Proper definition: “It originated in the East in the 3rd century and is probably the Christianization of the Jewish Feast of Weeks, originally a thanksgiving for the wheat harvest but later linked to the giving of the ‘Tablets of the Law to Moses on Sinai’.” (from the Dictionary of Christian Lore and Legend,” 1983)
Liturgical definition: “The Day of Pentecost is the fiftieth and last day of the Easter Season, when the Church received the gift of the Holy Spirit.” (from the United Methodist Book of Worship)
Or my confusing attempt at a definition: Lighted candles known as humans realized that speaking and hearing were of equal importance if the spirit were to be understood as The Spirit. There are, after all, as many languages as there are human beings. You may not think you know any Parthians or Pamphylians, but the very next person you encounter may need you to carefully listen to who he or she uniquely is. When you are in Pamphylia, you’re a Pamphlyian.
*For what it’s worth, I hope anyone preaching on Pentecost will honestly and humbly imagine you are speaking to residents of Joplin, Missouri (among other places). Wind as reality and wind as metaphor sometimes collide like an accident on the freeway…and the worst thing to do is ignore the damage and drive by.
T.S. Eliot famously began his poem East Coker with, “In my beginning is my end.” The conclusion declared, “In my end is my beginning.”
Ascension Sunday – for June 5, 2011
“In the first book Theophilus, I wrote about all that Jesus did and taught from the beginning…” (Acts 1:1)
As a child cheerfully attending Sunday school each week, I wasn’t told the same person wrote Luke and Acts. Until seminary, probably during a bleary-eyed moment in a New Testament class, I didn’t realize Luke’s end transitioned into Acts’ beginning. Luke highlighted Jesus’ life and work. Acts revealed what followed for his disciples and their post-resurrection ministry. Part 1. Part 2. Jesus’ birth “in the east” was bookended by Paul’s preaching “in the west.”
Then why doesn’t Luke’s end and Acts’ beginning match? Both depict Jesus’ final moments with the disciples and yet contain oddly different versions. Writing the last words of a first book to parallel the opening words of the follow-up seem a simple task. Perhaps I’m influenced by the silly “reality shows” I spend too much time viewing. In programs like THE BIGGEST LOSER I weary of the hype about a contestant’s weight loss or gain that’s interrupted by endless commercials. When the show returns, the last scene is repeated. Grrrr! There’s no need—in spite of the mindless, endless ads—for a rehash. Just show me the weight loss!
But Luke’s finish and Acts’ start, with only the Gospel of John and no commercials between them, are not in agreement.
I understand why agreement can be difficult because choices are always being made by scholars to decide—based on the available manuscripts—which words should be included or excluded. A perfect example comes from the end of Luke in the Revised Standard Version (RSV) Bible given as a birthday present forty-five years ago by my parents. I still occasionally use it. In the RSV, Luke 24:51-53 reads:
(51) While he blessed them, he parted from them. (52) And they returned to Jerusalem with great joy, (53) and were continually in the temple blessing God.
In my updated, more modern New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)—the Bible I currently use for personal study—Luke concludes . . .
(51) While he was blessing them, he withdrew from them and was carried up into heaven. (52) And they worshipped him and returned to Jerusalem with great joy; (53) and they were continually in the temple blessing God.
Well! The NRSV’s italicized words are different! In my birthday present Bible, the RSV has footnotes explaining, “other ancient authorities ADD” the italicized words. In the NRSV, those italicized words are footnoted with, “other ancient authorities LACK” these words. And that’s merely Luke’s add & lack ending, from only two different translations of the Bible. Reading the Good Word ain’t for the fainthearted, or those who like “easy” beginnings or endings! Continue reading →
How dare I believe a particular date and time in my insignificant life could represent the Biblical end of the world! But, alas, I do think that. Indeed, I believe everyone has or will experience an EOTW event. A divorce. An addiction overwhelming you. A failure in a job. Your world ends . . . but not God’s love for you. Or, to paraphrase Old Testament scholar Walter Brueggeman’s words, God greets us where we yearn for the future . . . and where your world can begin again and again and again. I actually think God’s more committed to inviting us to the beginning of the world. So, in the end–the beginning!–put me down for a B-O-T-W rather than a E-O-T-W faith choice.