Pentecost May 2023
This week marked the Jewish festival of Shavuot – or the feast of weeks – 7 weeks – 49 days after Pesach/Passover.
It celebrates the earliest wheat harvest in Israel – when the first fruits are to be taken and presented in the temple as an offering to God.
And it also came to be connected to the giving of the Torah on Mt Sinai – the gift of the Ten Words – what we call the Ten Commandments.
So many Jews celebrate by staying up all night reading and studying Torah together – no just the ten words, but the first five books of scrip-ture – AND the book of Ruth, where a foreign woman joined herself to the people of God by love – not by birth – as a model for all Jews to choose what has been given as a birthright.
For Christians Pentecost – 50 days – came during this Jewish feast – and it is lovely to see these two feast together for a couple of reasons.
The New Testament calls those first Jews who followed Jesus the “first fruits” – the early produce to be followed by a huge harvest. That imagery of planting, growing, harvesting – “seed time and harvest” is all through the Bible. They, and we, are not the whole thing – but only part of the harvest that in the end will include everyone.
A second connection is this: and it is a powerful one.
Do you remember that in Joel the people of God were told that one day the law – that is – the Way – would be written on hearts rather than on tablets of stone?
The Church understood the giving of the Spirit on Pentecost in that way…as a way to see the Love of God that compels us – written on our hearts.
We should no longer need those tablets that urge us to love God, and to avoid those things that break up a community made up of God‘s people.
We say that the Spirit IS the new Law – and it is given to us to empower us to love – that‘s it.
Nobody should have to tell us who have received the Spirit not to lie or cheat or murder.
The Spirit gives life.
The Spirit witnesses to Jesus.
The Spirit IS the spirit of Jesus and makes him present to the whole world all at once – through every age and in every situation.
But here’s the thing.
The Spirit is given freely –
But sometimes we are slow to receive the gifts of God –
And this might be one of those times where the Law of Love is so deep and wide and inviting that it scares us.
And so we turn a little bit aside and decide we can do life ourselves, without that power – because we don’t probably really want to be that daring, that brave, that joyful anyway!
But while Jews are reflecting on what the consequences of Passover might be for them – as they think and study what freedom of Egypt and entering into a new homeland and life as the people of God in covenant with God means TODAY – They have thought about it since Passover.
We are invited to reflect in the same way – In these 50 days since the death and resurrection of Jesus we have been considering what it means to us to be set free from another kind of slavery – to sin, and what it means to enter into a new covenant – a new homeland, and a new life.
And so today – we who are part of that harvest to be taken and presented to God – are again invited to offer ourselves , as the prayer books says – a “living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God.”
And we are also invited not simply to acknowledge the giving of the Spirit to the whole creation, to sing about the presence of Jesus –
BUT also to open up and discover ever new ways to RECEIVE that given Spirit.
God gave the Law – but it hardly mattered unless the people received it.
God also gave – and gives forever – the Spirit – but it hardly matters if we aren’t willing to receive the Spirit of light and life and power and love.
Let’s chose to be who we are.