The Day of Pentecost

by Crossings

Hearing the Healing
Acts 2
The Day of Pentecost
analysis by Ed Schroeder

Sabbatarians,
Two items this time. #1 A text study for Sunday, May 18, 1997. #2 An announcement of my “departure,” d.v., for Lithuania. 
Peace and Joy! Ed 

Here’s a letter I wrote to my academic dean, Agne Nordlander, at Mekane Yesus Seminary (Addis Ababa, Ethiopia) when I taught there two years ago.

May 17, 1995 Dear Agne,
You ask how the Diploma III class [Christian Doctrine], is going now that we’ve moved into the “hot potato” issue of the Holy Spirit. Here’s what we’ve been doing.

You know better than I the world our students come from. Spiritism is central in the African religions from which some of our students come. Charismatic Christians are present in most all the congregations of all denominations in Ethiopia, even the Ethiopian Orthodox. Many of our students call themselves charismatic. So the student pressure is unrelenting for a “Spirit-test” (1 John 4:1) to “test the spirits to see whether they are from God.” A very good question. In the Dip. III class we started with studying Peter’s Pentecost sermon. Our Title: “Hearing the Healing” [The “holy” Spirit is the “healing” Spirit in Luther’s 2 catechisms. Salvation means healing in both Hebrew and Greek. So that seemed a plausible definition to use for starters.] Thus the initial problem of the hearers in Acts 2 is that they cannot “hear the healing.” But the hearing-defect has deep roots.

Here follows our Biblical study using the Crossings pattern for text analysis.

THE BAD NEWS

STAGE 1. HEARING PROBLEM
Of course, in Ethiopia too the Word of God meets a hearing problem in people . Not that their eardrums are defective, but that they are already tuned-in to programs coming on other wave-lengths. Besides the many Christian programs being broadcast from the mainline churches (Orthodox, Roman Catholics, Protestants), the program of African Traditional Religions still plays on people’s eardrums. Also prominent are local broadcasts all over the receiving band: Islam, Marxists remaining after the war, plain old secularism, and religious “crazies” from New Age options to “Jesus-only” anti-trinitarians. Besides those public broadcasts, there is the Old-Adam & Eve program that plays privately in all the children of that primal pair, Mekane Yesus students and teachers included. So hearing the healing is no piece of cake.

Stage 2. HEART PROBLEM.
Behind the hearing handicap Peter’s Pentecost proclamation diagnoses a heart problem . People have their hearts “tuned in” elsewhere to other programs. They not only hear them, they trust them. Like all sinners they “hang their hearts” on other “names,” trusting those names “to save” when the day of the Lord arrives, especially when such a day arrives in the routines of everyday life and their personal cosmos collapses. But will these names save? Can they save? Can they save when it is “The Lord” we face in such a day?

STAGE 3. NO NAME TO CALL UPON BIG ENOUGH TO HEAL
Peter says “no” to that question citing the prophet Joel as his backup. So unless the message of “this name” gets through their ears and “cuts to the heart,” there is no healing, no “name to call on,” as the prophet Joel said, when the Day of the Lord comes and everything in our personal world crumbles. Peter’s main point is that “forgiveness of sins” (2:38) is needed to pass muster on the Day of the Lord. Do other names supply that? If not, the consequences are deadly–“not saved.”

THE GOOD NEWS

STAGE 4. (Good News for Stage 3)
THE NAME THAT SAVES All the emphasis at Pentecost focuses on Jesus as the “name that saves.” If Jesus has undone death, and he has, then is there any dilemma where his Name will not save? The Holy Spirit at Pentecost takes a supportive role in promoting this Name, exactly as Jesus said the Spirit would in John 14-16. Thus the HS moves Peter to put Jesus front and center to the very ones who had murdered him. This Name does not demand retribution from the murderers. Instead of requiring self-sacrifice from the sinners, he offers His own self-sacrifice to the sinners. Says Peter: “The promise is for you.” Everyone who calls on the name of this Lord will be saved–from the final apocalypse at the end, from the daily life encounters with apocalypse now.

STAGE 5 (Good News for Stage 2)
HEALING THE HEART PROBLEM This Name so proclaimed does “cut to the heart.” The Gospel’s imperative invites us to call upon this name, repent (= turn hearts around), be baptized in that Name, have sins forgiven, receive the gift of the Holy Spirit–in short, to appropriate full-scale healing.

STAGE 6 (Good News for Stage 1)
HEALED HEARERS The daily life consequences of Pentecost are a new way of living. The Jerusalem congregation continues to “hear the healing” in their liturgical life (2:42) and to practice an “ethics of healing” in life’s daily relationships in the Jerusalem congregation–even to new practices in worship life & economic life (2:44-47). With their own hearing problem healed, they “go public” with the News they have heard and live their lives according to that Name’s pattern. No longer bewildered, perplexed themselves, they speak and act in such ways that leave others perplexed, amazed, bewildered (2:43). But not for long. Those still afflicted with the hearing problem are candidates for being healed. And so it was–and still is today (2:47).

From this Grounding we worked out a Spirit-test for testing the spirits.

  1. It occurred to us that the Key for the test is the very name of our church here, the Ethiopian Evangelical Church Mekane Yesus, the EECMY. Mekane Yesus means “the dwelling place of Jesus.” We turned that into a question: “Does Jesus dwell here?”
  2. When we encounter words, actions, experiences, claims about God’s Spirit, we can apply the Mekane Yesus test. Test what we have before us with the question: “Does Jesus dwell here?” That may still leave some test cases unclear, but it would, so said the students, clear up confusion in many cases.
  3. Here are some of the specifics of our MY-test. Where Jesus dwells in spiritual experience we meet a Spirit who
    1. is a Christ-pusher, not a self-pusher;
    2. replaces (not reinstates) legalism,
    3. liberates (not binds) our conscience,
    4. is Gift-with-gifts that edify, not terrify,
    5. promotes renewal within the Body of Christ in keeping with the “perpetual aim of the Gospel.”

End of MYS report.


II. LITHUANIA

The Schroeders, Marie and Ed, have accepted a teaching spot for the fall semester 1997 in Klaipeda, Lithuania. With the Russian Bear now gone back home, Christians in Lithuania are busy renewing their church life, seminaries included. The newly re-constituted seminary for Lithuanian Lutherans (and Reformed Christians too) has asked German and US Lutherans to send teaching staff to help them get going after their 50-year enforced shutdown. Our own church body, the ELCA, has asked us to go there and teach for a term. My task is to teach courses in the Lutheran Confessions and things related to what you’ve been seeing in Sabb. theol. postings.

We’re going as Luth. Mission Volunteers, which means that we raise our own support. We calculate it to be about $5000 for travel and expenses from August to December. We invite you to help out as we pass the tin cup around. If you are so minded, tax-deductible contributions may be made to Crossings, Box 7011, St. Louis, MO 63006-7011. Put this notation on your check: Crossings in Lithuania.

Peace & Joy! Ed

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