Amos Yong is a Malaysian-American, Pentecostal theologian. Yong describes how the Spirit’s coming at Pentecost begins a reconciled way of relating to one another across divisions:
First-century Palestinian life, in many ways like our global village today, was marked by suspicions about those who . . . spoke other languages, and who represented strange ways of life. It was the work of the Spirit . . . to bring those who were strangers together, and to reconcile those who might have otherwise lived apart from those unlike themselves.
Pentecost thus inaugurates a restored Israel and God’s kingdom by establishing new social structures and relations. Note that the gift of the Spirit was not withheld from any of the 120 men and women who had gathered in the upper room (Acts 1:14–15): the divided tongues of fire rested on each one and enabled each to either speak or be heard in foreign languages (Acts 2:3–4). In order to explain this phenomenon, Peter cites the prophet Joel:
your sons and your daughters shall prophesy,
and your young men shall see visions,
and your old men shall dream dreams.
Even upon my slaves, both men and women,
in those days I will pour out my Spirit;
and they shall prophesy (Acts 2:17–18; compare Joel 2:28–29).
The Spirit’s gifts are not only for individuals; they have social effects challenging the “powers that be”:
Peter clearly understood that, whereas the former Jewish era was patriarchal in character, the restoration of Israel would feature the equality of male and female: both would prophesy under the power of the Spirit. Whereas the former covenant featured the leadership of elders, the restored kingdom would involve the empowering of men and women of all ages. Whatever structures had previously sanctioned the social system of slavery, the outpouring of the Spirit had been and would be indiscriminately upon both free and slave, in effect making them equal. In all of this, the work of the Spirit was heralded in strange tongues, not the conventional languages of the status quo.
In effect, the restoration of the kingdom through the power of the Spirit actually overturned the status quo. As Mary and Zechariah had already foretold, those at the bottom of the social ladder—women, youth, and slaves—would be recipients of the Spirit and vehicles of the Spirit’s empowerment [Luke 1:46–55; 1:67–79]. People previously divided by language, ethnicity, culture, nationality, gender, and class would be reconciled in this new version of the kingdom. Potentially, “all flesh” would be included within this kingdom of the last days (Acts 2:17).
Do these characteristics continue to mark the church as the fellowship of the Holy Spirit? . . . Does the church still speak in the tongues of the Spirit . . . or do we remain captive to the divisive languages, structures, and conventions of the empires of this world? Our prayer should be, “Come Holy Spirit!” so that the proclaimed outpouring of the Spirit on all flesh might indeed still find its fulfillment in our time.
Amos Yong, Who Is the Holy Spirit? A Walk with the Apostles (Brewster, MA: Paraclete Press, 2011), 14–15.
Explore Further. . .
- Read James Cone on the Holy Spirit and liberation.
- Learn more about this year’s theme Nothing Stands Alone.
- Meet the team behind the Daily Meditations.
Image credit: Arthur Allen, Daily Meditation Spring 2022 Series (detail), 2022, photographs, France. Jenna Keiper, 2022, triptych art, United States. Click here to enlarge the image.
This year we invited a few photographers to share their vision with us in an artistic exploration for the Daily Meditations. The inspiration questions we asked each artist to create from were: How do you as an artist connect to and engage with (S)spirit and/or tradition(s)? How can we translate deeper truths through a lens? How can we show our inherent connectedness (of humans, nature, other creatures, etc.) through imagery? This week’s images by photographer Arthur Allen appear in a form inspired by early Christian/Catholic triptych art: a threefold form that tells a unified story.
Image Inspiration: My point of departure for this project was a question: Do precious things Glow, or are we casting Light on them? I found no answer (in any philosophical sense) but I did notice in my searches that some images—some “strikes to the eye”—positively wanted me to look at them. They called to me as if I had been ignoring them unfairly, the way I might ignore children’s jokes while I am trying to finish taxes. My goal became to ignore them less. I was surprised by how many of these children can fill a day, how many stories they can tell, and just how dream-like their jokes are. —Arthur Allen
Story from Our Community:
I set aside attending Mass, even before Covid. It just happened, this feeling of “I can’t anymore.” I didn’t lose my faith in God. I didn’t set God aside. But what I set aside was the “outward” sign. I instead, went inward. I found the voice of God inside me, stronger, yet gentler than ever. I am deeply grateful. It blows my mind and heart the words I receive from within.
Prayer for our community:
God, Lord of all creation, lover of life and of everything, please help us to love in our very small way what You love infinitely and everywhere. We thank You that we can offer just this one prayer and that will be more than enough, because in reality every thing and every one is connected, and nothing stands alone. To pray for one part is really to pray for the whole, and so we do. Help us each day to stand for love, for healing, for the good, for the diverse unity of the Body of Christ and all creation, because we know this is what You desire: as Jesus prayed, that all may be one. We offer our prayer together with all the holy names of God, we offer our prayer together with Christ, our Lord, Amen.