May is considered a blissful month in Europe, when nature is in bloom, love grows and traditionally many weddings take place. May is also the month when the Christian Pentecost is celebrated (like today, Pentecost Sunday, when I am writing this text). Both love instinct and Pentecost have one thing in common: fire in the heart!
The large peony bloom from our garden in Zurich today is like an unfolded fan, like a white wedding dress that hugs the world. In the middle is the golden fire of the stamens that hold the blossom and the world together. For me the picture is a symbol of Pentecost.
However, is Pentecost more than a long weekend? Yes, it is no less than the origin of a world revolution that has lasted and continues to this day and the future. It came this way:
The followers of Jesus had turbulent times behind them: The enthusiasm to emulate Jesus with his vision and his values was followed by a total crash with Jesus being executed on the cross as a sect preacher and heretic. Called Good Friday later. This was followed by apparently strange apparitions of the dead man with the few friends who could not forget him – later called Easter. This gave rise to shy, fragile moments of hope from this tiny “sect group” that their life would have meaning again. This fragile longing for hope was followed by an event that I call the beginning of a world revolution: Pentecost, in Greek πεντεκοστή/Pentecost (Acts 2:1) simply means “fifty” and means fifty days after Easter. It is the number for fulfillment, wholeness and new beginning. The debt relief, as described in in the Old Testament Lev 25-26, took place every seven years. After 7×7 years, in the 50th year, the Jubilee year of debt relief and a new beginning was declared, so that everyone had the same economic starting opportunities again.
The Pentecost event is now described as follows (Acts 2,1-13): the group of those women and men who had regained courage gathered in a house (Greek οίκος, Oikos). Suddenly these people were seized by an inner turmoil, described as a storm wind, where a flame appeared on everyone’s head. I call it more understandable as ‘fire in the heart ’, just like with lovers. The vendors from the surrounding hotels and residents of the narrow streets of Jerusalem flocked to see what was hap-pening. These “enthusiasts” with fire in their hearts did not begin to speak in their own ‘club’ language, but in the many languages of the multicultural and international community of people in Jerusalem. These came from all over the world at that time, from Egypt to Iran, from Turkey to Libya, from Rome to Central Asia (enumerated in v. 9-10). They were “Jews, Cretans/Greeks and Arabs” (v.11). “We hear them speak of the great deeds of God in our own languages” (v.11) testified the people of this cosmopolitan city.
Why now do I call this Pentecost event the origin of a world revolution? This small group with the ‘fire in the heart’ won the hearts of people by taking them seriously in their own existence and culture – the mother tongue is the most intimate expression of this – and not imposing their own values from the outside, but translating them into the other culture. Their hearts were full of empathetic and energetic love (αγάπε/agape is the Greek word for divine, inclusive, comprehen-sive love). With this fire of love they broke through the walls of the then hegemonic world powers (Rome, Egypt and Persia are explicitly mentioned). This courageous small group formed bridges between people, cultures, centers of power and ideologies.
This ‘fire in the heart’ leads to respect for diversity and being different. This is only possible – without exploding, imploding or indulging in arbitrariness – because the courage for diversity is connected with the certainty of unity. This fire is a symbol of the love that holds the world together on the inside. Like the gold-yellow center of the white peony at the beginning of this text. Pente-cost thus becomes a symbol for unity in diversity.
And the house (oikos) of this Pentecostal community of women, men and children becomes a symbol of the world community. Oikos in the threefold sense of Oikoumene (ecumenism as a community of churches and religions), Oikonomia (economy as the fair sharing of the goods of this earth) and Oikologia (ecology as a commitment to unity with the whole creation). In times of renewed war in Gaza, dangerous US-China tensions, climate crisis and particular interests post-Covid: Isn’t Pente-cost there a stunning, comprehensive spiritual, economic, ecological, political, social and cultural vision and world revolution? The invitation for a new beginning for the post-Covid world community. Yes, we can, with the fire in our hearts!
Pentecost Sunday, May 23, 2021