion, the word of the LORD from Jerusalem” (Micah 4:2). Luke’s words are presented as a prophesy that has come to fruition, since Acts 2:9-11 speaks about Jews, devout men, from every nation under heaven, who understand the disciples praise of “the mighty works of God” in their own language. The people gathered in Jerusalem on that day all understood the works of God.

The reading of the Epistle of today underlines a very important characteristic of the Holy Spirit and his gifts: they are given “for the common good” (1 Cor 12:7). The Holy Spirit creates and sustains the community of believers and the special feature of such a community is that every member uses the gifts of the Holy Spirit to edify others. 1 Cor 12:13 highlights the international nature of the body of Christ, further reflecting the narrative of Acts 2 when brought together in our lectionary. The Spirit forms this body of believers out of many individuals with no regard to their origin.

Finally, today’s gospel talks about the risen Jesus appearing to his disciples, giving them the Holy Spirit by his very breath (John 20:22). From today’s gospel we can learn that where the Spirit of God is, there is peace, joy and forgiveness. Thus: Living in a pentecostal way means en-joying God, who dwells in our hearts with his Torah enabling us living lives of peace and forgiveness with God and our fellow men.

For Reflection and Discussion: [1] Which of my gifts could I use for the common good? [2] Do I live a life of forgiveness?

Bibliography: Commentary of the Jerusalem Bible (La Bible de Jérusalem – La Sainte Bible traduite en français sous la direction de l’École biblique de Jérusalem).

This week’s teaching commentary was prepared by
Barbara Kauffmann,
M.A. in Theology and Jewish Studies; Munich, Germany Bat Kol alum 2010, 2011, 2012

PLEASE NOTE: The weekly Parashah commentaries represent the research and creative thought of their authors, and are meant to stimulate deeper thinking about the meaning of the Scriptures. While they draw upon the study methods and sources employed by the ISPS-Ratisbonne, the views and conclusions expressed in these commentaries are solely those of their authors, and do not necessarily represent the views of ISPS-Ratisbonne. The commentaries, along with all materials published on the ISPS-Ratisbonne website, are copyrighted by the writers, and are made available for personal and group study, and local church purposes. Permission needed for other purposes.  Questions, comments and feedback are always welcome.

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