As Christians observe the Day of Pentecost on Sunday, May 19, it is in commemoration of that first Pentecost in the Book of Acts, chapter 2. That Pentecost was transformed from its agricultural background into an experiential event of the Holy Spirit, in the same way that the Jewish Shavuot is a transformation from an agricultural holiday into one of revelation.
Thus, the Day of Pentecost, is all about Revelation.
Christians pray – in the Collect – that the Holy Spirit be “shed throughout the world by the preaching of the Gospel (and) reach to the ends of the earth”. For Christians, the Gospel is the revelation of God in the same way that the Torah is for Jews. Similarly, in the alternate Collect Christians pray that the Holy Spirit guide us into “right judgment in all things”; and that is praying for revelation.
So, God if fully revealed in Jesus Christ – or the Gospel – according to Christian theology, and as we have pointed out, Jews received God’s revelation in the Torah which is commemorated in the festival of Shavuot. Still, the question that lingers on is this: Are we then fully experiencing God’s revelation?
Midrash Exodus Rabbah 5:9 gives a good lesson in answer to the question. It teaches that when God spoke on Mt Sinai, the Jews heard the voice from the south, so they all rushed to the south. When they got there, they heard the voice from the east; they rushed there, but then it came from the west and when they got there, it came from the north. Then it was from heaven above, and from under the earth. In short, the Jews rushed in all directions to hear God’s voice.
I wonder if anything has changed today, except that we are ever more rushed and preoccupied. Not only are we not finding God because of our busy-ness, distraction and restlessness, but we may not even hear God’s voice. How can we hear when there is so much noise?
This is the third element in our quest for God’s Presence: Be alert; Pay attention.