Day of Freedom

9 June 2019 – Day of Pentecost

There are many things in today’s readings that can get us sidetracked: How is it possible for untutored Galileans to speak in languages they never had a chance to learn? Was this the same as the “speaking in tongues” popular in some Christian circles today? Twenty centuries later, we ask: What is the Holy Spirit supposed to do in our individual lives?

… The central point of this great Pentecost festival… [is that] the church is constituted and commissioned by God for service. It is not merely another human organization. . . the church knows in its midst the reality of the risen Christ at work in the world.

All of this we must confess humbly. We are not called to boast that we are better than secular groups around us. That would only cause the world to laugh, for our faults and disagreements are all too evident to those who wish to criticize the church.

Nevertheless, within the church we constantly need to be aware that we have not been left to our own resources. The same God is at work in us who was at work in the first century. For then God changed a group of timid, fearful followers of Jesus into a bold and vigorous band of whom it could be said, “They have turned the world upside down” (Acts 17:6). –– Blair Gilmer Meeks

John 14:8-17 [25-27]

Consider this: after the resurrection, Jesus’ followers hid behind locked doors; seven weeks later they were out on the streets of Jerusalem unapologetically proclaiming the mighty power of God. That’s transformation! And transformation is the work of God.

It is a frighteningly bold assertion that Jesus makes to Philip in today’s gospel reading: “Those who believe in me will also do the works that I do, and greater works than these, because I go to the Father.” Greater works than those of Jesus. . . ? Surely not!

Well, not if by greater we mean “more perfect” or “more righteous.” . . . The ministry of Jesus was necessarily limited to a few square miles. . . But the church has been called to carry the gospel to the four corners of the earth. . . for almost 2,000 years in this work. Thus the church expands God’s work done in Jesus. –– Blair Gilmer Meeks

Acts 2:1-21

The setting in the house where the disciples were may derive from the Greek Book of Enoch. . . “the winds were causing me to fly. . . . I approached a wall . . . surrounded by tongues of living fire” in a structure built of crystals. (71.5)

The words, “and [they] began to speak in other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance” (v 4) do not indicate that an ecstatic spirit-language is being spoken here but instead a word of proclamation (lalein) to which the disciples are being prompted by the Spirit. … We the living church are made up of every race, every climate: that is the news being foretold, shouted, in today’s reading from Acts. –– Blair Gilmer Meeks

Romans 8:14-17

Paul notes that the Spirit at work in us is not a spirit of subservience. . . rather the spirit in us is a spirit of freedom. . . . [that] gives us the right to address God the way a true child (Jesus, for example) would: as “Abba.” –– Blair Gilmer Meeks

Blair Gilmer Meeks, was at the time of this writing, a pastoral minister, writer of worship-related resources, and leader of workshops on worship living in Brentwood, Tennessee. Among her four books is Standing in the Circle of Grief: Prayers and Liturgies for Death and Dying (Nashville: Abingdon, 2002).

Homily Service 37, nos. 6-7 (2004): 43-50.

David Turnbloom