2:1 When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place.
2:2 And suddenly from heaven there came a sound like the rush of a violent wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting.
2:3 Divided tongues, as of fire, appeared among them, and a tongue rested on each of them.
2:4 All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages, as the Spirit gave them ability.
2:5 Now there were devout Jews from every nation under heaven living in Jerusalem.
2:6 And at this sound the crowd gathered and was bewildered, because each one heard them speaking in the native language of each.
2:7 Amazed and astonished, they asked, “Are not all these who are speaking Galileans?
2:8 And how is it that we hear, each of us, in our own native language?
2:9 Parthians, Medes, Elamites, and residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia,
2:10 Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya belonging to Cyrene, and visitors from Rome, both Jews and proselytes,
2:11 Cretans and Arabs–in our own languages we hear them speaking about God’s deeds of power.”
2:12 All were amazed and perplexed, saying to one another, “What does this mean?”
2:13 But others sneered and said, “They are filled with new wine.”
2:14 But Peter, standing with the eleven, raised his voice and addressed them, “Men of Judea and all who live in Jerusalem, let this be known to you, and listen to what I say.
2:15 Indeed, these are not drunk, as you suppose, for it is only nine o’clock in the morning.
2:16 No, this is what was spoken through the prophet Joel:
2:17 ‘In the last days it will be, God declares, that I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh, and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams.
2:18 Even upon my slaves, both men and women, in those days I will pour out my Spirit; and they shall prophesy.
2:19 And I will show portents in the heaven above and signs on the earth below, blood, and fire, and smoky mist.
2:20 The sun shall be turned to darkness and the moon to blood, before the coming of the Lord’s great and glorious day.
2:21 Then everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.
11:24 So Moses went out and told the people the words of the LORD; and he gathered seventy elders of the people, and placed them all around the tent.
11:25 Then the LORD came down in the cloud and spoke to him, and took some of the spirit that was on him and put it on the seventy elders; and when the spirit rested upon them, they prophesied. But they did not do so again.
11:26 Two men remained in the camp, one named Eldad, and the other named Medad, and the spirit rested on them; they were among those registered, but they had not gone out to the tent, and so they prophesied in the camp.
11:27 And a young man ran and told Moses, “Eldad and Medad are prophesying in the camp.”
11:28 And Joshua son of Nun, the assistant of Moses, one of his chosen men, said, “My lord Moses, stop them!”
11:29 But Moses said to him, “Are you jealous for my sake? Would that all the Lord’s people were prophets, and that the LORD would put his spirit on them!”
11:30 And Moses and the elders of Israel returned to the camp.
0:22 When he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit.
Midrash on Pentecost
Minot Judson Savage (1841-1918) was an American theologian who took a strong stand for evolution as the revealing of the work of the Holy Spirit. He was at first a fundamentalist, but later turned to the Unitarian church, as his views of evolution opened him up to a deeper reality. Whereas the prevailing theologians of the day were convinced that evolution was “driving God clear out of his universe”, Savage vehemently disagreed. The idea of evolution made it possible to find God everywhere throughout the universe.
“And so, anywhere where God has been, or where God is now (for he is now where he ever has been), I look upon his very footsteps; and I can put my finger into this own fingerprints; and I can see God’s life in the growth and progress of nature about me: I can feel the divine pulsations in the air, and in the life of my body; I am livng in the midst of the only temple that God has consecrated, and that I can be absolutely sure is a representaiotn of God’s own work. Here, then in nature, in sun and star, and sky and cloud, ocean and earth, the grass and flowers and the trees, and human nature- I am looking directly into the revelation of God…and if I can read it, I can read the very thoughts and processes and metholds of the divine working and development”
“The God of evolution, “the hidden life and secret force of this unfolding universe of ours, drive the development of humanity on to higher degrees of human existence. Above the common level of our humanity there rise the exceptional and towering summits of those mountainous men and women—seers, prophets, poets, lawgivers, leaders of every kind—that have served as landmarks and observatories for the race…If such humans spring out of humanity, it is because there is in humanity the stuff of which such men are made...”
This last line is bolded because it points toward a way of understanding Pentecost, and the outpouring of the Holy Spirit in the 21st century. The traditional Christian interpretation implies that the arrival of the Holy Spirit was not something that occurred until Jesus’ died, what John calls “the glorification of Jesus”. One can get the impression that the breath of God was absent in the universe, and then was introduced only after Jesus’ death.
But, of course, in an evolutionary worldview, the evolutionary current by which all levels of reality, including the first atoms after the Big Bang, transcend themselves, and unify into a greater, unified whole (helium and hydrogen forming galaxies, for example) is itself what the tradition has named the Holy Spirit, or the breath of G_d implicate in the process of creation itself. This developmental process, by which parts are unified into more complex wholes, and then the wholes themselves become parts of ever-larger and more complex wholes, is what I define as salvation—the wholification of the cosmos. The history of salvation, then, extends to the entire universe. Salvation in this sense includes, but is not limited to, the human domain. We too are in the process of being saved, or wholified. This implies that we are whole, but also just parts of a new whole, the new human, that wants to emerge.
To return to Savage, when evolution is interpreted theologically or spiritually, we must say that it is not an emergence of the higher from the lower. Rather, it represents the presence of the higher, the divine life and impulse, already enfolded into earlier forms of life, and when the time and conditions are ripe, the flowering of implicate or latent potential emerges. Life, in other words, is enfolded like a seed, within inorganic matter. Consciousness is enfolded, like a seed, within life. The moral impulse for love and justice, are enfolded, like seeds, within consciousness. And, to get to the Pentecostal point of all this, the new human is enfolded, seed-like, within the existent human. Salvation, then, is the realization and revelation of G_d, through this evolutionary process of wholification.
Jesus then acts not by introducing the Holy Spirit into the universe that prior to him was void of the breath of G_d, but rather by revealing the always, already Spirit in his own realization of the higher human potential. In his revelation of the new human, (second Adam in Paul’s theology), his first followers become intoxicated (Acts 2:13) with new power and new potential—to make real in themselves what they thought was unique to Jesus. They realize that they are the new creation that the prophet Isaiah foresaw. This new humanity is the divine/human prefigured in Jesus of Nazareth. A new age has been ushered in, but this isn’t an unnatural break with the ongoing development of the universe. It is rather, a cosmic fulfillment or flowering. This isn’t to say that those first century followers epitomized, or were the crowning achievement, of the universe. And it is not to say that we humans in the 21st century are the final iteration of cosmic evolution. Spirit is always in the process of being revealed by courageous humans—”the seers, prophets, poets, lawgivers, leaders of every kind—that have served as landmarks and observatories for the race”.
German philosopher, Nietzsche, (anti-Christian though he believed himself to be) challenged his contemporaries: “Man is something that shall be surpassed. What have you done to surpass him?” That is the challenge put to humans in every age. In the spirit of the ancient festival of Pentecost, we allow ourselves to be intoxicated with the potential that is already within us and waiting to be released.
The Pentecostal power, as presented in both Acts, John’s gospel, and in the Numbers passage is one of the power to communicate, with directness and immediacy, the good news that we are in the process of being made whole (saved) by a Love which is our destiny. (I love the Numbers passage wherein Moses is thrilled, and not threatened, by the democratization of the prophetic competency).
This kind of communication (prophetic utterance that the universe is being saved, despite appearances) can only be effected by mystics, those who know that the same breath that animates an ever-emergent cosmos is animating them. It is clear from John’s gospel that the receiving of the Holy Spirit (Jesus breathing on the disciples) is an act of creation. We are being transformed, by the power of the Breath of Life, into the image and likeness of G_d. You can either celebrate it, or run from it. That’s our distinctly human choice.
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