Commented Bible Passages

These Bible meditations are meant as a way of seeking God in silence and prayer in the midst of our daily life. During the course of a day, take a moment to read the Bible passage with the short commentary and to reflect on the questions which follow. Afterwards, a small group of 3 to 10 people can meet to share what they have discovered and perhaps for a time of prayer.

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Acts 2:1-11 Widening our Friendship
When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place. And suddenly from heaven there came a sound like the rush of a violent wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. Divided tongues, as of fire, appeared among them, and a tongue rested on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages, as the Spirit gave them ability. Now there were devout Jews from every nation under heaven living in Jerusalem. And at this sound the crowd gathered and was bewildered, because each one heard them speaking in the native language of each. Amazed and astonished, they asked, “Are not all these who are speaking Galileans? And 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.”

Here, the disciples are all in one place, together. Imagine this place: it might be a physical place such as a room, a house. Being in one place can also mean being in the same state of mind, a set of ideas or feelings: for example we can imagine the disciples had the same love for God or a feeling of missing Jesus or wondering what the future holds for them….maybe they were in several places! Places, be them physical - like a room - or more abstract or symbolic - like a mindset, a feeling - help us gather together and create a sense of belonging and identity. Thus places like these along our journey are helpful and life-giving.

However, places - physical or symbolic - can also close us off to people or things that are, from our experience of the world, different, strange or exotic. We may not want to go ‘outside’. A lifegiving place then becomes the opposite - an ‘echo chamber’, an exclusive club. We cannot live in one place our whole lives and grow, serve others, serve God. And God, who is beyond all these places, calls us outside: we see here that the Holy Spirit comes and fills the place where the disciples are and gives them the ability to go beyond being in ‘one place’, to be with others but without losing their own community. It is like being on a swing, going back and forth. A constant back and forth helps us find the balance between deepening our own identity and being with others in a life giving way.

The disciples then start speaking in many languages. Speaking another language is more than just using the right words and grammar. It is also a way of expressing how we see the world and how our own story shapes who we are. There are always elements of a language that are difficult, even impossible to translate because they cannot be understood simply by hearing or reading the words. There is something else of the context that needs to be understood or sometimes a first hand experience to be had. If we stay at the surface level of words, this can lead to misunderstandings if not prejudice and fear of those different from me.

We need to have the simplicity to ask for more explanation and we need the humility to accept that sometimes we simply cannot fully understand the other person. This should not stop us from walking a path of friendship together, rather it should help us recognise that we are not exactly the same and learn from each other where we can. The same goes for when we speak: we may not realise that something we say does not make sense to someone else.

At Pentecost, people from ‘every nation’ started hearing about God’s works in their own language. When we speak about God’s works, we need to think about who we are speaking to. Each person, group and community understands, sees and lives in the world differently and has therefore their own ‘language’ their own ‘culture’ (nation). Think of how you might explain an important your experience you have had to a child, someone your own age and someone much older than you. The deeper message may be the same, but it is necessary to use different words in order for each to understand.

May we, throughout our entire lives, feel the Holy Spirit calling us again and again out of our ‘place’ in order to speak of God’s works.

- What ‘places’ are important in my life? How do I go ‘outside’ of these places? Perhaps I find it difficult sometimes to go ‘outside’ – why?
- What have I learned about God, my faith, the world, others and myself from people with different experience of the world than mine? 
- How would I share an important experience of mine to a child, someone my age and someone older than me?

Other bible meditations:

Printed from: - 30 May 2024
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