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Bible Study: Day of Pentecost (B) – 2012

May 27, 2012

Acts 2:1-21

This is a familiar story of the gift of the Holy Spirit given to the followers of Jesus, and ends just after these verses with the mass baptism of thousands into the Body of Christ. Notice that this gift of the Holy Spirit wasn’t meant solely for the disciples, but resulted in their ability to proclaim the good news to everyone. It was a gift that was given to individuals, for the benefit of a community, with the intention that it enable the spread of the gospel to all. So often today we hear people say that they are “spiritual but not religious,” engaging in individual faith practices. They are seeking a fuller relationship with God outside of the church. Perhaps it is because the church is often seen as something one does, rather than something one is. Church is not the destination. Church is where we are given strength for the journey, renewed with the body and blood of Christ to do the work we are called to do in our baptism. It isn’t something we do on our own, but as part of the Body of Christ, gathered to do his work in the world. It is a communal thing. We need one another, as each of us together make up the whole.

  • How do you see yourself as a part of the living Body of Christ in the world?
  • Do you feel renewed and refreshed to live into your baptismal covenant – to seek Christ in all persons, proclaim the good news, and serve all people – when you come gather as a community on Sundays? If not, how can you help to be a part of the renewal of your own faith community?

Psalm 104: 25-35,37

The beauty of this psalm lies in the humility it should give to all humanity. Here the psalmist is exhorting the faithfulness of all of God’s creative work – “the great wide sea”, “the creatures both small and great.” All of them look to God. It ends with the psalmist doing likewise – praising God with their entire being.  This is a reminder that the entire world, not just humanity, is a loved and precious part of God’s creation. God called it all “good,” not just the creation of humankind. Unlike the animals of the land and sea, we do not always look to God, often turning away. We begin to think that we control our lives, the lives of others, and all of creation. We have long looked at the earth and its inhabitants as something we own, something we can control, and worse, something we can destroy. We think we are God. On Pentecost, we are reminded that all of it is an ongoing work of creation, not ours to control, but ours to care for as God cares for it and us.

  • How can we define and change our relationship with creation?
  • What lessons can we learn from thinking of the land, sea, air, plants and animals of all kinds as loved by God?

Romans 8:22-27

St. Paul is reminding his readers in this epistle that God’s transformation of this world did not end with Jesus’ death on the cross, but is only just beginning. What is striking here is that he is making it clear that this transformation is not just about humanity, but all of God’s earth and its inhabitants. Like a parent waiting for the baby yet to be born, we are awaiting with hope something not yet seen, but no less real. The work of God in us and the world has begun through the grace of God’s incarnation in Jesus, and the workings of the Holy Spirit in the world. Our transformation is not yet complete, and like those who await a new birth, we are anxious for it to be completed. This is a desire that is based in our hope. Just as one does not anticipate a birth if there is no pregnancy, we are first filled with the knowledge of God’s working in the world when we are brought into the Body of Christ in baptism. We hope, because we know that God’s grace is at work in the world, as we have experienced it in Christ. Paul tells us that, because those who await something not yet seen can sometimes lose heart, we are supported in our faith by the Holy Spirit, as we learn how to be the church.

  • What does Paul’s vision of the fullness of transformation for all of creation mean to us as Christian’s living on a human damaged earth? Is the earth, and all the creatures on it, included in the salvation of Christ?
  • On this birthday of the church, what gifts can you recognize you were given by God; and, what are you and your community of faith doing with these gifts to be the “Church Alive” in the world?

John 15:26-27, 16:4b-15 

This passage from the fourth gospel is part of what are called the “farewell discourses” of Jesus to his followers. Jesus knows that his arrest and death are close at hand, and is preparing his disciples for the time when he would not be physically among them. The Johannine Community that wrote this gospel is expressing their understanding that our relationship with the incarnate Word has no limits. Jesus is not physically present, but those who follow him are not abandoned. At Pentecost we celebrate the renewal and transformation of the church and all of God’s creation, because Jesus not only was, but is, and is to come. And we, as the Body of Christ in the world today, are by God’s grace part of that renewal. Jesus is present with us whenever we gather together in his name. As the disciples learned in the story from Acts, the Holy Spirit is with us, but not for us alone. We are reminded at Pentecost of the charge of the church to be that renewing and transforming agent in the world, knowing that we are guided by the Holy Spirit to do the work of Christ.

  • Can you think of a moment in your life when you were guided by the presence of the Holy Spirit? How did that feel, and where did it lead you?
  • On New Year’s Day and our birthday we often make resolutions to transform our lives. On Pentecost, the birthday of the church, what resolutions will you make to help the church be the agent of transformation in the world?

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Christopher Sikkema


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