May 23, 2021, Pentecost Sunday (Cycle B)
The tie in between today’s readings: Reversing the Curse
“In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth” (Genesis 1:1). In today’s reading, Psalm 104:1;24-34, the writer worships the Creator for the astounding diversity of creatures found in the world and marvels at God’s wisdom that knitted them together in a working ecology. He praises His Spirit as the cause and sustainer of the circle of life. Creation moved up the scale from good to very good when the Almighty made man in His own image and likeness. The Psalmist’s adoration in this piece illustrates the purpose of man is to know, love and serve the Lord in this life. The free will that comes with having His image and likeness allows us to do this, but instead of loving and living for the One greater than ourselves, mankind aspired to become like that One. The disobedience of Adam and Eve in the Garden introduced the curse of sin and death for us and the whole world as well. Now, God “looks at the earth and it trembles. He touches the mountains and they smoke” (Psalm 104:32). The Supreme Being must keep His distance from His physical creation or He will wreck it like a bull in a China shop. True, the Almighty has appeared on the earth in various forms such as fire, smoke, and even human, but these are muted manifestations. He dares not show up full on. As He said to Moses, “No one can see Me and live” (Exodus 33.20). It’s like in building the finest car in the world from scratch, the Lord can check the oil, detail the interior, and wax the body, but He can never drive it. So, now not only is He estranged from His universe…He’s got a man problem too.
Kicked out of the garden, their wrecked image of God led people so deep into sin that it eventually became necessary for the Almighty to flood them out and start again with Noah. You’d think that everyone would have gotten the message and straightened out, but no. Only a few generations later, mankind disregarded the Lord’s command to spread out over the earth, but instead, consolidated into a city, in order to create their own identity. The “Empire of Man” decided to invent a religious system to deal with God on their own terms and so, the Tower of Babel project began. United in purpose, they built it high. Sensing the risk, and despite God’s rainbow promise of no more flood, they waterproofed their monument with pitch…just in case. This rebellion was so “in your face” that the Almighty came down, confused their language, and dispersed them across the globe to form the different nations of the world. After man’s epic fail to know, love, and serve God in this world, the Lord stepped in. He called Abraham and began His salvation plan in earnest.
Throughout the turbulence of History, the Lord kept His people safe and His promises sure until that fateful day when the Godman, Jesus Christ, completed His mission on the cross by redeeming mankind and creation from the death and devastation of sin’s curse. Our reading in John 20:19-23 places us on the evening of that first Easter Sunday. His cowering disciples hide behind a barred door terrified of the authorities. Then Jesus appears. He instantly changes the atmosphere of the room with a show of His hands and four little words, “Peace be with you.” He tells His elated friends that He will be sending them out into the world. He breathes the Holy Spirit into them. The charge of a thousand emotions must have cascaded through them. Scared to death a few minutes ago and now, imbued with the power to forgive or retain sin, they’ve become the Spirit filled instruments of men’s destinies. It has changed so very quickly. All because Jesus was alive, the condemnation was lifted, death was conquered, and salvation’s work finished…well, sort of. In a way, it’s just the beginning. In forty short days, the Son will ascend to His Father while their small band will gather and pray a little while longer in Jerusalem and wait for “it” to happen.
Acts 2:1-11, the day of Pentecost is here! The Almighty’s presence permeates the building with the sound of a tornado and fills each believer with Holy Spirit fire. Everyone outside rushes to the house to see what’s going on. The believers come out speaking in a language that each of the many foreigners there understands as their own. Men and women from all over the known world listen as the apostles proclaim the mighty works of God. The Lord is reversing the ancient judgement that He placed on the “Empire of Man”, when He confused their speech and dispersed them abroad. He is now drawing all people back to Himself under His Christ. All will come together to fulfill their purpose to know, love, and serve God in this world by faith in Jesus and fellowship in His body the Church. The Kingdom of God, the anti-Babel, has finally arrived! Peter preaches one sermon and thousands join the ranks of the believers.
In the days that followed, The Holy Spirit kept on adding new believers who confessed Christ as Lord and, just as He did with creation, organized this diverse sea of humanity into a working ecology. Our reading in 1 Corinthians 12:3-13 lists the various gifts that God’s Spirit dispenses to each born again believer, according to His purposes, in order to achieve a Christ glorifying family in this world. He continues this work even to this very day where we work and watch and wait and yearn along with the creation for Jesus’ returns when everything will come full circle. All remnants of the fall and sin’s curse will be eradicated. The Lord will make a new heaven and a new earth where He will live with us. We will see Him face to face for we will be like Him in our glorified God-bods. It will be a time when creation and our existence won’t merely be good or very good…it will be off the charts! Don’t you want to be part of it? Take Christ’s offer of forgiveness. Leave your sins behind. Become part of the Anti-babel. Join the redeemed who truly mean, “Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done.” It’s real! It’s coming! It’s fantastic and it can be yours for the believing!