Last Sunday Christians celebrated Pentecost – the coming of the Holy Spirit on the first disciple of Jesus who had gathered in Jerusalem. As Luke relates the marvel of that day:
“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.”
Acts 2:2-4 NRSV
Pentecost reminds us of so many things…promises so many things. Among them, I think, is the desire of God to overcome barriers of language and culture and race (and all sorts of other ways we describe and define ourselves). The first disciples came from a relatively small and isolated area in contrast with the broader world in which they lived. On that day. God’s wonderous deeds were proclaimed in ways that all could hear and understand. The barrier of language was overcome by God for the sake of the mission of the church to proclaim the resurrection of Jesus. Not for unity in and of itself but for the sake of the mission.h
I wonder if today we are not as isolated as they. Except ours is self-selected. We have hundreds of cable channels – we can watch the news and other programs that already reinforce what we know and think to be true. The same can be said for newspapers and magazines. And the Internet? We can read what we want from whom want. Is it any wonder that our politics and our culture… and our churches.. are so polarized?
I wonder, too, if it won’t take another Pentecost to overcome our self-imposed and chosen silos? For God to overcome the issues that separate us (at least in my United Methodist Church). For God to let us hear what we can understand, to hear people with whom we might not agree and from whom we would normally self-separate.
I wonder this for the sake of our mission. How can we proclaim the Good News with authenticity and power when the world sees us as divided and divisive (at least within our tribes)? How can we proclaim a transforming faith, a resurrection power, when we can’t get along with other Christians of the same tribe let alone across the boundaries of tribe and tradition?
Perhaps only by the power of the Holy Spirit falling afresh upon us – shaking us from our foundations and re-enabling our mission? Even so, come, Holy Spirit.