Journey #1: Pentecost

This meditation is broken into three sections.  The first section was read as we sat at the opening of the labyrinth and prepared for our journey.  This portion provides a theological and Biblical (Old Testament) foundation upon which the New Testament text builds.  In the center we recount the story from Acts, understanding the passage in its context and applying it to ours.  Then a word of blessing was spoken over each child as he or she left the center and walked out of the labyrinth individually.

Entry (Backdrop):

Perhaps you’ve heard of the Tower of Babel (Genesis 11), but maybe you’ve never really thought about why the story is still told by the church.  The story of Babel is a sad story, yet it is a story that is told and retold.  Why?  Today I retell it to help us understand the greatest problem human beings face, and thankfully today to share with you God’s victory over this problem.

In the beginning, when God created the heavens and the earth, God and human beings were close.  God walked in the Garden of Eden alongside Adam and Eve.  Then sin entered the Garden, Adam and Eve were kicked out of it, and as we read in the next chapters of Genesis the distance between God and people began to grow.  Brother murdered brother, evil grew and wickedness reigned.  God washed the world clean with a great flood, but sin kept coming back.

In Genesis 11, we see the picture of men uniting, standing in opposition to God’s command to multiply and fill the earth.   Rather, they committed themselves to stay together in one place.  Worse than that, they plotted to build a tower, a tall tower in a great city.  The purpose of the tower was to bring glory to themselves, which means, of course, that they were stealing glory from God.  God was not pleased.  To stop human beings from plotting this and other great evils, he confused their languages preventing them from being able to work together and forcing them to move apart and fill the earth.

In our world today, languages are still confused.  People still struggle to work together.  We fail to cooperate with one another.  But, God has begun to fix this problem and reunite human beings.  This movement of God began many years ago, and you are a part of it.  We will learn more about this movement of God today and over the next couple of days.  But as we take our slow, silent walk to the center of the labyrinth I want you to consider what happened at this place called Babel.  And we will contemplate our own place in the story of Babel. On the journey in we must deal with these questions: Am I seeking to glorify God or myself?  How am I adding bricks to the Tower?

Now we enter the labyrinth.  As we enter remember we are on a sacred journey.  We will be silent.  We will walk slowly, purposefully, thinking about each step, considering each breath.  We will be mindful of our sacred journey as we deal with this difficult & painful question: How am I adding bricks to the Tower?

 

Center:

Languages confused, people divided, groups scattered and under separate leadership.  All these differences inspiring rivalries, this has been the state of humanity since the Fall, the flood and the tower.  But something happened many years ago that changed the course of history and eternity.  God came to earth and lived among us as a man named Jesus.  He lived and taught, died and was buried, rose and appeared.  Then fifty days after his crucifixion, He sent

Jesus died and rose around the Jewish holiday of Passover.    Passover celebrated being set free from Egypt. Through Jesus’ sacrifice at the time of Passover, Christians are set free from sin and death.

The next holiday for the Jews was the day of Pentecost.  Pentecost was a harvest festival celebrating the first fruits of the barley harvest.  Likewise, the Pentecost of Acts 2 brought the first fruits of God’s new movement.  It is a movement back toward God’s original intentions.  And the first fruits call to mind the Tower where languages were first confused, because on this day in our history the division in our world that is related to different languages was overcome in a miraculous moment.

On this day when Jesus’ followers were gathered wondering what to do next, God showed them the way.  Jesus had appeared to his remaining 11 Apostles along with other disciples over a period of 40 days before ascending into heaven.  In His last appearance recorded in Acts 1 Jesus had instructed them, “Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about.  For John baptized with water but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit…You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, an in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”

So Jesus was taken up into the clouds, and two “men” dressed in white stood beside him and announced that he would one day return just as he had left.  We still long for that day when Jesus will return and all his desires will reach their fulfillment, but in the meantime we have begun to participate in that fulfillment as we follow in the footsteps of those first fruits that were harvested at Pentecost.

On the day of Pentecost, Jesus sent.  Jesus sent the Holy Spirit, He poured it out, and something miraculous happened.  Jesus’ followers spoke, and the Jews heard.  Jews from different countries all over the Roman Empire heard.  They heard in their own languages.  On that Day, by the power of the Holy Spirit, the consequence of the Tower was reversed temporarily, giving us hope that a movement was afoot that would bring about its permanent reversal .

At Pentecost, the Kingdom of God came in contact with the people of earth.  At Pentecost the Kingdom of Heaven created a point of contact in human history.  That contact point is known as the church.  On Pentecost, the consequence of the tower was temporarily revoked to start a movement in which the people of God would cooperate not for their own glory, but for the glory of God.  The mission of the church is not to bring glory to people through the building of towers, but to move people back toward union with God through learning how to live in union with each other.

The result of Pentecost was this (Acts 2:44) “All the believers were together and had everything in common.”  Personal glory was replaced by a family fellowship.   Here in the middle, we reflect on God’s love for us as we remember the sacrifice of Jesus and the miracle of Pentecost.  Reflect on this: “How am I building unity with my friends who love Jesus?  How can I better share my life with my church as I participate in God’s new movement?”

 Exit:

“The Lord bless you and keep you. 

The Lord make his face to shine upon you.

The Lord be gracious to you

And give you peace.”

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