The Pentecost Epistle

Acts 2:1–11

+ In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Amen.

Today is Pentecost, fifty days after Easter, and the birthday of the Christian Church. Happy Birthday, Church!! It is the day when the Holy Ghost first came upon the Apostles, placing flames of fire on their heads and causing them to speak in many foreign languages.

The first lesson for the day is:

Acts 2:1-6   1 And when the day of Pentecost was fully come, they were all with one accord in one place.  2 And suddenly there came a sound from heaven as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting.  3 And there appeared unto them cloven tongues like as of fire, and it sat upon each of them.  4 And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance.  5 And there were dwelling at Jerusalem Jews, devout men, out of every nation under heaven.  6 Now when this was noised abroad, the multitude came together, and were confounded, because that every man heard them speak in his own language.

In the previous chapter, the eleven Apostles remaining after the death of Judas Iscariot had just met together to elect a successor to Judas. They chose Matthias to take the place of Judas, and chapter 2 opens with the reading given just above.

It is certainly clear that the coming of the Holy Ghost cause a mighty confusion, a dramatic event with the rushing wind, the tongues of fire, and suddenly each of the Apostles beginning to speak in a foreign language. The great drama of the event is a theophany, the evidence that it is truly the coming of the Holy Ghost, the third person of the Holy Trinity. But at the end of the reading, when the Apostles begin to speak in various foreign languages, is this more evidence of the theophany, or is it something else?

I would suggest to you that this is evidence of the intent that the Gospel is to be carried to all people in their own language, so that they will be able to understand it. When the text says that the foreign visitors to Jerusalem were confounded, it really means simply that they were amazed and surprised at what they were hearing. It does not mean that they were in any way blocked from understanding the message, but rather just the opposite. The message came through to them directly and clearly in their own language.

The motivation for this post happened this morning in the small mission parish where I was worshiping. Since moving to Texas, I have not been saying Sunday Mass on a regular basis, but rather have been sitting in the pew in a congregation in the Diocese of Fort Worth. The congregation is served by a very learned man as Vicar, so I was quite surprised when he read the Gospel lesson (not the lesson above) first in Swedish, then in French, and finally in Spanish, but never in English. Later, in his sermon, he explained that he wanted us to experience something of the chaos (his word) of the events of the coming of the Holy Ghost.

This little congregation is a mixture of white, black, and brown (Hispanic) folks, all English speaking. As luck would have it, I think all of our few native Spanish speakers were not present today, so I seriously doubt that anyone present understood a word of the Gospel lesson as read. I think that the Vicar missed the point of that portion of the First Lesson; we are not to receive the Gospel as chaos and without understanding, but rather, we are to receive it in our own language and with full understanding of the Gospel message.

Be that as it may, this is the day that we remember the coming of the Holy Ghost upon the Apostles, and His continuing work in the world today.

+ In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Amen.

About Father D

I am a priest of the Continuing Anglican Church, the continuation of orthodox Anglicanism into the present 21st century. My theology is definitely that of a Reformed Catholic point of view, neither Roman nor Calvinist.
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