Sherry and I missed the service last Sunday because we were visiting relatives in Galena, Illinois. They have a very nice vacation home in the woods. It was like a retreat, only with beer.
Here is last Sunday's scripture reading along with the sermon I was unable to give.
Acts 2:1-21When 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.' "
- The Sermon
We had a very interesting discussion last Tuesday at bible study. What was going on at Pentecost? Were the disciples really speaking in different languages? Did all of this really physically happen. Did tongues of fire actually rest on each of them and was it the Holy Spirit?
I wish there was a time machine. I would definitely dial it back to this event and observe what took place. I have my own theory. I believe the Holy Spirit did descend upon the apostles and I believe they were able to speak in the tongues of a diverse group of those who were listening. It would have been miraculous and I do believe in miracles.
The question for me is why has this story been passed down for two thousand years? Is it to chalk up one more miracle for the community of believers in order to re-affirm their belief in Christianity. I don't think so. I believe there is a very important message woven within this story.
In the ancient Jewish tradition stories such as these were used to teach a lesson. It was not the accuracy of the retelling that was so important. It was all about the message. The challenge for us today, two thousand years after all of this happened, is to dig deeply into the story of Pentecost and try and find the message that speaks to us.
I believe I know what it is telling me. I am to go out and spread Christ's message to those who for whatever reason have not heard. The Holy Spirit is telling me that some will hear and understand what I am saying. Others will hear but pass off what I am saying as just so much unintelligible non-sense. I might as well be speaking in a foreign tongue to them.
The story of Pentecost is telling me not to be discouraged when that happens but take joy in reaching those who are willing to hear.
There are lots of ways to communicate. When I was a school teacher I taught a class on social skills and I would tell my students that 85% of communication is non-verbal. That applies to us as Christians as well. Actions speak louder than words. Practicing our Christianity in our everyday lives not only with what we say but what we do speaks volumes about us and sends a message to everyone we meet.
We are the hands and feet of Jesus Christ of this earth and I believe the prayer of St. Francis describes what we are called to do.
Lord make us instruments of your peace.
Where there is hatred, let us sow love; where there is injury, pardon; where there is discord, union; where there is doubt, faith; where there is despair, hope; where there is darkness, light; where there is sadness, joy.
Grant that we may not so much seek to be consoled as to console; to be understood as to understand; to be loved as to love.
For it is in giving that we receive; it is in pardoning that we are pardoned; and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life. Amen