Wednesday, March 6

Lenten Bible Study Day 22; Acts 1-2

Acts, Chapters 1 and 2 (NRSV)

We now make the turn to the second volume of Luke's writings. There's little doubt among scholars that  both "The Gospel according to Luke" and "The Acts of the Apostles" are written by the same person. The style and language is the same. And the opening of Acts directly references the opening verses of the Gospel. We're not clear whether or not "Theophilus (literally "God Lover") refers to a historical person or meant to reference anyone who is reading this work. Perhaps the ambiguity is intentional. Either way, the author of the two works is continuing the narrative begun in the regions at the edge of the Jewish promised land and which has ended in Jerusalem with the disciples worshiping God daily in the Temple.

A number of interpreters have pointed out that Luke seems to have written a literary hourglass in these two volumes. The opening of the Gospel starts with ancient prophecies being fulfilled and a journey toward Jerusalem. The longest section of the first volume is the "road to Jerusalem" narrative. And when Jesus arrives in Jerusalem, endures his Passion and bursts forth from the tomb, his disciples move outward from Jerusalem into all the known world. We start with as wide a vista as possible, narrow our focus to Jerusalem and the three days of the Triduum, and then explode outwards into all of creation. In Luke's writing, God is proclaiming salvation to all the peoples of the Earth, just as the prophets foretold.
The story of the Day of Pentecost, told in Luke's second chapter, reflects this literary movement.

Pentecost is an ancient Jewish harvest festival. It's observance predates the Christian feast by many thousands of years. To the Jews it was the Festival of "First Fruits" or "The Reaping". Seeds planted in the preceding Fall would be just ready for the harvest roughly fifty days after the Festival of Passover. It was the first fresh food the people would have after a long winter of stored provisions. Remember that at the time that John the Baptist appears in the early chapters of Luke's Gospel, it has been many centuries since the voice of a prophet has been heard in Israel. John testifies that Jesus is the long awaited Messiah. And the prophets of old testified that when the Messiah appeared, God would give the gift of prophesy to all the chosen people of God.

The rush of wind (the sign of God's Spirit moving), the proclamation of the Messiah in many tongues, on the day of the Festival of the Reaping, the Day of the First Fruits, is the fulfillment of this promise. The Messiah has been revealed and the prophesies of his reign are now coming true. The Spirit's gift of tongues is the sign that the Kingdom has arrived. The new wine, the fresh food, has been made manifest.

Years ago I heard a priest challenge his congregation on the anniversary of the Feast of Pentecost to claim the language that the Spirit had given them and to proclaim the Gospel as only they were able. He allowed as he had been given the gift of Music and described how he had always tried to proclaim the gospel in how he played. He asked us what language God had given us. My answer at the time was Fortran - the old computer language. I think if you asked me today, I might answer more accurately that I have been gifted with the ability to speak the language of Science. And, on occasion, I've tried to proclaim the Gospel in that language to people who speak it fluently.

What is your "other" language? How have you been intentional in proclaiming the Gospel to the people on the fringe of the Church's life who speak that language? If you haven't been yet, what would have to change so that you could?

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