Today is Pentecost: the 50th day after Easter, a Christian feast day which springs originally from a Jewish Holy Day “Shavuot” called the Feast of Weeks. It was the day of celebrating the gift of God’s Word (the Torah/10 commandments) given to Moses 49 days after the Exodus. The reaping of God’s Word is the harvest presence of God in the midst of the people. Pentecost for us, is the birth of the Church, which we read about in our selection from the book that tells the unfolding story of the emerging Church: the Acts of the Apostles. Earlier in the gospels stories, in particular John, the Holy Spirit is spoken of as a gift, a gentle exhale of Jesus promising to accompany, empower and encourage his followers. Here the Spirit erupts loudly onto the scene as a violent, noisy wind, arriving like tongues of fire, come not to destroy but to create: new connections and communication through miraculous and previously impossible speaking and hearing of foreign languages. It’s the dawning of a new day and a new universe. We as the Church are called to this newness and openness to the disturbing, and sometimes violent, gentle prodding and presence of God’s Spirit among and upon us.
We also finish our reading of Galatians, a pastoral letter which “at several times in history, has shifted the direction of the age just enough to make the difference between a surge of new life and a drifting into decline.” It radically transformed the direction in which the Church developed in its infancy (as we read recently in Acts 15). It also was paramount in shifting the perspective of both Martin Luther and John Calvin, setting loose the revolution we now call the Reformation. What might it be unleashing among us in our world and culture today in which how we are defined and what is considered our usefulness or power is defined by what we purchase, how much we can produce, or who our people are?
When Galatians 4 beings, Paul is making a contrast between children and grownups. A child may be an heir, but until that child comes of age, the inheritance may as well belong to someone else. “Guardians and trustees” are responsible both for the inheritance and the heir. The main point of the analogy is the contrast between “before” and “after.” Before the inheriting child comes of age, an heir is indistinguishable from anyone else. After the child comes of age, they own and control all the property. This difference between “before” and “after” is dramatic. Similarly dramatic is the difference between the Galatians’ identity before God sent the Spirit of the Son into their hearts, and after.
Questions for the practice of Examen & Contemplation
- What strikes or shimmers for you in these passages ?
- Acts talks of the Spirit of God as a unifying force, a focusing energy. Paul talks of the Spirit as a maker-of-family, an energy that matures, stretches and completes us. How have you experienced God’s Spirit as a unifying force, or maturing presence in your life, or the life of others?
- The Spirit of God focuses us – our attention, energy, and spiritual maturation around the communication of Jesus as Lord – in deeds, relationships, presence and even our words. How do you struggle to communicate with others your following of Jesus as Lord and Master? Why? Spend some time praying with God’s Spirit for courage, spiritual growth and clarity about your possible timidity, fear, or lack of clarity.
- We seem to often, in the life of the American Church, to focus on how others need to change in order to hear the word of Jesus, receive it, or come to faith. Yet here Paul talks about growing spiritually as an unavoidable part of the journey of faith. The disciples at Pentecost are forced to change and “grow up.” How might you need to “grow up” spiritually? It could be in terms of your perspective of others, yourself, or the action of God in the world? It could be in how you approach God or participate in your own spiritual maturation? It could be in terms of how you may live out your faith and spirituality in silo, divorced from others parts of your life. ow is the Holy Spirit calling you to a wider spiritual wholeness?
Download a PDF Text Study Aid [HERE].
I borrowed freely from the following post in my writing. It’s a great read.
The image is taken from https://www.facebook.com/pg/HaikuPrayers/posts/