Pentecost

Readings for this week June 3 – 7
Click here for a pdf of this week’s readings

Day 1 – “He Opened Their Minds to Understand the Scriptures”

Silence, Stillness and Centering before God (2 minutes)

Scripture Reading – Luke 24:44-52

Jesus had already encountered the two disciples on the road to Emmaus – as soon as they had realised their strange travelling companion was Jesus they had rushed back to Jerusalem to tell the other disciples. No doubt much of their amazing story to the others would have been taken up with an account of what Jesus had explained to them about the scriptures while they were walking on the road, and their new understanding of how the whole story fits together. Now, as soon as they have finished their extraordinary story, Jesus appears amongst them, confirming their story and the rumours of a missing body and empty tomb.

Jesus then explains the scriptures to the entire group of his followers. Together, he leads them through the meaning of Moses and the prophets, just as he had done on the road to Emmaus. Luke does not show us Jesus engaging in one-to-one Bible study. On the road, he shared his understanding with the scripture with two others, in expectation that they would then go and share the whole story with the other disciples. Now, he shares the story of scripture with the entire group. Everyone got the story, everyone was given the explanation and the key to unlock the scriptures. Jesus opened the minds of everyone in the community. They investigated the scriptures together, they heard the story together, they asked questions and discussed things together. In a group, with Jesus among them, they investigated the story of scripture and their newfound understanding of it and he unfolded it all for them.

Question to Consider
Why is it so important that they investigated scripture together?

Prayer
Lord God, thank you for the Bible, and for the access it gives to you and to the story that we are a part of together. Inspire me to open your word more and more with others in the community of your people. Amen.

Conclude with Silence (2 minutes)


Day 2 – Reading Scripture Together

Silence, Stillness and Centering before God (2 minutes)

Scripture Reading – Deuteronomy 31:9-13

Reading the scriptures together as a community – whether in a large gathering or with just a couple of people – is a vitally important part of the definition of a community of God. It is important for God’s people to gather together, to hear and read the scriptures together, to study them, discuss them, and seek God’s timeless and timely message through the scriptures. This is something that was expected of God’s people right from the first giving of the law on Sinai. Fresh from escaping slavery, unsure of who they were and what they should do, Moses gathered the people and read the law to them, and then enshrined the regular public reading of the law to the people in the law itself, as a reminder of who they were, who God was, and what he had done – and was going to do – for them.

Upon entering the promised land, Joshua read the scriptures to the people again (Joshua 8:30-35). Unfortunately, over time Israel fell away from this practice, and we don’t read of it happening very often after this, as the people forgot their story, and, often, their God. When the book of the law was rediscovered in the reign of King Josiah, he had the scriptures read publicly again to the entire nation (2 Kings 23:1-2) Even Jesus read aloud in the synagogue, showing that the communal reading of scripture was still alive in some form in his time. And Paul encouraged Timothy to “devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to preaching and to teaching” (1 Timothy 4:13). Without such public, communal reading and study, we will forget who we are and who our God is, and who he is calling us to be.

Question to Consider
Why is public bible reading and study so important for defining a people?

Prayer
Heavenly Father, help us to be people of your word, both in keeping it and also in our commitment to reading scripture together as we live it together too. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Conclude with Silence (2 minutes)


Day 3 – From Passover to Pentecost

Silence, Stillness and Centering before God (2 minutes)

Scripture Reading – Acts 2:1

Pentecost, the fiftieth day after Passover, was an agricultural festival marking the day when farmers would bring the first sheaf of wheat from their crops and make of it an offering to God. There were two reasons for doing this. The first was in gratitude and thanksgiving for the health of the crop, and the second was as a prayer that the rest of the crop would also be successfully gathered in. And just like the Passover festival, the festival of Pentecost reaches right back to the formative moment in Israel’s past, the Exodus from Egypt. Fifty days after that first Passover, after the Israelites had escaped from Pharaoh, they came to Mount Sinai, where Moses received the law – God giving the people of Israel the way of life they are to follow in order to carry out his purposes for them and the world.

We can see all of this echoed in the upper room on that first post-resurrection Pentecost. The sheaf that is offered to God as a sign of the harvest soon to come? We can see that in the pouring out of God’s Spirit upon the disciples, inspiring them to witness powerfully to the resurrection of Jesus and, from that very first day onwards, win more and more followers to the way of Jesus Christ – the beginning of a great harvest of people. And Moses going up the mountain and returning with the law is echoed in the ascension of Jesus, followed by the coming down of the Holy Spirit to fill and empower the community with a new way of being, through the law that is “written on human hearts.”

Questions to Consider
What is the importance of Pentecost? What does it mean to you?

Prayer
Almighty Father, thank you for your promises, which give us hope for the future, as we look back to the past and the ways you have been faithful to previous promises made to previous generations. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Conclude with Silence (2 minutes)


Day 4 – Given to All

Silence, Stillness and Centering before God (2 minutes)

Scripture Reading – Acts 2:2-4

As much as the Spirit of God is given to all followers of Jesus, and as much as the Holy Spirit resides in each of us, guiding us, strengthening us, empowering us, and as much as we are to live each moment of our lives under the direction of the Spirit (and all of this is absolutely true), we must remember that the Spirit of God was poured out on a community of people so that those people, and all others that would join them, could be the community of God. The Spirit is a communal gift for all, living in each one of us for the benefit of all – and for the glory of God.

It can be quite easy for us to slip into the type of thinking that sees the Holy Spirit only as the divine presence of God in us that fuels our individual lives and helps each of us follow Jesus. Again, yes, but this is not the whole story. The Holy Spirit is a gift poured out on a community, residing as God’s vital animating “new-life” force in each one of us, yes, but so that we can be drawn together, united together, and changed together. There are no “Lone Ranger Christians”, because the Holy Spirit does not empower us to go off alone, just “me and God against the world.” The Holy Spirit, the Spirit that lives in each one of us, lives in us all, for the purpose of bringing us together, binding us closer to each other, and closer to the One we follow, the one we imitate, and the one we are daily being transformed into the likeness of by this same Spirit.

Question to Consider
How has the Holy Spirit been transforming you into Christ-likeness through other people?

Prayer
Gracious God, thank you for calling us together and giving us a part to play in forming each other into people of God. Continue to bind us together as one people for the sake of those who have no people. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Conclude with Silence (2 minutes)


Day 5 – Another Turn in Peter’s Story

Silence, Stillness and Centering before God (2 minutes)

Scripture Reading – Acts 2:14-36

This speech, or sermon if you like, is the first major recorded post-ascension speech given by a follower of Jesus to a crowd of strangers who do not know the good news of Jesus. Peter is the one who stands up and addresses the crowd, telling them of the fulfilment of Israel’s scriptures and the coming of the saviour foretold by the prophets. If we stop to think about this for a moment, we can see how truly amazing this moment is, not just for the fact of the witness that is being given, but also because of who it is doing the witnessing.

This speech is not a speech Peter would have been capable of giving before now, for two main reasons. Firstly, after his triple denial of Jesus and the crushing blow of the crucifixion of his master, I don’t think Peter would have been in a particularly good space to say these things to a crowd of strangers. He needed restoration and reconciliation (something the gospel of John paints a beautiful picture of in John 21). But secondly, up until Jesus had fully opened the disciples’ minds to the scriptures, Peter hadn’t known the full story. His witness would have been incomplete if he had not been able to explain to this crowd how Jesus was the fulfilment of the scriptures, just like with the pouring out of God’s Spirit the crowd was marvelling about was also the fulfilment of what the prophets had promised. Peter’s witness springs from the Jesus-initiated, Spirit-led understanding of the scriptures that he and his fellow followers now have.

Questions to Consider
What in Peter’s journey from fisherman to disciple to denier to preacher resonates with you? What element of his journey do you relate to most?

Prayer
Loving Father, continue to grow my understanding of you and your ways, and keep shaping me into an instrument for your use in service of others. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Conclude with Silence (2 minutes)