Aloha Friday Message – June 6, 2014 – 7 Short Weeks

1423AFC060614 – 7 Short Weeks

Read it online here, please.

Exodus 34:22Celebrate the Festival of Weeks with the firstfruits of the wheat harvest, and the Festival of Ingathering at the turn of the year.

Leviticus 23:15-16You must count for yourselves seven weeks from the day after the Sabbath, from the day you bring the Wave Offering sheaf; they must be complete weeks. You must count fifty days—until the day after the seventh Sabbath—and then you must present a new grain offering to the Lord.New English Translation

Deuteronomy 16:9-11Count off seven weeks from when you first begin to cut the grain at the time of harvest.Then celebrate the Festival of Harvest to honor the Lord your God. Bring him a voluntary offering in proportion to the blessings you have received from him.This is a time to celebrate before the Lord your God at the designated place of worship he will choose for his name to be honored. Celebrate with your sons and daughters, your male and female servants, the Levites from your towns, and the foreigners, orphans, and widows who live among you.New Living Translation (NLT)

Aloha nui loa, ʻŌmea! Have you ever heard of the Festival of Weeks? How about Shavuot? Have you got a good grasp of the meaning of a Wave Offering? Do you understand the connection between this festival, the life of the Church, and the terms Holy Roller, Quaker, Shaker, and Jesus Freak?

The three quotes are from three books of the Pentateuch, the first five books of the Bible and are also called the Torah, the Books of Moses. (That link is a great article to spend some time with, Beloved.) They are the core of Jewish Scripture and therefore also the foundation of scripture for the Abrahamic religions. This Feast of Weeks is a Harvest Feast, and this one occurs fifty days after Passover. Those fifty days are referred to as the Counting of the Omer. The Feast of Weeks was a celebration commanded by God. It is one of three celebrations which require all the men of Israel to make a pilgrimage to Jerusalem – the Festivals of Passover, Weeks, and Tabernacles (Tents). At these three feasts, Jerusalem would be packed with visitors from all over Israel as well as Jews from all around the Mediterranean and Asia.

 waveofferingIn the passages which describe God’s commands for celebration of this feast, we read that the very first day of the harvest, the nation counted fifty days. This was called the Counting of the Omer. The omer was a dry measure of volume; today we’d say is was just under 3.5 quarts. The grain, or bread made from the grain, was held up before the Altar – waved – thereby offering God the firstfruits of the harvest (think of Cain’s and Able’s offerings). The Wave Offering took place on the fiftieth day.

This Feast is also called Shavuot (shah-voo-ōt) celebrating the giving of the Torah to the entire nation of Israel at the foot of Mount Sinai – although that is not explicitly described in Scripture. There are scholarly discussions of the background of this Feast in the Talmud – the “oral Torah.”

In Jesus time, the Feast of Weeks – especially the conclusion – was referred to by its Greek name, πεντηκοστή (pentékosté) {pen-tay-kos-tay’} – Pentecost meaning “fiftieth day.”

Ah. And there we are, ready to understand The Second Chapter of Acts a little deeper and wider than before. We will hear the beginning of that passage in Church this Sunday:

Acts 2:1-4Seven weeks had gone by since Jesus’ death and resurrection, and the Day of Pentecost had now arrived. As the believers met together that day, suddenly there was a sound like the roaring of a mighty windstorm in the skies above them and it filled the house where they were meeting. Then, what looked like flames or tongues of fire appeared and settled on their heads. And everyone present was filled with the Holy Spirit and began speaking in languages they didn’t know, for the Holy Spirit gave them this ability.

This is the Birthday of The Church!

PENTECOSTIt was the arrival of the Advocate, the Paraclete – παράκλητον parakletos {par-ak’-lay-tos}the Comforter, and Intercessor who could speak the language of God in prayer: The Holy Spirit, the Bond of Love between God the Father and God the Son. The Holy Spirit is one who is summoned, called to our side to help us. He is the One who pleads our cause before a judge, a counsel for the defense against The Accuser. He is our legal representative at the Time of Judgment, an advocate whose Wisdom, Power, and Glory are from everlasting to everlasting.

Now we connect this to the swollen population in Jerusalem. There were thousands upon thousands of visitors because it was The Feast of Weeks. There is a list representing “the whole known world” in Acts 2:9-11. They had been attracted to the place where the Disciples were meeting by the sound of a “mighty, rushing  wind.” Hmmm. That sounds familiar. Genesis 1:2 we read “… the earth was a formless wasteland, and darkness covered the abyss, while a mighty wind swept over the waters.” The Hebrew text says “ruach Elohim,” The wind/breath of God – the Spirit of the Living God. So the same Spirit of Creation that formed the Universe was also present for the birth – the creation – of the Universal Church.

The witnesses to this event were divided in their response. Many were astonished, awestruck, flabbergasted. But there were a few who jeered. Even though they heard the wind, even though they saw the Disciples standing, exulting, praising God and declaring the mightiness of his powers, these watchers said, “Ah, these folks are just drunk on new wine. They don’t know what they’re doing! Look at them. They’re acting like fools, all that jumping and shouting, and babbling in ‘different languages.’ Give me a break! These people are in some kind of mass hysteria or delirious with ‘religious fervor.'” OK, so not all of that made it into Luke’s Book Two: The Life of Jesus and the Church. But, you get the idea. Some people just thought the whole thing was comical, and certainly not “proper” for True Sons of Abraham.

This kind of radically zealous worship and testimony was consistently characteristic of the people united in the New Covenant – they called it The Way for a long time after that first Pentecost. St. Paul wrote about it in 1 Corinthians 14:23So 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? Yep. Out of my mind and into the Spirit!

That’s what a lot of people think, alright! That’s the kind of reaction behind those names like Holy Roller, Quaker, Shaker, and Jesus Freak? All of these were intended as derogatory names, but those who “earned” those monikers came to embrace and accept them as positive identifiers. Quakers were admonished to “tremble before the Lord.” The Shakers are a subgroup of the Quakers known for their ecstatic behavior during worship services. The term “Holy Roller” is related to these ideas – the vigorous physical movement, shouting, and enthusiasm of worshipers “caught up in the Holy Spirit.” It can include dropping to the floor and rolling, or being “slain in the Spirit,” a form of prostration in which an individual falls to the floor while experiencing religious ecstasy. Prostration is a gesture of placing the body in a reverent or submissive prone position as a gesture of worship. I have also seen it as a person “falling out” to a kneeling or even supine position.

Not all encounters with the Holy Spirit are like that. Often, when I am writing for you, there is a certain feeling. The feeling … the feeling is like a hand grabbing my spine between my shoulder blades and lifting me up. It is always like that when The Spirit takes me. Next comes the word-processor, then the Internet, then the email you receive, and by the time all of that is over I’m out looking for the next clue. Sometimes it is a shaking or trembling, sometimes chicken-skin (goose-bumps) all over, sometimes just profound quiet and Peace. When it happens, there’s no mistaking it for anything else – even too much new wine.

Beloved, there is a New Pentecost blazing through the church today. How does one become part of that rebirth? The same way it happened in The Way: Repent, be baptized, and receive the Spirit. You may say, “I try to be good and seek forgiveness when I’m not. I was Baptized as a child, and I know I belong to God because Original Sin was removed. And the Holy Spirit is always with me – as Jesus said – until the end of the age. I’m not missing anything by not feeling religious ecstasy.” Perhaps not, but perhaps you might. Repentance is always a tough one because it seems so repetitious; we’re never done with it because we’re never really done with sin. Baptism is something we could think a little differently about, though. There is the liturgical, sacramental Baptism we take as the entry into the Body of Christ; but there is another, deeper sense of it as well. It means – literally – to be immersed. Jesus said. “Can you drink the cup I drink or be baptized with the baptism I am baptized with?” (Mark 10:38b) Jesus was immersed in the baptism of his Passion. We are also to be immersed in the living of our faith, and in the Baptism of the Holy Spirit. It is not just a fixed moment in time, a single event in our lifetime; it is an ongoing process of renewal, submission, exultation, and action happening as we are fully aware of its source, its purpose, and its effects – the Gifts and Fruit of the Holy Spirit.

Whatever, whenever, wherever, whoever, however, if ever, forever — at your service, Beloved




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About Chick Todd

American Roman Catholic reared as a "Baptiterian" in Denver Colorado.

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