painting - family around a dinner table

Reflecting on Acts 2 1-42

Our text this week is Acts 2:1-42, the story of the Day of Pentecost following the first Easter Sunday. We are focusing on verses 1-8 (the initial appearance of the Spirit), 14-24 (the first part of Peter’s address “Men, Judeans”), and 37-39 (the crowd’s response – “What should we do?!” and Peter’s prescription – “Repent! And be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ!”).

There is a lot (!!!) in this text, so identifying “one main question” or even a few is probably ridiculous. On the other hand, we’ll have to start, and stop, somewhere. So, here are a few questions we might want to think about or discuss in class – not to exclude any brought by others!

[And, some notes on the text – far from exhaustive – are here.]

We might want to look at which features of the text seem important, or really important, or remarkable, to us – for instance, the location (Jerusalem; “all together in one place”)? The description of the Holy Spirit (the wind, the fire, the sound, the sight, the ability, …)? The cast of characters? … ? And maybe take a closer look at why those? What significance do those have for us, why is that?

How have we learned to read this text – to interpret it? Where have we learned to do that? What difference does that seem to make for us in reading it now? What do we appreciate about that? What do we not appreciate so much? Why is that?

Any aspects of the event that we need to discuss? The supernatural character of the phenomenon, for instance? Or, the specific content of Peter’s proclamation? What seems to matter to us?

[more personal] What difference does that seem to make to us? Why is that, do we suppose?

What if we made a list of the words we associate with the Holy Spirit? (e.g., wind and fire? Word? Power? Communion? Presence? …? ) What do we notice?

[more personal] What does that tell us about our own relationship with the Holy Spirit? How do we feel about that?

[still more personal] Do we want to talk about that? For instance, where and when do we feel closer to the Holy Spirit? Does that feel distinct from feeling “close to Jesus” or “close to God”? Or does a conversation like that even make sense to us? Or serve any purpose?

We do often hear the language of “the power of the Holy Spirit.” How do we see that power in this text?

One way to go with this: what does that tell us about power? Or maybe, about what “Christians” mean by power? [This seems like a particularly big question to me, and an important one, but that’s me.]

A different way to go with this: How does that resemble – or differ from – the way we see or experience that power in our lives, today?

The Feast of Weeks – Shavuot – Pentecost was originally an agricultural festival. In contemporary rabbinical Judaism, it’s become a celebration of the giving of the Torah at Mt. Sinai. Whether that association was current at the time of the event described in Acts, not obvious. But – we still might want to think about the similarities and differences between the giving of the Torah at Mt. Sinai and the baptism of the Holy Spirit on the Day of Pentecost. How are those events similar? How different? What insight do we gain from thinking about that?

Overall, it seems to me, we want to pay attention to this story’s distance from, but also nearness to, our own experience – and also, this story’s contribution to our own experience, as an event, and as a text, and as a text that has formed part of the content of our experience if we’re churchgoers / believers … it’s not quite like the Easter story, or the Christmas story, but it’s close.

Image: “Am Mittagstisch,” an image by Hermann Groeber [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons; “Still Life with Book and Cup” (cropped), Antonín Procházka, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

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