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." Acts 2:1-11
I once attended a dinner with friends where several of the host spoke many languages. They had been raised in multilingual households, and they were able to switch back and forth with relative ease. I felt very inept around them, as they were also gifted musicians and great cooks. They had capacities I will never have. They had learned the languages as small children and were encouraged to speak, read and think in many tongues. What a gift to be in the presence of people who could converse across all sorts of barriers and understand across many cultures. We can be so limited by our understanding in one language, but can become nimble and creative when we are exposed to many ways of thinking and speaking.
The disciples were going about their business, one foot in front of the other, doing what they knew to do but not always knowing why. The days after Easter were confusing, and they had lost compass. They found themselves at the feast, because it was their tradition and obligation, not because they expected anything. They trusted that God was working in them, but they were still struggling to find how. In an amazing moment, they were given ability they did not have by their own merit, and they were able to share and be understood by all. The power of God was upon them, giving them gifts and skills for the care of others gathered together. Although they showed up with limited expectations, they found themselves caught up by the power of God, able to do and say beyond their capacity, and everyone understood that God was working in them, and in everyone gathered. God gives us gifts we cannot earn, special talents that we can hardy deserve, and they are for the good of all the gathered, where ever we find ourselves. Even when we show up reluctantly, God shoews up with power and gifts for the whole community.
Today, as we celebrate the gift and power of God in our lives, I ask to simply be grateful for the willingness of God to inhabit and empower cracked and incomplete human vessels. None of us is all powerful nor totally gifted, but God is always willing to bring a mighty gift if we are willing to share the gift with others. The words and language are for sharing, the compassion and healing for others. God invites us to give thanks for these gifts at Pentecost by sharing the love and forgiveness we have been given and by trusting that God will provide in every circumstance and situation.
Almighty God, on this day you opened the way of eternal life to every race and nation by the promised gift of your Holy Spirit: Shed abroad this gift throughout the world by the preaching of the Gospel, that it may reach to the ends of the earth; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.