Today is also one of the church’s moveable feast days, and used to be the second-most honored feast day, only second to Easter: Pentecost, Fire Hazard and Freedom-Giver.
Pentecost highlights the “shy person of the Trinity,” the Holy Spirit. She is unleashed upon the disciples as they are scared and huddled in an upper room, unsure of what to do.
At this same moment it just so happened that people from all the known world were gathered in Jerusalem for a festival…and the symbolism here should not be overlooked.
The Holy Spirit will infuse the world.
The disciples are described as appearing as if they had “flames on their heads.” It’s kind of akin to that time Moses was descending from Sinai and his “face was shining,” or that burning bush moment earlier in Exodus where the flame didn’t consume the shrub. The idea here is that they were glowing with Divine power and wisdom, and it doesn’t consume them, but rather sets them free.
And in this moment, which is a Divine reversal of the Tower of Babel story in Genesis, everyone understands that God is for them in their own language and context, everyone thoughout the known world gathered there.
Pentecost is not a story of God empowering a few to give to the many what they don’t already have, but a story of God unleashing herself upon humanity so that Divine wisdom and saving grace is seen and known in every nook and cranny of creation.
Which should, I think, make us more open to the experiences and ideas of others, especially because they glow with what the Celts called “the spark of Divine life,” just like those disciples glowed that day.
Pentecost is a reminder to me, and should be for the whole church, that Divine grace and wisdom shows up everywhere, like new wine surprising us at every sip.
-commentary my own
-icon written by Jim Whalen