God’s Big Plan – Reflection for Pentecost 2018
Pentecost is a great example of the way in which we experience God’s faithfulness across the generations. The shavuot or Feast of Weeks is commanded as a feast of Israel in the Torah. Counted as a “week of weeks” after the Passover, the feast falls on the fiftieth day after the Passover hence the Greek name of Pentecost (fiftieth). The feast in the agrarian society of early Israel represented an offering of the first fruits of the harvest, a festival of the Lord’s provision in the Land.
By the Second Temple period in which Jesus lived, the festival had also been associated with the giving of the Law to Moses on Mount Sinai fifty days after the first Passover in Egypt and in some communities also with the sign of the rainbow given to Noah after the flood. The feast was a celebration not only of God’s provision in the Land but also a celebration of Gods covenant promises.
At some point, it also became customary within the Jewish community to read the book of Ruth at the festival of shavuot. This story of the entry of a gentile into the covenant people, as well as into the lineage of David and Jesus, represents the loving kindness of God and a kind of first fruit promise of the time when God will gather all people into his covenant promise. In the book of Ruth, we find instruction on the practices of merciful generosity to the poor commanded in the Torah as well as the role of the kinsman redeemer to preserve the inheritance within a family.
Against the rich and festive backdrop, we come to the celebration of Pentecost in the early first century as the Disciples were gathered in one place. On the day in which they celebrated the firstfruits of Creation, they are formed into the Church as firstfruits of the Spirit just as Jesus is the firstfruit of the Resurrection (Romans 8:23, 1 Corinthians 15:20-23; 2 Thessalonians 2:13; James 1:18; Revelation 14:4). As the Disciples celebrated God’s covenant with Noah and His covenant with Israel given to Moses on Mount Sinai, they experience the giving of the New Covenant promised through the prophet Jeremiah (Jeremiah 31:31-34). By the power of the Holy Spirit, God placed His law in our hearts. On the day in which they celebrated the loving kindness, mercy and redemption of God for Israel and the promise to the Nations, they experience the outpouring of the Spirit foretold by the prophet Joel, redemption for Israel and the promise to the nations.
As we gather today to celebrate Pentecost, let us take time to offer thanks for the provision of God given us in Creation and by His Spirit in His Church. Let us rejoice in the faithful covenant of the Lord written in our hearts. Let us consider the hope of redemption and promise to the Nations.