Readings for this Sunday: Acts 2:1-21 and John 14:16-21
Can you imagine being a visitor to Jerusalem that day?
Far from home, in a land with a strange language - one you don’t know very well or not at all perhaps?
You’ve been struggling all week to communicate. You mime your needs. You speak slowly, hesitantly one word, maybe two. You rely on the others in your group who knows the language better than you to say what you need to say.
Then suddenly you hear someone speaking in your language from the middle of a crowd.
It’s irresistible - with relief you are drawn to the crowd, delighted to hear words you actually understand.
Suddenly you notice the Phrygian standing next to you nodding his head in agreement with the speaker. Clearly he understands what the speaker is saying in your language.
So does the Mede on the other side of you. You turn to ask her a question, but she doesn’t understand you. Neither does the Phrygian, although they both seem to understand the speaker.
How can this be?
Slowly you realize that each of you is hearing your own native language coming from the mouth of a speaker speaking his native language!
Would it make you pay attention to the speaker and what he was saying?
Or would you try to find any other rational explanation for what was happening?
There were some in the crowd that morning that looked for other explanations - they are drunk, speaking gibberish, making a commotion.
Others stopped and looked at each other - what does this mean that we each hear in our own language about God’s mighty acts of power? Is this of God? Are we eye-witnesses to God’s power coming again?
How hard is it for us to recognize the Spirit blowing in our midst? To recognize God’s power in our lives?
Sometimes we have to get totally out of our comfort zone, like a visitor to a strange land, to be able to see God in our lives.
I struggled last week with not understanding Spanish. I caught a few words here or there, read road signs. I struggled to remember newly learned Spanish words, often coming up with long forgotten high-school German instead.
Out in the villages, with my host family, I couldn’t understand a single word. And apparently, I’m not very good at mime. Thankfully, Tristyn studied a phrase book on the way down, and was much better at picking up the language. She communicated to the host family for me. Mike, the missionary, and some of the local youth from the central church, translated for us. But still, I felt so left out not understanding the language, painfully aware I was a stranger.
Sunday afternoon, the local folks gathered at Pastor Gerzan’s house for worship. We gathered with them. There was a simple altar in the central living space of the house. The room was dimly lit with a candle and a single light bulb. The light streaming in through the open doors began to fade as a storm moved in. As the wind picked up, we closed the doors, shutting out most of available light.
The wind blew and the rain poured as we began worship. Those gathered began to sing. Since I didn’t have a hymn book and wouldn’t have been able to read it even if I had, I close my eyes and listened to the singing. And through sound of the wind and the rain and the Spanish singing, I heard peace, comfort, grace.
The Holy Spirit was blowing in that place. The Spirit was speaking in words too deep for understanding (Romans 8:26 Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but that very Spirit intercedes with sighs too deep for words.), yet my soul responded with joy.
We read the Word of God, in Spanish, and in English. Pastor Gerzan preached, Mike interpreted. Pastor Gerzan invited me to preach a bit, and Mike interpreted for me.
We prayed together, in Spanish and in English. Mike doesn’t translate prayers, but we knew that the Father of us all understood the prayers even if we didn’t and that somehow those prayers were the prayers of our hearts too.
Then came the Lord’s Prayer. And we prayed:
Padre nuestro que estas en los cielos
Santificado sea Tu Nombre...
Our Father who art in Heaven
Hallowed be thy name…
Spanish and English mingling as one.
It was Pentecost.
It was holy.
The Spirit was blowing.
The Holy Spirit blew that long ago day through the upper room, fire and wind filling the disciples souls. Bringing power to proclaim the good news of Christ crucified and risen to simple men and women.
The Spirit blew them right out into the street, into the hustle and bustle of Jerusalem. Blew their words into the hearts of 3000 people who did indeed call on the name of the Lord and were saved and baptized.
The Spirit blew last Sunday in a house in Nicaragua, hovering over us, wrapping us in the communion of saints. We were no longer orphans but hermanos y hermanas, brothers and sisters - in Jesus.
That Spirit still blows today, filling us with fire and wind and God’s power. And the Spirit comes gently in the night giving us dreams and visions of the world the way God created it to be. And the Spirit bubbles up in us and around us in the most unlikely of places, making God known to us and giving us the words to prophesy - to speak God’s words of grace and love to others.