Pentecost, Part II: Reflections on Socio-economic Redistribution and “Half-heartedness”

Versions of this article appeared in two parts in the Bartimaeus Cooperative Ministries E-News, May and September, 2005. 5 pp.

On the feast of Pentecost, Christians re-narrate the “birth” of the church in the power of the Holy Spirit. Yet what sort of practice the Spirit empowered at the first Pentecost, and continues to animate today, has been a divisive issue in the life of the church ever since. The contemporary debate about what it means to be “Spirit-filled” usually focuses on individual charismatic gifts, rather on the church as an alternative social model. In contrast, I would like to suggest that whatever else Pentecost was, it was portrayed by Luke in Acts as a public insurrection that midwifed a radical resurgence of the old ways of Israel’s tribal confederacy, specifically narrated in terms of linguistic diversity and economic mutual aid. It was intended to illustrate how Christian faith can challenge imperial conformity and stratification—right in the heart of the most cosmopolitan city in Palestine, and in the face of Roman power.

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