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Pastor’s Note: Renewal of the Heart

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On Pentecost Sunday, we remember that the original Pentecost feast was a harvest festival. In explaining the outpouring of the Spirit in Acts 2, Peter quotes Joel 2:28 who had promised a ‘downpour’ of the Holy Spirit much like the early/Fall rains and the latter/Spring rains in the region of ancient Palestine. The prophet Joel captures the tremendous blessing of these seasonal rains: They are a blessing from God, the cause of great joy (2:23). They actually become a witness to God’s existence (Acts 14:17). God reveals His abundance and His character through these rains: “you shall eat plenty and be satisfied” (Joel 2:26) and “you shall know that I am the Lord” (Joel 2:27). Quickly, however, Joel switches from the physical to the spiritual blessing: the promise of a spiritual rain, a downpour of the Holy Spirit on all flesh (2:28).

When Jesus is baptized in the Holy Spirit at the beginning of the Gospel of Mark, He announces that the promised downpour has begun. Pentecost and Acts 2 launches the ongoing downpour of the Holy Spirit upon the followers of Jesus ever since, and to this day in our lives.

In the Gospel of Mark, the feeding of both the 5000 (Mark 6) and the 4000 (Mark 8) symbolizes (among other things) the abundance of the harvest resulting from this downpour. The only wrinkle is the disciples fail to understand the power of the moment due to their ‘hardness of hearts.’ This intentional equivalency of hardened attitudes between the ‘inner circle’ (the disciples) and the ‘bad guys’ (the pharisees) is telling. Unless the Lord pours out His Spirit on the hardened soil of their hearts, they will not grasp the blessing of the abundant spiritual harvest (it’s no long a material harvest but one of souls, Acts 2:41).

In this stunning failure to understand the amazing provision of foods (with a surplus for both multiplication) Jesus doesn’t walk away from them, but is patient with them. In the same way, Jesus won’t walk out on us when we are hard of hearing and unable to see the spiritual abundance of God’s provision. Here is the promise of Pentecost: God will not let us starve spiritually and will provide the downpour of the Spirit in our witness here in Metro-west and around the world!

Thoughts for the week:

Whenever I fail to see and hear the extent of God’s provision in my life, do I take time to understand that the ‘rains’ of His Spirit will come, just like the early and latter rains?

Whenever I see ‘hardness of heart’ (stubborness, cluelessness, etc.) in my own life, my spouse, my children, my co-workers, my boss, etc., remember that God is patient with me and them, just as He was patient with the disciples. The disciples did flunk the ‘mid-term’ big time (chapter 8 marks the half-way mark in their journey with Jesus in the Gospel of Mark) when they wondered what they would eat (right after the feeding of the 4000!) but Jesus didn’t quit on them or walked away. Instead He was patient and stayed with them. So should we as we ‘gospel’ the message of Jesus to ourselves and those around us.

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