Adventus

"The central doctrine of Christianity, then, is not that God is a bastard. It is, in the words of the late Dominican theologian Herbert McCabe, that if you don’t love you’re dead, and if you do, they’ll kill you."--Terry Eagleton

"...doesn't philosophy amount to the sum of all thinkable and unthinkable errors, ceaselessly repeated?"--Jean-Luc Marion

“The opposite of poverty is not wealth; the opposite of poverty is justice."--Bryan Stevenson

Monday, June 05, 2006

Pentecost Sunday, 2006

2:1 When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place.

2:2 And suddenly from heaven there came a sound like the rush of a violent wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting.

2:3 Divided tongues, as of fire, appeared among them, and a tongue rested on each of them.

2:4 All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages, as the Spirit gave them ability.

2:5 Now there were devout Jews from every nation under heaven living in Jerusalem.

2:6 And at this sound the crowd gathered and was bewildered, because each one heard them speaking in the native language of each.

2:7 Amazed and astonished, they asked, "Are not all these who are speaking Galileans?

2:8 And how is it that we hear, each of us, in our own native language?

2:9 Parthians, Medes, Elamites, and residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia,

2:10 Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya belonging to Cyrene, and visitors from Rome, both Jews and proselytes,

2:11 Cretans and Arabs--in our own languages we hear them speaking about God's deeds of power."

Read the texts this morning at 8 a.m. chapel. Certain things stuck out, at least in the English text. Things like Luke's indistinctness about matters. It's an epistemological matter, a question of knowing something new by comparing it to something old, an idea as old as Socrates (at least). Verses 2 and 3 note that something "like" a sound of rushing wind is heard; and tongues "as of fire" descended on all those in the house. (Pastor Dan is right, the Pentecost story is for all of us.) But it isn't wind, and it isn't fire.

"To this the answer came: 'Go and stand on the mount before the Lord.' The Lord was passing by: a great and strong wind, rending mountains and shattering rocks before him, but the Lord was not in the wind; and after the wind there was an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake; and after the earthquake fire, but the Lord was not in the fire; and after the fire a faint murmuring sound." 1 Kings 19:11-12.
The Pentecost story is usually compared to the story of Babel. But it is just as likely Luke had Elijah in mind, as well. This story is as much about the presence of God as it is about the beginning of the church. And then there's the Psalm:

104:24 O LORD, how manifold are your works! In wisdom you have made them all; the earth is full of your creatures.

104:25 Yonder is the sea, great and wide, creeping things innumerable are there, living things both small and great.

104:26 There go the ships, and Leviathan that you formed to sport in it.

104:27 These all look to you to give them their food in due season;

104:28 when you give to them, they gather it up; when you open your hand, they are filled with good things.

104:29 When you hide your face, they are dismayed; when you take away their breath, they die and return to their dust.

104:30 When you send forth your spirit, they are created; and you renew the face of the ground.

104:31 May the glory of the LORD endure forever; may the LORD rejoice in his works--

104:32 who looks on the earth and it trembles, who touches the mountains and they smoke.

104:33 I will sing to the LORD as long as I live; I will sing praise to my God while I have being.

104:34 May my meditation be pleasing to him, for I rejoice in the LORD.

Stop with verse 26: how often do we consider that God does things for the sport of it? For the sheer pleasure of living, of enjoying the Creation? You have to understand, to the Israelites the sea was more commonly a symbol of chaos than of creation. They were a desert people, not seafarers. The sea was simply where disaster waited. But God made it, and made Leviathan to sport in it. Hooray for God! We are so inured to the idea of progress, of effort and goal and pursuit of aim, that we think God works as hard as we do, and we don't even take Sundays off anymore (not really). When do we ever think of God doing something for the fun of it, or providing a place just for something to enjoy? (Maybe whales breaching? Which some scientists say is just fun for the whales?)

So maybe part of the story of Pentecost is that God is present, and yet transcendent, and is doing things just so we will enjoy it. At least sometimes.

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