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Visions from The Catacombs, Week before June 8, 2014


Acts 2:1-21

2When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place. 2And suddenly from heaven there came a sound like the rush of a violent wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. 3Divided tongues, as of fire, appeared among them, and a tongue rested on each of them. 4All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages, as the Spirit gave them ability.

5Now there were devout Jews from every nation under heaven living in Jerusalem. 6And at this sound the crowd gathered and was bewildered, because each one heard them speaking in the native language of each. 7Amazed and astonished, they asked, “Are not all these who are speaking Galileans? 8And how is it that we hear, each of us, in our own native language? 9Parthians, Medes, Elamites, and residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, 10Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya belonging to Cyrene, and visitors from Rome, both Jews and proselytes, 11Cretans and Arabs—in our own languages we hear them speaking about God’s deeds of power.” 12All were amazed and perplexed, saying to one another, “What does this mean?” 13But others sneered and said, “They are filled with new wine.”

14But Peter, standing with the eleven, raised his voice and addressed them, “Men of Judea and all who live in Jerusalem, let this be known to you, and listen to what I say. 15Indeed, these are not drunk, as you suppose, for it is only nine o’clock in the morning. 16No, this is what was spoken through the prophet Joel: 17‘In the last days it will be, God declares, that I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh, and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams. 18Even upon my slaves, both men and women, in those days I will pour out my Spirit; and they shall prophesy. 19And I will show portents in the heaven above and signs on the earth below, blood, and fire, and smoky mist. 20The sun shall be turned to darkness and the moon to blood, before the coming of the Lord’s great and glorious day. 21Then everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.’

What I am Learning:

Starting in the summer after 6th grade I worked for the Camps on their farm. It was a large operation, with a farm in Walla Walla and in my hometown of Lacrosse, WA. My first day was spent with Nona Camp as she taught me how to weed the flower garden. I pulled some of the wrong ones, but she saw I was eager to learn to work and so was kind to me. Later that day, I mowed lawn – something I had been doing since third grade to earn money to buy books and an occasional snack.

When the middle of June the farmers and the older workers began to prepare for harvest by repairing the trucks and combines. Over the years they taught me how to do all these jobs so that when I was in early high school I would join them in the preparations.

That first summer, however, I drove truck in the wheat fields. I would take the truck from the edge of the field and pass it off to a person with a driver’s license. I would then drive the truck out to the combines and take 3 to 4 loads from them before returning to the edge of the field

We started harvest in Walla Walla on July 6th. We would get up at 5:15 AM, eat breakfast, and be in the field by 6:30 AM to grease the combines and trucks, clean windows, and fuel up. We would pull into the barnyard at 8:00 PM or so, take showers in some great glass showers as you can see at this Gallery, and then eat at 9:00 PM. Then it was off to bed after a few minutes of TV or a part of a movie.

This went on for 40 days. We harvested over 5000 acres of wheat.

I can remember very well the feeling as the combine cut the last swath of grain and how happy and accomplished we felt. By the end of it I slept for 32 hours straight and the next night I slept again.

The harvest in Palestine began around the Passover with barley – which always gets ripe first. It usually ended with the Feast of Weeks – a harvest festival taking place 5 weeks after Passover. We typically call this feast Pentecost – or five weeks. They would take an extra day off for feasting, offerings to God and celebration with each other. It was one of the tree festivals that all were expected to attend in Jerusalem.

I can easily imagine the joy of the families as they brought in the last of the wheat crop and stored it for use in the next year. I can feel their accomplishment and gratitude. I can imagine their exhaustion.

The Feast of Weeks did not just celebrate the harvest, though. It celebrated the giving of the Torah – the instruction of God to the People of Israel. So at the Feast of Weeks, families would encourage their children to memorize scripture and would give them treats as they did so.

As I like to remind everyone, the Bible is not literal but literary.

The Passover was a celebration of the meal that God gave them to strengthen them for the hard journey of leaving slavery in Egypt

On the Passover Jesus gave them a re-imagined Passover meal – that in the strength of his bread and wine they would be able to continue his ministry of transforming the Roman Empire from within.

The Feast of Weeks celebrated the giving to the Torah, God’s instructions for how to live with each other so that they did not create another Egypt, another empire.

On the Pentecost (the Feast of Weeks) the Holy Spirit was gave them a re-imagined Torah in which men and women would take their small part as God brought God’s way of mutuality to all nations, not just to Jewish people.

The day of Pentecost refers to other Hebrew Scripture texts as well from Joel (which Peter mentions), God’s desire to give a new heart and a new spirit in Ezekiel 36, and new covenant in Jeremiah 31.

We could go on and on.

The point is that as a nation celebrated yet another harvest festival and taught their children the Torah, while Romans had taken their farms and sent the crops to Rome a small group of people including women were given a new spirit, a new heart, a new covenant and new courage to live the fullness of their humanity in public.

The Holy Spirit continues to come among us, giving us new and renewed hearts, spirits and new courage to live our full humanity. They did so in public.

The Holy Spirit continues to come among us.

While we do not live exactly in the Roman Empire, we still live in a culture deformed by domination. We still live in a culture in which those who are wealthy and powerful, those who look beautiful by the standards set forth by the media are considered more fully human than those who are poor, those without power, those who are sick. We still live in a domination culture.

The Holy Spirit continues to come among us, to call us to the fullness of our humanity. So that we can continue God’s work of bringing God’s way of mutuality to all.

We do not do it alone.  And it is not by our own strength that we accomplish it.

It is the Holy Spirit that gives us a power and propels us as if by wind to live our full humanity in public. And gives us a power like a fire to bear witness in public to another way to live:

  • All people are honored and respected for who they are.
  • A new humanity in which everyone has enough to eat
  • A way to live so that we do not tax our fragile planet in a way that harms future generations.

May the Holy Spirit continue to come among us, to give us new hearts, new spirits, and new courage to live our new humanity, our intended humanity in public.

More on the Feast of Weeks here: