5th June 2022
The account of Pentecost from Acts is full of visual and auditory images, amongst which language is prominent. The word translated as tongues – as in tongues of fire – has in Greek, as in English, the dual meaning of both the physical tongue in our mouth and the language spoken by people. The effect of this anointing with the Holy Spirit is that the disciples can speak in many and various languages. The writer of Acts suggests a goodly selection from various localities – Parthia and Media, Pontus and Egypt, Libya and Crete. It is not always different localities that produce different languages. Different fields of employment, social classes, age groups and generations can all have their own language, which may be unintelligible to those outside the group. Such groups may have not just their own verbal language but also their own body language. Here in the passage from Acts it is not just verbal languages that the disciples express but body language too – a body language that some mistake as drunkenness.
I know I would struggle to communicate both verbally and bodily the language of a night club, and my lack of fluency would stand out a mile! I am equally sure that to someone unused to staid middle class Anglicanism might struggle to hear the good news in our Sunday Holy Communion. It is hard to learn someone else’s language if it’s not something you usually encounter. Maybe the Holy Spirit is inviting us to get out and about more, to learn new languages and to share our own more widely.
I am sure that environmentalists also have their own niche verbal and body language – which is great for talking with one another but maybe is not so good for talking to those outside that community. If we are to be effective evangelists -whether for the gospel or for the environment – we need to learn the language of those we wish to communicate with. What is the language – the words, the actions – that I need to use if I want business leaders and financiers to understand the urgent message about the climate crisis, about the loss of bio-diversity, about the need for climate reparations?
Today’s psalm celebrates the joy and diversity of creation, of God’s handiwork. Have we yet developed a modern day language that can fully describe how amazing creation is? Have we found the right languages that can enable others to see creation as such a unique and special gift – one that none of us should want to damage? We have seen that David Attenborough has a real gift with words and images that inspire awe and wonder – do we need more people fluent in such bio-awesome language to create a world in which no one would dream of carelessly or pointlessly damaging the environment? Do our churches, does our liturgy, speak with awe and love for God’s creation?
When we cry ‘Abba, Father’ do we understand that as children of God, that all of humanity are as brother and sister to us? That the Iranian struggling to breath because climate-change induced sand storms is our brother? That the Malian farmer struggling to irrigate her crops is our sister? That the children of Kiribati whose island is being invaded by the sea, are our siblings too? Jesus’s command is that we love one another: for what Jesus says and does, is what the Father says and does. Both Father and Son speak the same language. It is a language that is both so complex and so simple, that everyone who listens out for it can understand it. It is a language that we have not fully learnt to speak but which the Holy Spirit is ever ready to teach.
May we with humility and eagerness invite the Holy Spirit to overfill and inspire us this Pentecost.
When the day of Pentecost had come, the disciples were all together in one place. And suddenly from heaven there came a sound like the rush of a violent wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. Divided tongues, as of fire, appeared among them, and a tongue rested on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages, as the Spirit gave them ability.
Now there were devout Jews from every nation under heaven living in Jerusalem. And at this sound the crowd gathered and was bewildered, because each one heard them speaking in the native language of each. Amazed and astonished, they asked, “Are not all these who are speaking Galileans? And how is it that we hear, each of us, in our own native language? Parthians, Medes, Elamites, and residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya belonging to Cyrene, and visitors from Rome, both Jews and proselytes, Cretans and Arabs– in our own languages we hear them speaking about God’s deeds of power.” All were amazed and perplexed, saying to one another, “What does this mean?” But others sneered and said, “They are filled with new wine.”
But Peter, standing with the eleven, raised his voice and addressed them, “Men of Judea and all who live in Jerusalem, let this be known to you, and listen to what I say. Indeed, these are not drunk, as you suppose, for it is only nine o’clock in the morning. No, this is what was spoken through the prophet Joel:
`In the last days it will be, God declares,
that I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh,
and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy,
and your young men shall see visions,
and your old men shall dream dreams.
Even upon my slaves, both men and women,
in those days I will pour out my Spirit;
and they shall prophesy.
And I will show portents in the heaven above
and signs on the earth below,
blood, and fire, and smoky mist.
The sun shall be turned to darkness
and the moon to blood,
before the coming of the Lord’s great and glorious day.
Then everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.’ “
Psalm 104:25-35, 37
25 O Lord, how manifold are your works! *
in wisdom you have made them all;
the earth is full of your creatures.
26 Yonder is the great and wide sea
with its living things too many to number, *
creatures both small and great.
27 There move the ships,
and there is that Leviathan, *
which you have made for the sport of it.
28 All of them look to you *
to give them their food in due season.
29 You give it to them; they gather it; *
you open your hand, and they are filled with good things.
30 You hide your face, and they are terrified; *
you take away their breath,
and they die and return to their dust.
31 You send forth your Spirit, and they are created; *
and so you renew the face of the earth.
32 May the glory of the Lord endure for ever; *
may the Lord rejoice in all his works.
33 He looks at the earth and it trembles; *
he touches the mountains and they smoke.
34 I will sing to the Lord as long as I live; *
I will praise my God while I have my being.
35 May these words of mine please him; *
I will rejoice in the Lord.
37 Bless the Lord, O my soul. *
All who are led by the Spirit of God are children of God. For you did not receive a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received a spirit of adoption. When we cry, “Abba! Father!” it is that very Spirit bearing witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs, heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ– if, in fact, we suffer with him so that we may also be glorified with him.
Philip said to Jesus, “Lord, show us the Father, and we will be satisfied.” Jesus said to him, “Have I been with you all this time, Philip, and you still do not know me? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, `Show us the Father’? Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me? The words that I say to you I do not speak on my own; but the Father who dwells in me does his works. Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father is in me; but if you do not, then believe me because of the works themselves. Very truly, I tell you, the one who believes in me will also do the works that I do and, in fact, will do greater works than these, because I am going to the Father. I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If in my name you ask me for anything, I will do it.
“If you love me, you will keep my commandments. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, to be with you forever. This is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, because he abides with you, and he will be in you.”
“I have said these things to you while I am still with you. But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you everything, and remind you of all that I have said to you. Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid.”