Many of us may have heard in worship recently the story from The Acts of the Apostles about the first day of Pentecost. The followers of Jesus had lost their beloved leader, but they gathered to worship “on the first day of the week” as was their custom. While together, a violent wind blew into the midst of them. (Having lived in the desert a while, I now understand how that can happen!) As that sudden gust filled the room, everyone was also filled with what became understood as the very Breath of God. And that is when things really started to change.
I see a parallel of this story to the beginning of the Book of Genesis. In the Genesis story, as you know, the Breath of God blows across the primordial waters of chaos. And so God begins the creation of everything! In our story in Acts, instead of things being created, some people begin speaking in other languages while others heard in their own language. It is a reversal of another Genesis story, that of the Tower of Babel. Here people can no longer communicate with those around them. In the “flipped” version in Acts, all the “out of towners” – the foreigners and aliens – can hear and understand. They can all hear and comprehend God’s Word. This is my idea of heaven: good communication, clear understanding, language barriers disappearing: each person enabling conversation and community. “Let’s get this party started!”
Communication is the backbone of community. In a “perfect world” we all connect. Notice in the Pentecost story that the Spirit only gave them cross-cultural understanding, but did not give them all the same skin color, not the same ethnicity, not the same sexual orientation, and not the same hairstyles or clothing or height or weight! The spirit gave them the one thing necessary to make them become the One Family of the Living God. This is definitely a more hopeful vision of humanity than what we see in Genesis. The chaos of Babel scatters and disconnects people who will not live according to God’s hopes and ideals.
On that 50th day after Resurrection Day, something very powerful and explosive happens to give that little band of Jesus-followers the courage, the passion, and the power to give birth to the church! Something happens that day of Pentecost that unexpectedly and powerfully jump-started frightened, hiding, uncertain followers of Jesus. Inside that small band of people from Galilee, that “something” was an experience of the Power of God. God’s breathy Spirit touched off a spark that gave them a vision and the courage to bring it to life. That spark of energy so emboldened them that they were filled with the very power of God. That spark of passion motivated them to go out, sent by God, just as Jesus was sent by God: to proclaim good news to everyone!
May we and our churches of Jesus-followers and our presbytery live out this “good news” with love, with passion, with grace to our communities, and into the world God loves.