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Pentecost Sunday 2020 – Part I (Episcopal Lectionary & Acts 2:1-21)

Updated: Apr 22, 2021

I was raised in a religion that is “Pentecostal.” I stopped going to the church of my mother at the age of fifteen, not having a clue what “Pentecostal” meant. I did know that my religion believed in “speaking in tongues,” and I had been trained (minimally) to become tongue-tied to the point of making unintelligible noises, which was viewed by “elders” as “speaking in tongues.” I still had no idea that “Pentecostal” and “speaking in tongues” were related. Given that background, I became an Episcopalian after the age of fifty, due to that being the church of my wife. For the majority of my time being Episcopalian, and especially after I began writing “sermons” based on my interpretations of the lectionary, I assumed Pentecost Sunday was the beginning of the season that has every Sunday between it and Advent listed as “after Pentecost.” It was only recently (when publishing the book Easter Sermons) that I realized Pentecost Sunday is the last Sunday of the Easter season. That shows how little I know, I guess. It does make sense, now that I have learned that nuisance, because Pentecost is really neither Easter nor Ordinary (the name of the long season “after Pentecost”). It can be seen as a gate in a wall, as the dividing line between student and professional, apprentice and master, or disciple and rabbi. The seven Sundays of the Easter season are also separate from the wall with a gate that is Easter Sunday. Easter Sunday is neither Lent nor Easter, as Easter Sunday represents a passed entrance exam or accepted application for the seven-week School of Jesus. In order to get into that program of study, one has to first die of self-ego and be told by Jesus to “Come out!” Without the ego getting in the way, one is able to learn what Jesus teaches his disciples. In the past Fourth Sunday of Easter (only in Year A) was read from John’s tenth chapter, of Jesus saying, “I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved. They will come in and go out, and find pasture.” (John 10:9) Pentecost Sunday is the gate Jesus was talking about. To go beyond Pentecost (into the “after Pentecost” season of “Ordinary Time”) one has to have graduated from the forty-day basic training course for egoless plebes, becoming Jesus resurrected via the Holy Spirit – the story of Acts 2:1-21. The point I want to make about Pentecost Sunday being a gateway to being ordained as a priest of Yahweh [even if “Ordinary” also speaks of a “numbered order” of weeks], is the field changes on Pentecost Sunday.

Ordinary time means time for green to come out. It is like time to lead the sheep to green pastures.

Unlike the field of readings chosen for each of the Sundays of Easter (and before), Pentecost Sunday comes with options, called “Tracks.” Not only does Acts replace the Old Testament selection for the seven weeks prior, as a mandatory reading during the Easter season, but it remains mandatory on Pentecost, with a caveat. It can dislodge an Old Testament reading (option 1) or it can dislodge an Epistle reading (Option 2). This means Pentecost has the possibility of four readings (plus a Psalm), rather than three. [Plus the Gospel reading.] Once the gateway is passed and one enters the Ordinary season (numbered Sundays “after Pentecost” when priests are ordained into ministry), then the choices become paired: Track 1, being an Old Testament reading with an accompanying Psalm; or, Track 2, another Old Testament reading with its accompanying Psalm. Of this choice option, the Episcopal Lectionary states the following: “During the long green season after Pentecost, there are two tracks (or strands) each week for Old Testament readings. Within each track, there is a Psalm chosen to accompany the particular lesson. The Revised Common Lectionary allows us to make use of either of these tracks, but once a track has been selected, it should be followed through to the end of the Pentecost season, rather than jumping back and forth between the two strands. The first track of Old Testament readings (“Track 1”) follows major stories and themes, read mostly continuously from week to week. In Year A we begin with Genesis, in Year B we hear some of the great monarchy narratives, and in Year C we read from the later prophets. A second track of readings (“Track 2”) follows the Roman Catholic tradition of thematically pairing the Old Testament reading with the Gospel reading, often typologically—a sort of foretelling of Jesus Christ’s life and ministry, if you will. This second track is almost identical to our previous Book of Common Prayer lectionary. Within each track there may be additional readings, complementary to the standard reading; these may be used with the standard reading, or in place of it.

(Credit to The Rev Dr. J. Barrington Bates and his bold font)” This is another thing I have only recently learned. I still have so much to learn. However, in my past days of writing notes and sermons for a three-year lectionary cycle, I chose “all of the above” and made notes on everything, as well as including everything in the sermons I would write. As far as I am concerned, if the shoe fits wear it. If Scripture fits a theme, why not read something that adheres to the theme. When Track 1 and 2 are only chosen to appear as optional selections on only one Sunday out of a three-year cycle, tell me when one reading will ever be read and/or discussed, if it is always the one not chosen? I say read them all. Preach about them all. But then, there is the mindset I heard of from one parishioner in my wife’s church who confided in me, “I used to be a different religion, but Sunday was an all-day thing to them. Three hour services of singing and sermons AND then they wanted to do lunch on the grounds until three in the afternoon.” Then he told me why he was Episcopalian: “When I heard a twelve-minute sermon and gone by noon, I said this is the religion for me!” Now that man was being honest and there can be no blaming him for being the only one with this reason to prefer the Episcopal Church as his Sunday affiliation. I know many who will go to the early church service on Sunday, simply because there is no music or songs sung, so the service (including sermon) is usually no more than forty minutes long. Since I do not sing well or read music, making it worse for me to try and sing along to songs I have never heard before, I will occasionally go to the early service also. However, as far as twelve-minute sermons go, some sermons I have heard are so bad (political or fluff) that twelve minutes is too long. One of the Facebook memes I saw today said, “God is in our hearts, not a building. We are the church, so there is no need to rush back to a building before it is safe.” The problem with that is this: No. You are not a church. A “church” is whenever two or three are gathered in the name of Jesus Christ.

If God was in your hearts, then you would be reborn in the name of His Son. Because you do not say, “and Christ is reborn within us,” then you are barren as a lover of God, like a mistress, not a wife. The churches of 2020 are barren because the thought processes of the leaders say, “Our egos are gods to us and we will not submit our self-importance to anyone unseen.” Today, I watched a bishop of a “Church” speak on a Facebook live video, where he explained “The Holy Eucharist cannot be done by anyone other than a priest, because a priest has the power to consecrate the bread and wine.” That speaks of self-importance, as if a diploma and a job in a “Church” makes one able to make anything “sacred.”

As leaders, you are nothing more than hired hand watching [lording] over flocks. The flocks are do-nothing Episcopalians that cheer “likes” and “hearts” as a bishop talks about why priests [supposed to be Saints] are afraid of catching the COVID19 virus, when Jesus Christ only fears God. That means there is no church other than that which is the collection of buildings called “churches” that are owned by businesses, which pays people called priests to run those businesses.

Each true Christian is a temple unto the Lord and a nation under His Son the King. Thus, there is no need to rush back to a building, to hear crappy twelve-minute orations be given by hired hands wearing masks. As for the readings for Pentecost Sunday, in addition to the choice between an Old Testament reading (Numbers 11:24-30) or an Epistle reading (1 Corinthians 12:3b-13), there are two Gospel readings to choose from. Both come from John’s Gospel, where one can be either John 20:19-23 (I assume Track 1?) or John 7:37-39 (Track 2?). In my mind, all should be preached, but therein lies the problem. Episcopalians do not have time for readings or sermons. They come to sing songs and then eat a wafer and wash it down with a sip of wine. They then feel elevated in physical emotion to run out and sin for six days (almost seven full), before they are ready to repeat that special feeling once again. The answer is simple. The answer comes from Acts 2. Peter and the other eleven (and other followers of Jesus) were in the upper room in the Essene quarter of Jerusalem. They were not in an ‘official synagogue’ (as far as we know), so they certainly were not in any recognized Episcopal church. Because the twelve all stood and spoke while filled with the Holy Spirit, they were all in the name of Jesus Christ, so they were a church [twelve plus satisfies the two or more minimum requirement]. The people who the twelve preached to were pilgrims of many different languages, who heard Galilean rubes [not graduates of some seminary] preach fluently in their languages, so they heard the messages loud and clear … without singing songs and without the promise of wafers and wine passed out later. That means the reading says: Do away with the Churches

Churches only keep paying customers paying hired hands, since none of the attendees of a Church ever stand up and go out with “raised voice” and preach the truth so others can likewise be “raised” or “lifted up.” The ones in the pews do not want to be the wives of God. They don’t want to be the mothers of Jesus reborn. And they don’t want to be filled with the Holy Spirit and take on the responsibility of serving God with all their hearts, all their souls, and all their minds – led by the Jesus Christ Mind. Churches don’t have the time to discuss the Word, which is the foundation of their beliefs. The cornerstone of the Word has been rejected by the builders of those churches, because taking the time to discuss the Word fully will make the paying sheep jump the fence and run away. Baah, baah, baah.

Overlooked in the Acts 2 reading, which tells of the most important Pentecost in history (the only Pentecost known to Christian churches), is the sermon given. The sermon is this: “Men of Judea and all who live in Jerusalem, let this be known to you, and listen to what I say. Indeed, these are not drunk, as you suppose, for it is only nine o’clock in the morning. No, this is what was spoken through the prophet Joel: `In the last days it will be, God declares, that I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh, and 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. And I will show portents in the heaven above and signs on the earth below, blood, and fire, and smoky mist. The sun shall be turned to darkness and the moon to blood, before the coming of the Lord’s great and glorious day. Then everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.’ “ The sermon was not simply a reading from the Prophet Joel, Joel 2:28-32, but an explanation. In verse 28, Joel’s words begin by stating, “And it will come to pass afterwards” or literally, “It will come to pass following thus.”  Peter said, “And [from a capitalized “Kai”] it will be in the last days.”

For Jews who had memorized Joel and discussed his prophecy, the concept of the unknown made it impossible to know when “come to pass afterwards” would be. Peter said it means now! “In the last days of the Counting of the Omer, God says it will be.” Pentecost was the Fiftieth and last day of those “days” counted. How did Peter then prove that was the meaning? He and the other eleven, along with the women and children followers of Jesus who were also ablaze with tongues afire by the Holy Spirit, they were the proof.  Peter must have made a sweeping gesture with his arms, saying symbolically “Look here at these!” He would have done that as his mouth said, “I will pour out the Spirit of me upon all flesh;  and  will prophesy your sons;  and  your daughters;  and  your young men will have visions;  and  your elders will dream dreams.” That was not simply Peter reciting from memory a quote from Joel, but a statement that all ears who heard his spiritually raised voice took to heart. God’s Holy Spirit had been poured out upon the flesh of Galileans who should know nothing of value; but the twelve had all become Sons of God. That was not only the menfolk but the women as well – the daughters were also Sons of God. They all stood prophesying to the truth of Joel.

Those who listened that were young Jewish males; their eyes began to see the meaning of Joel’s prophecy being fulfilled right before their very eyes. All the elders suddenly had their dreams of living to see this day “come to pass” were able to see their role as God’s servants become their dream of their future. As Peter continued, he said, “ and  even upon my [male] servants;  and  upon my handmaidens; in the [light of] days those I will pour out my Spirit;  and  they will prophesy.”

That was an allusion to the “slaves” forced to bend to the whims of the Temple elite, who kept everyone in the dark with fear of their legal judgments and banishments. They became useless once the truth was known by those to whom God’s Holy Spirit rested upon. The greatest need in a lost religion was truth; and the truth had long been missing from the former inhabitants of Israel. The truth was then made possible by the most common of Jewish pilgrims.  The truth set the slaves free. Peter then continued to quote Joel, saying, “ and  I will grant marvels by the spiritual heavens once beyond one’s reach [heavens above];  and  signs upon the inhabitants of regions less [God’s touch];  blood and fire  and  vapors of smoke.”

The pilgrims had all come to Jerusalem for ritual bloodletting – the slaughter of sacrificial animals – who would then be set upon altars of fire, producing the aroma of smoke.  However, those signs would be marking the least among them, as God would be giving the gifts of the Holy Spirit to His new priests. Of those priests Peter continued what Joel had written, saying, “This sunlight will be turned to darkness;  and  that moon phase into bloodshed;  formerly or coming day of the Lord, the great  and  manifest.”

That spoke loudly this message to the crowd of pilgrims: “The temple elite’s day in the sun has ended. They no longer worship Yahweh but the goddess of the earth and all its riches. They will only cling to heritage, as a bloodline of God. All of their worship of former prophets of God coming to save them with a Messiah, that day has come. That day is today and it is great. The Messiah has been produced in us via the Holy spirit. As the crowd was praising Yahweh as Peter spoke and they understood, Peter quoted one last line from Joel’s prophecy: “  and  it shall be,  everyone who chooses to call upon the name of the Lord will be saved.”

The promise is made to ALL who will marry God and be reborn as His Son, taking on the name of holiness – Jesus Christ. Tell me, “When did you last time you heard a sermon like that in an Episcopal church?” While not read today (it was mentioned in the Acts reading of the Third Sunday of Easter), we know that “about three thousand were added to their number [Saints or Apostles] that day” of Shavuot [a.k.a. Pentecost]. (Acts 2:41) Just from reciting a variation of a prophetic reading (Scripture), three thousand (there about) were moved to spend the rest of their lives being led by the Holy Spirit of Jesus Christ! Why does that not happen today? Of course, it would be easy to say that these days a sermon like that wouldn’t work out so well, given how high and mighty Christians are these days. Some might even insinuate that Christians already have the Holy Spirit in them and the world has already been saved, so Joel’s prophecy is history, come and gone, finito, or cōnsummātum if you like Latin (from John 19:30 – “It is finished”).  Well, that makes now “the last days” of Christianity.  Perhaps …. We think again. I am sure that Episcopal priests will see the “last days” as an eerie warning about the COVID19 scare, making us tremble as we listen to their twelve-minute (or less) Facebook presentations. Certainly, they will use every misdirection ploy in their “Homiletics” playbook to avoid anyone getting the expectation that he, she, or it is a son, daughter, young man, elder, male slave or handmaiden who is supposed to be saved by calling upon the name of the Lord. After all, a priest has been given special powers by some educational institution to “call for Jesus” and have him enter the “host,” so all the flock will get their bellies tickled for another week (or less, depending on how often the “sacraments” are served).

I call upon you Jesus Christ … I command you to GET in that box of wafers and bottle of wine … NOW!!!

How often have you heard a sermon that even talked about Peter being in the name of the Lord, along with all the other Epistle writers. I heard a church “elder” ask during Bible Studies one Sunday morning, “Nobody here believes they are Jesus, do they?”

That old timer had been to plenty of Sunday sermons and he is living proof that he had not been told the true meaning of Pentecost Sunday. Tell me, “When was the last time any priest, minister, pastor or preacher inspired you with words that made you receive the Holy Spirit and accept a lifetime’s commitment to serve God as His wife, giving birth to His Son, so you knew the Lord was in you and you in the Lord, inspired to immediately go into ministry?” It was probably the last time you heard a priest say, “Damn the Tracks! Today we are going to forego the music and pageantry and discuss the meaning of six readings (including the Psalm)!” You and I both know when that was. As I have reached a limit, as far as what simple minds and people with short attention spans can accommodate from a “blog,” I will post this as is. I will then add the “Part II” part of the sermon, where I address all of the readings chosen for Pentecost Sunday, Year A, 2020. Who knows? There might even be a Part III and IV.

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