OUR OPINION: Pentecost’s disquiet still shakes the self-satisfied

By NEMS Daily Journal

From Acts 2
When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place. 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. Divided tongues, as of fire, appeared among them, and a tongue rested on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages, as the Spirit gave them ability.
… All were amazed and perplexed, saying to one another, “What does this mean?” But others sneered and said, “They are filled with new wine.”
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. Indeed, these are not drunk, as you suppose, for it is only nine o’clock in the morning. No, this is what was spoken through the prophet Joel: ‘In the last days it will be, God declares, that I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh …

Ephesians 1:13-14
In him you also, when you had heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and had believed in him, were marked with the seal of the promised Holy Spirit; this is the pledge of our inheritance toward redemption as God’s own people, to the praise of his glory.
NRSV

The Day of Pentecost story in Acts 2:1-13 describes God giving the gift of the Holy Spirit to empower witnesses to the resurrection, that is, new life in Jesus Christ.
The day, a new version of an even more ancient Jewish festival, has been characterized in Christian worship for 2,000 years in ways too numerous to cite.
On the original day, as the scriptural narrative describes, sounds from heaven, cosmic language, the rush of a mighty ruach (wind, spirit, breath) invaded the house in which the apostles gathered, and appeared to them as burning fire. Tongues of fire touched them, moving among them and gripping them.
The Holy Spirit is unseen, like the wind, which is why the Old Testament calls it ruach YHWH, “the wind, or breath, of God” (cf. John 3:8). The Spirit is the “unseenness of God” working among us, and merely discussing such an unseen divine phenomenon makes some people uncomfortable.
However, the longer tradition of the festival day includes visions of hope and newness in all the relationships and actions of human life. A conversion or transformation is the way some people describe it.
Change, whether gradual or fast and dramatic, disquiets people satisfied with the status quo. Religion is no exception to the rule and norm.
Some people see Pentecost as a day of liberation from self-absorption and selfishness, a change that allows God to work in new ways with all people capable of trust and belief.
Serving others, neighbors, friends and enemies, is the new way in the Christian stream, and Pentecost is “new creation” for that in some descriptive sources.
The book of Acts tells the story of Pentecost’s new creation.
With the gift of the Spirit, all things are possible.
The Day of Pentecost, rather than being set apart, is intended as the unifier, with acts and plans for reconciling all people in the fellowship and embrace of Christ.
Holy Spirit, as the Christian tradition understands it, makes all things possible, even though, as the narrative in Acts 2 describes, some greeted that first day with sneers and skepticism, just like some people in 2013.