This is posting a little late in the week, but that’s how my week is going.
This is but one of the accounts of Pentecost for this Sunday. If movies had existed in his day, Luke would have been a producer in the Action/Adventure genre. His account of the giving of the Holy Spirit makes for a great scene. The setting he established was the community that existed with the disciples. “They were all together in one place” described something much more than scene context. I think Luke was also providing their sense of togetherness, one renewed from their time following Jesus but now held together by the mortar of his resurrection and ascension. It should first be noted that the Spirit was poured out upon a community, even though there are certainly individual aspects of reception described here. Some good questions for preachers and congregations this Sunday: What does it mean to be “together in one place”? What would it look like for our church to experience the rushing wind, the bewilderment, and the tongues of fire?
The psalmist directs attention to the sustaining work of the Creator of all things, giving lines to the creatures of the earth (like the mysterious Leviathan, whom someone once told me had to have been the Loch ness Nessie). It reads as if the psalmist is out for a walk along the sea, perhaps early in the morning or when the shadows get long, so full of amazement at the intricate endurance of that which has been created that there is an incessant yet almost indescribable flow of words the psalmist is attempting to string together to give praise to that who has created. He does a good job of such stringing, providing the world with one of the most beautiful poems, giving it not only words to use when without but also constant reminders when it tends to forget that the Creator is the Sustainer. What a great psalm to use to start worship and a brand new week.
This reading fits nicely with Pentecost as well as the creation/sustainer theme of the psalm. Paul’s aim was to provide the Christians in Rome with a reason for encouragement: the intercessory role of the Holy Spirit.
Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but that very Spirit intercedes with sighs too deep for words. And God, who searches the heart, knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.(NRSV)
They were to know, in the midst of persecution and suffering, that the Spirit living in them would be lifting up their needs in prayer, even when they were too weary or afflicted to know how to pray for themselves.
Preachers, music ministers, and teachers would do well to include this reading into the worship service, if not taking a major role in the sermon. It answers the “So what?” question to Pentecost by making it applicable to weakness, and perhaps even suffering, experienced by people in our congregations.
John’s account of the gift of the Spirit is also full of practicality as well. Jesus told the disciples of how he was not leaving them alone, but with the Advocate, the promised Holy Spirit. Jesus knew they would always need advocacy, explaining in detail what actions the Spirit would take in their group and in them as individuals: convict them and the world of sin, make a statement about righteousness and judgment, guide them into all truth as they continued to follow him, and glorify Jesus. This text provides just one of many functions of the Spirit, giving accessible application points for people of today.