Pentecost C


167: May 15, 2016

327: June 9, 2019

Voice in the Wilderness: Melissa Myers



One: O Holy One, how amazing are your works

Many: In wisdom, you made them all.

One: The earth is full of your creatures

Many: The sea, great and wide, living things both small and great.

One: These all look to you to give them their food in due season;

Many: When you send forth your spirit, they have life;

One: Let us sing to the Holy One as long as we have breath;

Many: Sing praise to our God while we have being.

One: O Holy One, how amazing are your works

Many: In wisdom, you made them all.

John 14:8-17, 25-27

Initial Thoughts

  • Had a conversation yesterday about how confusing the Trinity is. It sounds like a cop-out, but the first step must be to acknowledge that no matter how much we read and write about it; no matter how articulate or smart we are; we are trying to capture in words an idea that is not able to be captured. God cannot be captured in our words. Father, Jesus, Holy Spirit have a relationship that is so intimate that we cannot completely understand.

Bible Study

  • I am in the Father and the Father is in me.

    • Phillip still doesn’t understand the intimacy of the relationship between Jesus and Father.

    • Phillips asks “show us the Father” after Jesus says, “I am the way, the truth, and the life.” Jesus is reiterating - to know the Father, know me. To know God is to do what I’ve done.

    • Jesus has been with them the whole time, and now Philip says, ‘okay, now give us the real stuff.’

      • It reminds me of the older son in the Prodigal story. “You’ve been with me this whole time, if you had wanted a party, you should have had one.”

    • There is no intermediary.

    • Sounds exclusivist, but I can stand and say, “I know God because I know Jesus,” and not have to prove anyone else wrong. Jesus is enough.

  • Even greater things than these

    • Belief leads to greater things

    • What is the mission of the Church? To do things even greater than Jesus.

    • What did Jesus do?

      • Fed hungry

      • Healed sick

      • Removed Dis-Ease

      • Commanded us to Love

  • The Advocate, the Holy Spirit

    • What does an Advocate do?

    • Opposite of the Accuser or Adversary (sometimes translated as Satan)

    • Defends against attack

    • Gives support to the marginalized.

    • Sings praises, promotes, tells people.

    • An Advocate is on your side in times of trial

    • In what ways is the Holy Spirit an Advocate?

      • How does advocacy fit into discipleship?

      • Advocacy is a part of social justice - to give voice to the voiceless

      • Katey Zeh - our voice in the wilderness, taught me about advocacy, and sitting in the Halls of Power on behalf of those who could not be there.

Thoughts and Questions

  • Jesus did not build an army to rule his kingdom, he built a Church. Not a religion, an institution, or a committee. He built the Body of Christ, those who would follow him, and do as he taught, and do even greater.

  • For weeks we have been hammering away at the point Jesus=Father. Father=Love. If you want to know the Father, you must love. This has been repeated over and over. Now, a new element is entered. How do we do that? The answer is the Holy Spirit. The way we have the ability to love is through the Holy Spirit. The Advocate is on our side when we try to love, giving us the strength to do it, even (especially) when it’s hard to do.

  • Phillip asks, “Show us God.” And Jesus says, “you know God because you know me.” This is “An intimate Pentecost” as Alyce Mckenzie puts it. There are no pyrotechnics like in Acts. There is no fire, doves, people acting weird. No one would suggest these guys sitting around the table are drunk. This promise of the Holy Spirit comes with nothing more than a relationship.

Acts 2:1-21  

  • Listener Comment from 2014: “The problem with Pentecost is not that it's a busy time of the year, but that it so unambiguously requires of us that we carry the gospel out into the world, and blow our own covers. It is one thing to adore the infant Jesus, another to mourn the death of Jesus in our insular communities. It is something else, VERY else, and to many, VERY scary, to proclaim the gospel in every action we take, and to publicly proclaim ourselves to be THOSE people, those [insert negative adjective here] Christians. Pentecost gives us marching orders. Christmas is so much easier…”

Initial Thoughts

  • Acts 2 according to The Twible, by Jana Riess: “Product launch: Holy Ghost language course. Better than Berlitz! [Warning: User may seem inebriated. Tongue may catch fire.]

  • Every year- same passage- make it new!

  • Pentecost Ideas on Pinterest

Bible Study

  • Pentecost - fifty days or seven weeks after Passover (Lev. 23:15-22)

    • Giving of law at Mount Sinai

    • End of the Spring Harvest

    • All were included in the celebration: Deut. 16:11 “you, your sons, your daughters, your male and female servants, the Levites who live in your cities, the immigrants, the orphans, and the widows”

    • “Pentecost is the moment when gestation ceases and birthing occurs. Thus, it is both an end and a beginning, the leaving behind of that which is past, the launching forth into that which is only now beginning to be. Pentecost therefore is not a time of completion. It is moving forward into new dimensions of being, whose basic forms are clear, but whose fulfillment has yet to be realized.” (Walter Brueggemann, Texts for Preaching, Year B,  p. 347)

    • Double Celebration:

      • End of the Spring Harvest (we aren’t in Illinois anymore)- connections to Peter’s Sermon (Joel 2:24a "the threshing floors shall be full of grain” and Luke 10:2 “The harvest is great, but the laborers are few”)

      • God gives the Hebrews the Torah - not explicit in the Hebrew Bible, but traditionally celebrated.

        • Gift of the Torah - which unites a people as a holy nation and priestly kingdom

        • Gift of the Spirit - which unites all people

        • Both are inclusive celebrations to be blessings to all people

  • Who is they? (David Bender, Feasting on the Word, Year B, volume 3)

    • The 11 (Acts 1:13)?

    • Has Matthias been added (Acts 1:26)?

    • Have the women been added (Acts 1:14)?

    • Do we allow the gift of the Spirit to flow through our congregations or only our seminaries and adjudicatories?

  • Baptism of the Spirit- see Luke 3:16, Acts 1:5

  • Images of the Spirit

    • Rush of wind, tongues of fire, community gathered

    • Freedom of the Spirit

    • Not limited by language

    • Perhaps the semi-collapse of Enlightenment orthodoxy, with its elevation of reason and science as the only paths to true knowledge of the world, has opened the door to a recovery of a kind of pre-/post-Enlightenment religiosity in which once again people are open to, and therefore experience, "signs and wonders." - David Gushee

    • Not limited by different languages or even needing to be explained - “What does this mean?” They cannot explain it and still today we try and answer this question

  • Spirit of Liberation

    • Liberation from Chaos - Genesis 1-2

    • Liberation from Babylon - Isaiah 11:2

    • Liberation from Rome - Luke 3:16, Acts 1:5

    • What do we need to be liberated from?

      • The church?

      • Consumerism?

      • Self-importance? Self-delusion? Self-disregard?

  • Reversal of Babel (Gen. 11)?

    • The lectionary seems to think so (Genesis is always pairs with Acts 2 on Pentecost)

      • Genesis - One language = building a tower to the heavens to “make a name for ourselves”

      • Acts - “One language” = sharing God’s great deeds of power

    • Not about making the people great- about making God great

    • Community for its own sake is not always a good thing- but a Spirit-filled community working for God is world changing

    • Not necessarily:

      • The reversal of Babel would have been uniting all people under one language- not what happens here

      • About Evangelism- not about undoing Babel

    • Couldn’t it be both?

      • The reversal of the self-centeredness of Babel and the focus on declaring the Good News of God’s great deeds of power in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria and to all the ends of the Earth (Acts 1:8)

  • Joel 2:28-29

    • Joel background - not much is known about Joel or historical context.

      • Possibly post-exilic, living in Jerusalem (Common English Study Bible notes, p. 1445 OT)

      • “The book shows a blend of judgment and deliverance.” Subheadings in order:

        • Lament

        • Mourning

        • Suffering

        • Prophet’s Prayer

        • Alarm and Peril

        • Change your hearts

        • Compassion and promise

        • Judgment on nations

        • Coming war

        • Salvation

      • 2:28-29 is within the Compassion and Promise section.

      • “For Joel the outpouring of the Spirit are a prelude to disaster, but for Peter these wonders have been fulfilled in Jesus Christ… and their purpose… is nothing less than the redemption of humankind.” (Brueggemann, Texts for Preaching, Year B, p. 349)

    • Spirit of inclusivity

      • Age, gender, ethnically (all persons)

      • Signs and Wonders - theme throughout the first half of Acts - performed by Jesus, the Spirit, Stephen, (Moses), Philip, Paul and Barnabas

      • The word of the Spirit is something which has happened, did happen (on Pentecost) and continues

      • “Your young will see visions. Your elders will dream dreams.” Is it just me, or does that seem to be a reversal? I think of older people have mystical visions, and younger people as dreaming dreams. Yet here it is, the young are given visions usually reserved the old and wise, and dreams are given to those who may not live them out.

    • All who call upon the name of the Lord will be saved

      • What does salvation mean?

      • What does it mean to call on the name of the Lord?

    • If all can call on the name of the Lord, then do we still need priests?

    • Response: They are drunk

      • Going the wrong way and dismissing the warnings: Planes Trains and Automobiles clip

      • Do we really want the gift of the Spirit? It will be violent. It may burn us. It may push us to places where we do not wish to go. Perhaps it is easier to dismiss

      • They are intoxicated with the Spirit which will lead them to do foolish things - like follow a crucified Lord

Thoughts and Questions

  • From either Becca or Lydia (can’t remember which) on Lit Liturgy Podcast: “Christmas is stupid without Easter. Easter is pointless without Pentecost.”

  • Is the current church as flexible as the ancient church to adapt to where the spirit is calling or do we insist on the Spirit working within our institutional and/or traditional methods?

    • Do we truly allow the spirit to guide us or is the Spirit in the backseat?

    • Are we willing to be led by the spirit without knowing the destination?

        • Local churches struggling week to week

        • Denominations struggling year to year

        • Pastors struggling with calls

        • Can we be led out of the temple and into the wilderness?

  • What do we need to be liberated from?

      • The church?

      • Consumerism?

      • Self-importance? Self-delusion? Self-disregard?

  • “Without Pentecost, we’d just be people who tell Jesus’ story. With Pentecost, we’re people who live into Jesus’ story” (Danielle Shroyer, The Hardest Question blog)

  • Is the current church as flexible as the ancient church to adapt to where the spirit is calling or do we insist on the Spirit working within our institutional and/or traditional methods?

    • Do we truly allow the spirit to guide us or is the Spirit in the backseat?

    • Are we willing to be led by the spirit without knowing the destination?

      • Local churches struggling week to week

      • Denominations struggling year to year

      • Pastors struggling with calls

      • C an we be led out of the temple and into the wilderness?

  • It is easy to slip into an us and them mentality- the Spirit breaks through those barriers. Who are the “they” in your community who the Spirit is pushing you (and your church) toward?

  • What noise is your church making? It is drawing people together or keeping them apart?

  • How are you proclaiming God’s great deeds of power? Are you working to make a name for yourself/church/family/country or a name for God?

  • What does it mean to be saved? (also something not often talked about)

Romans 8:14-17

Initial Thoughts

  • The Spirit of Adoption, by Jeanne Stevenson-Moessner was one of my favorite books from seminary.

    • She makes the argument that adoption is the primary function of God, and that the adoption process should be lifted up as the model of family-making in Christian community.

    • The power of adoption is one of choice and grace on the part of God, who unites all people. An adoptive family is one that is bonded by something higher than genetics and biology. This makes it a strong metaphor for the Church.

Bible Study

  • Literary Context

    • Chapter 8 is an important piece of writing. It is the summary point after Paul argues for Freedom from the Law.

    • This is the “so what” of the first half of Paul’s letter to the Romans

    • 8:1 “So now there isn’t any condemnation for those who are in Christ.

    • 8:12 “So then, brothers and sisters, we have an obligation, but it isn’t an obligation to ourselves to live our lives on a the basis of selfishness.”

    • Freedom from the Law means freedom to live fully

    • Salvation from also implies salvation for

    • Next verse after this passage is a “Greatest Hit”: “I believe that the present suffering is nothing compared to the coming glory that is going to be revealed to us.”

      • Kind of surprising this isn’t included, but it does introduce another idea bout the waiting and yearning of all Creation.

  • Historic notes (From Spirit of Adoption)

    • During the time of [this letter’s] writing, Nero ruled the Julio-Claudian Dynasty. Nero was both Claudius’s stepson, through Claudius’ fourth marriage to Julia Agrippina, and Claudius’s nephew. Although Claudius had a biological son by Julia Agrippina, he adopted Nero at age 12 and made him heir to the dynasty… Adoption was an accepted and high-profile method of perpetuating a lineage. Paul would have been keenly aware of the role of adoption in the Roman world at the time… and he used this widely understood cultural process to illustrate the formation of a spiritual family. (Stevenson-Moessner p. 111)

  • Spirit of Slavery vs Spirit of Adoption

    • Spirit of Slavery: Obey, follow rules, fear punishment

      • Many of those who are Christian for fear of going to hell are probably in the Spirit of Slavery.

    • Spirit of Adoption: Welcomed, accepted, given an inheritance

  • Suffering and Glory

    • To suffer with is to have compassion. This is not about undergoing physical torment, it is about having a heart that aches for the same thing Christ aches for.

    • One of the most important characteristics of Jesus was his compassion (literally, suffer with).

    • One of the most important for Messiah is “Emmanuel” or God is with

    • The with-ness of Jesus is what unites us to God

    • Relationship with Christ leads to a relationship with God that is so intimate we can call God “Abba.”

      • “The word “Abba” is an Aramaic term for father. It is less formal than “Ab,” which also means father. But Abba was usually the word used in the home, as children addressed their fathers. It is easier for a child to use a two-syllable word ending in a vowel than to use a single syllable word ending with a consonant. (So “Daddy” is easier to say than “Dad,” “Mommy” is easier than “Mom,” and so on.) But of interest here also is that “Abba” is the word used by Jesus in the crucifixion scene in the Gospel of Mark (14:36, “Abba, Father, for you all things are possible … ”). The use of “Abba” must also have been characteristic of Jesus’ prayers, as in the use of “Father” in the Lord’s Prayer “ (Arland Halgren, Working Preacher)

  • God’s Spirit Family (Paul Achtemeier, Interpretation: Romans, p. 137)

    • To be adopted into a family means that the adopted gains all rights, responsibilities, and privileges of being in the family. There is no differentiation between adopted and born sons and daughters.

    • The metaphor of adoption into God’s family is multi-faceted, and one which allows the family of Abraham to grow into the Gentile world.

    • “The letter to the Romans offers a contrast between the children of the Spirit and the children of the flesh. Children of the Spirit are adopted as sons and daughters and become heirs with Christ. Children of the flesh resist adoption. As in the legal process of today, there is a waiting period, according to Romans, before full adoption is completed. Suffering is to be expected with adoption, as those adopted become heirs with Christ who suffers. Yet the suffering is outweighed by the glory of the finalization of the adoption.” (Jeanne Stevenson-Moessner, The Spirit of Adoption, p. 110.)

    • “Abba, Father,” is a term of close endearment, read “Daddy.” Only use in the Gospel is in Mark at Jesus’ final prayer before the passion. It is not translated into the other gospels, perhaps because it is such an intimate expression it made those authors uncomfortable.

    • Metaphor of Family of God is different than the metaphor of Body of Christ, yet that is often a popular use in congregations. Many congregations like to describe themselves as “family.” All too often, this means that they really like each other, but really don’t need anyone else. The metaphor of an actively adopting family opens up the love to all, and includes the possibility of the other because at one time we were all ‘other.’

  • To be adopted means to be let go of one set of parents, and adopted by another.

    • What we need to relinquish is self-centeredness.

    • Selfishness is the way of the flesh.

    • When selfishness is relinquished, it allows for Divine adoption.

    • “Those who by calling God “Father” enter his family are transformed in such a way that their former world is no longer their home. Ruled by flesh and its rebellion against God, that world cannot understand those who are at peace with God through Christ” (Achtemeier, p. 13)

  • “Family of God”

    • “Belonging to the family of God directs the character of our lives. Most of us grew up knowing key family values: things like never showing weakness in public, excelling in academics or sports, caring for those who could not care for themselves, and so forth. These guiding principles helped us know how to live and relate in the world. They reminded us of who we were and how we ought to be.” (Abingdon Preaching Annual, p. 74)

    • Family Values is now a politically fraught term, but perhaps it can be reclaimed. What are the values of God’s family?

    • “If we are children of the king, then our lives are meant to reflect God’s kingdom values.” (Abingdon Preaching Annual, p. 74)

Thoughts and Questions

  • Passage is a lot about identity: Who and whose are you? You are God’s child. Adopted into God and an heir to all that is God’s. Being God’s child does not prevent suffering but changes our outlook on the past, present and future. We are no longer bound by the past. We groan in the present seeing that the Kingdom is not here (having seen the first fruits as presented in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus) and we are inspired to work with God toward a better future.

Thanks to our Psalms correspondent, Richard Bruxvoort Colligan (,@pomopsalmist). Thank you to Scott Fletcher for our voice bumpers, Dick Dale and the Del Tones for our Theme music (“Miserlou”), Nicolai Heidlas (“Sunday Morning”,"Real Ride"and“Summertime”) and Bryan Odeen for our closing music.