​Photo by Scott Carter from FreeImages. 

By Joe Sawatzky
Wednesday, June 12, 2019

Ascension precedes Pentecost.  Jesus has gone up, and the Holy Spirit comes down.

On June 1, two days after the celebration of Ascension in the church year, and 10 days before Pentecost Sunday, a hailstorm hit my hometown of Goshen, Indiana.  The hail fell that Saturday in two rounds—an "early rain" followed by an abundant "later rain" three hours later (see Joel 2:23).

At the time of the storm, our house was even fuller than usual.  We were hosting three friends of our children for the weekend, as well as a new friend who has landed with us for the summer.  The hail came suddenly.  Its sound filled the entire house.  Flashes of lightning and crashes of thunder punctuated the collective rush of individual stones pinging off the roof.  The tops of trees swayed wildly in the wind.  Branches fell and leaves lined the pathways.  The shouts of children "swelled the glad refrain."[1]  One anxious father, concerned to keep kids from flinging themselves into the fray, raised his voice in vain.  Children left the shelter and entered the storm, eager to feel this phenomenon from beyond.  They ran again for cover with loud cries of joy.

When the Lord went up to Jerusalem "with a shout", some in the crowd tried to still the praise of his disciples.  "If these were silent," he replied, "the stones would shout out" (Lk 19:28, 39-40; Ps 47:5).  Psalm 148 begins and ends with the call, "Praise the Lord" (148:1, 14).  Its first half implores praise "from the heavens", while its second half pleads praise "from the earth" (148:1-6, 7-14).  Each half crescendos in an identical exhortation to the respective hosts of heaven and of earth: "Let them praise the name of the Lord."  Such praise is due "the name" because "he commanded and they were created" and because "his name alone is exalted" (148:5, 13).  In its central stanza, between the heights of heaven and the mountains of earth, after the "waters above the heavens" and the "deeps" below the earth, comes "fire and hail, snow and frost, stormy wind fulfilling his command" (148:4, 9, 7, 8).  The wind and the wetness, the lightning and the stones bring heaven's praise down to earth.  They issue the call to which humans may respond.

As Jesus ordained the stones to declare his praise in place of his people, so the hail "fulfills his command" (148:8).  But for those who will entrust themselves to the Lord, his praise is their strength amid the storms of life.  It is "a horn" from which God "pours out the Spirit upon all flesh" in the name of Jesus (Ps 148:14; Acts 2:17, 33; cf. 1 Sam 16:1-13).

[1] From verse 3 of "Holy God, We Praise Thy Name", #121 in Hymnal: A Worship Book (Elgin, IL: Brethren Press, 1992).






​Joe Sawatzky is a church relations associate for Mennonite Mission Network.



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