Monthly Archives: May 2024

On Pentecost Sunday – 2024

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“Commemorating the descent of the Holy Spirit – the very first Pentecost Sunday

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Welcome to “read the Bible – expand your mind:”

The Book of Common Prayer says that by sharing Holy Communion, Christians become “very members incorporate in the mystical body” of Jesus. The words “corporate” and “mystical” are key. They show that a healthy church has two sides. That includes the often-overlooked “mystic” side that answers the question, “How do I experience God?” This blog will try to answer that.

It has four main themes. The first is that God will accept anyone. (John 6:37.) The second is that God wants us to live lives of abundance.(John 10:10.) The third is that Jesus wants us to read the Bible with an open mind. (As it says in Luke 24:45: “Then He [Jesus] opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures.”) The fourth theme – another one often overlooked – is that Jesus wants us to do even greater miracles than He did.(John 14:12.) 

And this thought ties them together:

The best way to live abundantly and do greater miracles than Jesus is: Read, study and apply the Bible with an open mind. For more see the notes or – to expand your mind – see the Intro.

In the meantime:

Before this week’s post on Pentecost Sunday, I reviewed two posts from the distant past. I updated and revamped them on Friday, May 17. First, On Jonah and the bra-burners, from January 2015, then The True Test of Faith, from February 2014. And they needed updating…

The Jonah post talked of the whale in the story as an “attention getter” that got out of hand, like feminists burning bras at 1968’s Miss America pageant. That got attention, but ended up a trivializing “negative and trite association.” (The post added that the real message of Jonah is that God’s love is universal.) The “true test” post talked of how some might handle dying and finding out there is no God. (And how I got assured by the First law of thermodynamics.)

Now it’s time to move on to Pentecost Sunday, 2024, but first a story of my own.

I graduated high school in 1969 and went off to college. Like many young people who do that I stopped going to church. That lasted until 1987 when I met Karen, the lady who became my first wife. She died in 2006, after 19 years together, but in 1987 she was looking for a church to call home. She tried many, and I started going to these different churches with her.

She found a place, “Faith Community” south of Largo (FL), and soon her daughter Candy started going too. One Sunday Karen and I got there after the service started. We entered the front hallway and heard a strange murmuring from inside the main auditorium. Then Candy burst out and announced, “these people are crazy!” It seems every one of the 200 or so people inside were “speaking in tongues.” It freaked Candy out, and I wasn’t too crazy about it either. And it wasn’t long after that I said to Karen, “I have an idea. Why don’t we try the church I grew up in. St. Dunstan’s here in Largo.” We tried it and she loved it. We got married there on Valentine’s Day, 1993, and Bishop Harris confirmed her the following February 28.

The point? I may not have returned to “the church of my yoot” if it hadn’t been for the babblers – those “speakers in tongues” – back in 1987. The connection is that Pentecost is also called “Tongue Sunday.” That’s partly because of those Tongues of Fire discussed further below, and because some onlookers expressed the functional equivalent of “those people are crazy!” Just like Karen’s daughter Candy did in 1987, hearing people ostensibly speaking in tongues. (The Lord does indeed work in mysterious ways.)

Back on track: First of all, “Pentecost” comes from the Greek for “50th day.” It always comes 50 days after Easter Sunday.  (Seven weeks plus one day.) And it’s been around a long, long time. (Wikipedia said the feast in Judaism is called Shavuot, and celebrates the giving of the Law on Sinai.) Yet another name for Pentecost is Tongue Sunday, as noted.

There were the “tongues of fire,” but also the disciples “spoke in tongues.” (Glossolalia.) As it says in Acts 2:4, “All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them.“ That made some onlookers skeptical. As noted in Acts 2:12 and 13, some who saw the event were amazed, but “others sneered and said, ‘They are filled with new wine!’” But as Isaac Asimov noted, the Apostles weren’t just “babbling.”

They spoke in known languages. People from different nations understood. Asimov wrote: “In their ecstasy, they uttered phrases in a number of languages,” including the marketplace Koine Greek used in the Roman Empire as well as the disciples’ native Aramaic. Those “who listened to them from the various nations … would have understood something.” Acts 2, verse 8-11:

“How is it that we hear, each of us, in our own native language?  Parthians, Medes, Elamites, and residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya belonging to Cyrene, and visitors from Rome, both Jews and proselytes, Cretans and Arabs – in our own languages we hear them speaking about God’s deeds of power.” (Emphasis added.)

Of course all that is well and good, but the important thing about Pentecost Sunday as described in Acts is that it was a “momentous, watershed event.” For the first time in history, God empowered “all different sorts of people for ministry.” That was drastically different from Old Testament times, when “the Spirit was poured out almost exclusively on prophets, priests, and kings.” But on this first Pentecost Sunday the Holy Spirit was given to all people. All of us, from that day forward, were “empowered to minister regardless of their gender, age, or social position.” (What is Pentecost? Why Does It Matter? – Patheos.)

And finally, Pentecost Sunday is when we get to say, “Happy Birthday, Church!”

Before the events of the first Pentecost – a few weeks after Jesus’ death and resurrection – there were followers of Jesus, but there was no movement that could be meaningfully called “the church.” So, from a historical standpoint, Pentecost is the day when the Church as we know it was started. (“The Spirit brings the church into existence and enlivens it.”) 

So here’s wishing you a “Happy Birthday, Church,” and also a Happy Pentecost, both the day and the season. (A season that can take up half the church year, as shown below.)

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Ordinary Time” – Pentecost Season – can take up half the Church year…

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The upper image was originally courtesy of Pentecost Sunday Images – Image Results. But see also El Greco – Pentecost, 1610 at Prado Museum Madrid Spain, which I went on to “glean.” The caption is from the Wikipedia article, gleaned from the following: “The Christian High Holy Day of Pentecost is celebrated on the 50th day (the seventh Sunday) from Easter Sunday. It commemorates the descent of the Holy Spirit upon the Apostles and other followers of Jesus Christ while they were in Jerusalem celebrating the Feast of Weeks, as described in the Acts of the Apostles (Acts 2:1–31).”

The Book of Common Prayer reference: The “corporate-mystical” prayer is on page 339, the post-communion prayer for Holy Eucharist, Rite I.

“Feast days” are designated days on the liturgical (church) calendar “set aside to commemorate events, saints, or doctrines that are important in the life of the Church. These can range from Solemnities, which are the highest-ranking feast days like Easter and Christmas, to optional memorials that celebrate lesser-known saints.” Feast Days: Celebrating the Church’s Calendar.

For this post I borrowed from On Pink Floyd and Pentecost Sunday – 2021, Pentecost 2020 – “Learn what is pleasing to the Lord,” and – from 2015, On Pentecost – “Happy Birthday, Church!”

Confirmation in the Episcopal Church is the sacramental rite in which the confirmands “express a mature commitment to Christ, and receive strength from the Holy Spirit through prayer and the laying on of hands by a bishop.”

Re: “Church of my yoot.” Referring to what I call the My Cousin Vinny psalm. Psalm 25:6 reads, “Remember not the sins of my youth.” Or “yoot,” as in “Dese two yoots.”

Also, the “more boring detail” follows these standard notes, separated by another four asterisks.

The lower image is courtesy of Liturgical year – Wikipedia. See also Ordinary Time – Wikipedia.

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As noted in the opening blurb, this blog has four main themes. The first is that God will accept anyone. (John 6:37, with the added, “Anyone who comes to Him.”) This is a consistent theme throughout the Bible. From the Old Testament, Psalm 9:10, “You never forsake those who seek you, O Lord.” (In the Version in the Book of Common Prayer.) The second is that God wants us to live abundantly.  (John 10:10.) The third is that we should do greater miracles than Jesus. (John 14:12). A fourth theme: The only way to do all that is read the Bible with an open mind:

…closed-mindedness, or an unwillingness to consider new ideas, can result from the brain’s natural dislike for ambiguity. According to this view, the brain has a “search and destroy” relationship with ambiguity and evidence contradictory to people’s current beliefs tends to make them uncomfortable… Research confirms that belief-discrepant-closed-minded persons have less tolerance for cognitive inconsistency

So in plain words, this blog takes issue with boot-camp Christians. They’re the Biblical literalists who never go “beyond the fundamentals.” But the Bible can offer so much more than their narrow reading can offer…  (Unless you want to stay a Bible buck private all your life…) Now, about “Boot-camp Christians.” See for example, Conservative Christian – “Career buck private?”  The gist of that post is that starting the Bible is like Army Basic Training. You begin by“learning the fundamentals.” But after boot camp, you move on to Advanced Individual Training.” 

http://www.toywonders.com/productcart/pc/catalog/aw30.jpg

However, after boot camp, you move on to Advanced Individual Training. And as noted in “Buck private,” one of this blog’s themes is that if you want to be all that you can be, you need to go on and explore the “mystical side of Bible reading.*” In other words, exploring the mystical side of the Bible helps you “be all that you can be.” See Slogans of the U.S. Army – Wikipedia, re: the recruiting slogan from 1980 to 2001. The related image at left is courtesy of: “toywonders.com/productcart/pc/catalog/aw30.jpg.”

Re: “mystical.” Originally, mysticism “referred to the Biblical liturgical, spiritual, and contemplative dimensions of early and medieval Christianity.” See Mysticism – Wikipedia, and the post On originalism.  (“That’s what the Bible was originally about!”) See also Christian mysticism – Wikipedia, “In early Christianity the term ‘mystikos’ referred to three dimensions, which soon became intertwined, namely the biblical, the liturgical and the spiritual or contemplative… The third dimension is the contemplative or experiential knowledge of God.” As to that “experiential” aspect, see also Wesleyan Quadrilateral – Wikipedia, on the method of theological reflection with four sources of spiritual development: scripturetradition, reason, and “Christian experience.”

For an explanation of the Daily Office – where “Dorscribe” came from – see What’s a DOR

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Here’s that “more boring detail,” some of which I may use in future posts. For one thing I researched this speaking-in-tongues business and found 1st Corinthians 14, where the Apostle Paul talked a lot about it. In verse 19, “in the church I would rather speak five intelligible words to instruct others than ten thousand words in a tongue.” Verse 23, “if the whole church comes together and everyone speaks in tongues, and inquirers or unbelievers come in, will they not say that you are out of your mind?”

Also, “babbling” can mean the “sound of people talking simultaneously,” or to “talk rapidly and continuously in a foolish, excited, or incomprehensible way,” or to utter meaningless or foolish words or sounds.

Another thing Pentecost does is mark the beginning of “Ordinary Time,” as it’s called in the Catholic Church. “Ordinary Time” takes up over half the church year, though in the Episcopal Church and other Protestant denominations, it goes by another name. In the Anglican liturgy, the Season of Pentecost begins on the Monday after Pentecost Sunday and goes “through most of the summer and autumn.” It may include as many as 28 Sundays, “depending on the date of Easter.”

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On Bra-burners and the True Test of Faith…

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“Jonah and the Whale” – an attention getter that became a negative and trite association…

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Friday, May 17, 2024 – Before this weekend ends I’ll do a post on Pentecost Sunday – 2024. But first I wanted to review two past posts I just revamped: Jonah and the bra-burners, and The True Test of Faith. The Jonah post talked of how the whale in the account became a distracting attention-getter, like feminists “burning bras” at the Miss America pageant on September 7, 1968. That story – tweaked by a creative reporter – did get attention. But in the end it became a “negative and trite association” with a net effect of trivializing serious feminists working at equal rights for women. (In 1968 women couldn’t get a credit card, serve on a jury, or get birth control, and faced discrimination in the workplace, like being fired for getting pregnant.)

By the way, the real message in the Book of Jonah is that God’s love is universal.

In Jonah’s case, that love of God extended even to the people of Nineveh, Israel’s arch-enemy and arch-tormentor. (An idea of God’s love that Jonah hated.) For more details see the post itself, but now it’s time to move on to The True Test of Faith. It talks about two Christians who die and find out there is no God, no “life after life,” no reward for good behavior or punishment for bad behavior. And how one gets irate because of all the fun he could have had, while the other says, “You know, I wouldn’t change a thing.” And how that’s the kind of faith I’m working on.

And how there is “probably no sin more tolerated or more widespread in the Christian world than legalism.” And how the answer to being saved is found in John 6:37 and Romans 10:9.

One final thought: In the notes below I say that too-literal Christians are like soldiers who enlist in the Army but never go beyond boot camp. (They never do more than “learn the basics, the fundamentals.”) But a more telling image would be of students who never go beyond elementary school. I’ll keep working on that idea, as well as the idea that “the Bible is designed to expand your mind.” (To the tune, If It Doesn’t Fit, You Must Acquit.”)

But now it’s time to move on to Pentecost Sunday!

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The descent of the Holy Spirit – the very first “Pentecost Sunday…”

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The upper image is courtesy of “elijah taken up in a chariot of fire – images.” This image came with a page on “Pieter Symonsz. Potter.” See also Wikipediaon the prophet Elijahand on “Pieter Symonsz Potter” (1597-1652), a Dutch Golden Age painter.

The Book of Common Prayer reference: The “corporate-mystical” prayer is on page 339, the post-communion prayer for Holy Eucharist, Rite I.

“Feast days” are designated days on the liturgical (church) calendar “set aside to commemorate events, saints, or doctrines that are important in the life of the Church. These can range from Solemnities, which are the highest-ranking feast days like Easter and Christmas, to optional memorials that celebrate lesser-known saints.” Feast Days: Celebrating the Church’s Calendar.

Re: Women’s status in 1968-1970. See 5 things women couldn’t do in the 1960s | CNN, and 40 Basic Rights Women Did Not Have Until The 1970s.

The lower image was originally courtesy of Pentecost Sunday Images – Image Results. But see also El Greco – Pentecost, 1610 at Prado Museum Madrid Spain, which I went on to “glean.” The caption is from the Wikipedia article, gleaned from the following: “The Christian High Holy Day of Pentecost is celebrated on the 50th day (the seventh Sunday) from Easter Sunday. It commemorates the descent of the Holy Spirit upon the Apostles and other followers of Jesus Christ while they were in Jerusalem celebrating the Feast of Weeks, as described in the Acts of the Apostles (Acts 2:1–31).”

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On Ascension Day, 2024…

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The prophet Elijah, ascending up to Heaven – with the help of a chariot of fire…

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Ascension Day always comes on a Thursday, 40 days after Easter. (In 2024, that was on May 9.) It’s a major Feast Day – ranking right up there with Easter and Pentecost – and commemorates the bodily Ascension of Jesus into heaven. The Gospel reading for the day is Luke 24:44-53:

Jesus said to his disciples, “These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you… Then he opened their minds to understand the scriptures, and he said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Messiah is to suffer and to rise from the dead on the third day…”   Then he led them out as far as Bethany, and, lifting up his hands, he blessed them. While he was blessing them, he withdrew from them and was carried up into heaven

Note the words that Jesus “opened their minds to understand the scriptures,” followed by the words saying that the disciples “returned to Jerusalem with great joy.” That’s Good News!

(“Good news” being the Old English translation of the Greek word for Gospel…)

And speaking of the great joy that can come when you let Jesus open up your mind… (As in, “the Bible was designed to expand your mind.”) In my 2014 post on the day I noted some people have a problem with such Bible miracles in general. That includes the Ascension, but it also includes the whole idea that there is “life after life.” I too had a big problem with that idea – “Is there really life after death?” – after a grueling event years ago. My nephew was riding in a car, the car plunged into the Chattahoochee River north of Atlanta, and he was trapped inside.

That tragic death shook my faith, it made me wonder. The usual platitudes offered no comfort at all, but eventually I did find some comfort in the First law of thermodynamics. That law of physics says that “energy can be transformed from one form to another, but cannot be created or destroyed.” Put another way, energy is neither created nor destroyed, but simply changes form. So I figured that if the human soul is a form of energy – which seems self-evident – then it stands to reason that it is neither created nor destroyed, but simply “changes form.”

Which brings up another question, “Where was my soul before I was born?” (As in Jeremiah 1:5, where God said to the prophet, “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you.”) That’s one of those Rabbit Trails I love exploring, but they are said to detract from that Unity & Coherence rule that writers are supposed to follow. So, back to the Ascension of Jesus…

I found two good articles on the subject, Why Does the Ascension of Jesus Matter? – BibleProject, and The Ascension of Jesus – What was the Meaning and Significance? But then there’s the Wikipedia article, Ascension of Jesus. It refers to the Apostle’s Creed, which says in part that Jesus “ascended into heaven, and is seated at the right hand of God the Father almighty.” This idea “provided an interpretative frame for Jesus’ followers to make sense of his death and the resurrection appearances.” Or as theologian Justus Knecht wrote:

Our Lord went up Body and Soul into heaven in the sight of His apostles, by His own power, to take possession of His glory, and to be our Advocate and Mediator in heaven with the Father. He ascended as Man, as Head of the redeemed, and has prepared a dwelling in heaven for all those who follow in His steps.

In other words, if Jesus hadn’t “ascended to Heaven,” we wouldn’t have a place to stay when we get there. (By faith, expressed in Romans 10:9, “If you declare with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.” Period.)

And speaking of ascensions, the Daily Office for the Eve of Ascension includes Second Kings, 2:1-15. That tells the story of Elijah being “taken up” in a chariot of fire. He was traveling with Elisha, and knew he was about to be taken up. Elisha asked that Elijah grant him a “double portion of your spirit.” Meaning how Elijah got taken up may have been for Elisha’s benefit:

In taking Elijah to heaven, God foreshadowed Christ’s ascension Perhaps those who saw Jesus taken up from the Mount of Olives and hidden in a cloud would have been reminded of Elijah’s departure (Acts 1:6–9). Those disciples who witnessed Jesus’ ascension served God with dedication the rest of their lives, just as Elisha did.

Which is another way of saying that Jesus wasn’t “taken up” on Ascension Day for His benefit. Instead it happened before witnesses so they could share the story. Because of their testimony, we – over two thousand years later – can benefit from it in such a way as to “expand our mind from the Bible as designed.” (Instead of trying to shape God in our image rather than the other way around, thus turning Genesis 1:17 on its head.) Happy Ascension Day!

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Jesus’ ascension to heaven,” by John Singleton Copley

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The upper image is courtesy of “elijah taken up in a chariot of fire – images.” This image came with a page on “Pieter Symonsz. Potter.” See also Wikipedia, on the prophet Elijah, and on “Pieter Symonsz Potter” (1597-1652), a Dutch Golden Age painter.

The Book of Common Prayer reference: The “corporate-mystical” prayer is on page 339, the post-communion prayer for Holy Eucharist, Rite I.

“Feast days” are designated days on the liturgical (church) calendar “set aside to commemorate events, saints, or doctrines that are important in the life of the Church. These can range from Solemnities, which are the highest-ranking feast days like Easter and Christmas, to optional memorials that celebrate lesser-known saints.” Feast Days: Celebrating the Church’s Calendar.

“’Good news’ being the Old English…” Per Wikipedia.

Re: “The Bible was designed to expand your mind.” (To the tune of, “If it does not fit, you must acquit.”) For a more serious note, see These Zen Buddhist Koans Will Open Your Mind – HuffPost. Also John 10:16, where Jesus said, “I have other sheep that are not of this fold. I must bring them also.”

For this post I borrowed On Ascension Day, from 2014, Ascension Day 2017 – “Then He opened their minds,” and from 2023, “Her spirit returned” – and Ascension Day. The 2023 post talked about Jesus raising the daughter of Jairus from the dead, set out in Mark 5:21-43, Matthew 9:18-26, and Luke 8:40–56. In Luke 8:54-55, Jesus took the daughter by the hand, told her to get up, “and her spirit returned.” But returned from where? Where had it been?

And a note on Genesis 1:27, “God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.” Which leads me to see God not as an Old Man with a Long Flowing Beard, but rather as “the Ultimate Married Couple.” Which could explain why men and women spend so much effort trying to “get together.” (You know, that and the hormones…)

The lower image is courtesy of the Wikipedia article, Ascension of Jesus

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