Broad Brook Congregational Church
June 8, 2014
The Many Languages of God
Pentecost was originally known within the Jewish faith as the Feast of the Harvest and later the Feast of Weeks. It is the second of the three great feasts of the Jewish calendar. It fell on the first day after the seventh Sabbath after Passover. The Feast of Weeks had a sacrificial flavor in which the first fruits of the harvest were presented for sacrifice to Yahweh. In Jesus’ time, the Feast of Weeks was a more festive occasion and culminated in a communal meal that included the poor.
For a long time Pentecost has been a forgotten holy day in the church’s liturgical calendar. Typically it was Sunday worship as usual. Yes, Acts 2:1-21 was the subject of the sermon and the Holy Spirit was the theme of the hymns, but nothing special celebrated the awesomeness of the gift received on the day now known as Pentecost in the church.
I can’t speak for other denominations, but within the UCC things are beginning to change. A more festive overtone is gradually working its way back into the holy day. I think you know me well enough by now to surmise in what direction I would like our faith community to go. So wait ‘til next year. It may not be as big as Holy Humor Sunday but you will recognize that it is a celebration of the Holy Spirit’s presence in our midst and the birth of the church.
What I have always found fascinating about Pentecost is the ability of the ancient audience to understand all the languages. That only puts the spotlight on my own sense of arrogance surrounding the English language. Many people in Europe, for example, can converse in at least five languages. I learned to speak German in high school but now even that is gone. What you don’t use you loose. Even Jesus spoke more that one language: Hebrew, Aramaic, and possibly a little Greek. As a carpenter, he had to in order to do business in the city of Sepphoris, a bustling city on the coast. So news flash…the Still-speaking God is not limited to English but knows and understands the many languages of all God’s children!
While I recognize that the Pentecost was about the birth and growth of the church, it is the many languages of God that continues to hold importance for me. For the church and us personally there is a need to hear and speak each other’s language, a need to share our stories and culture, for such sharing can only deepen our understanding of our faith and love of God. To remain insulated leads to tremendous misunderstanding and discord. We do not hold an exclusive on God’s story. The gift of the Holy Spirit’s presence in our midst gives us new ears to listen to the stories of those who are our companions in faith. It also gives us new ears to hear the stories from other faiths that worship the same God, the God who understands their language as well as ours. Such openness to the Holy Spirit leads to a greater understanding and unity in our diversity.
God is not just our God, not the God only of Christians but God of all the faiths of the peoples of the world. It doesn’t mean we all have to believe the same things. We shouldn’t. We need diversity to enliven our world. We should, though, live the tennets of our faith and seek through the Holy Spirit, moving like the wind in and around us, to be listening with the ears of our hearts so that we might pour out God’s love in a world so desperately in need of healing. And so on this day of Pentecost I challenge each of you to begin to learn something about our brothers and sisters in Christ from another part of the world. I also challenge you to learn about another faith and maybe, just maybe, with the help of God, you will see that there is something that unites us in our faith in God. May it be so!
Thanks be to God for the gift of the Pentecost and the many languages of God.
In the greatest of hope I wish you all a happy and holy day of Pentecost.