How wonderful it is to remember today how the Holy Spirit first fell upon the community of believers who were gathered together at Pentecost following the Lord Jesus’ instructions, “And now I will send the Holy Spirit, just as my Father promised. But stay here in the city until the Holy Spirit comes and fills you with power from heaven.” (Luke 24:29, NLT)
And so, “on the day of Pentecost [50 days after Passover, when Jesus was crucified] all the believers were meeting together in one place. Suddenly, there was a sound from heaven like the roaring of a mighty windstorm, and it filled the house where they were sitting. Then, what looked like flames or tongues of fire appeared and settled on each of them. And everyone present was filled with the Holy Spirit and began speaking in other tongues [or languages], as the Holy Spirit gave them this ability.” (Acts 2:1-4, NLT)
Since then, by the infinite grace of God, God has dwelt in the heart of every believer. What indescribable Love, that compels me to sing, together with my favorite pastor-singer, Ross Parsley, and his team, “Lord, I am amazed by You!”
Yesterday, in preparation for today’s feast, I reread the first part of Thomas Oden’s Life in the Spirit, the third volume of his masterpiece of ecumenical and systematic theology. I’d like to share what he wrote about tongues:
“There remain broad analogies between what liturgical traditions call Epiphany, Pentecostals call glossolalia, and social liberationists call inclusiveness. However disparate in symbol systems, all coalesce in the core idea of the mission of the Word to the world through the Spirit.” (p. 63)
Then, referring to Acts 2:5-12 (“At that time there were devout Jews from every nation living in Jerusalem. When they heard the loud noise, everyone came running, and they were bewildered to hear their own languages being spoken by the believers. They were completely amazed. ‘How can this be?’ they exclaimed. ‘These people are all from Galilee, and yet we hear them speaking in our own native languages! Here we are—Parthians, Medes, Elamites, people from Mesopotamia, Judea, Cappadocia, Pontus, the province of Asia, Phrygia, Pamphylia, Egypt, and the areas of Libya around Cyrene, visitors from Rome (both Jews and converts to Judaism), Cretans, and Arabs. And we all hear these people speaking in our own languages about the wonderful things God has done!’ They stood there amazed and perplexed. ‘What can this mean?’ they asked each other.”), Oden writes:
“Pentecost was an international event signaling that God’s peace was not limited to the Jews but that God was pouring out his own Spirit upon all flesh, as long ago promised (Joel 2:28). The Spirit of God speaks all languages (Augustine, Sermons 267, 268, 269; John Chrysostom, Homily 35 on First Corinthians), hence ‘supercedes the divisiveness of Babel’ (Doc. Vati. II, Mis. 4)” (p.64)
May we, in whom the Holy Spirit dwells, continue to reach out in boldness and lovingkindness to one another and to all humanity in the Spirit of God that “supercedes the divisiveness of Babel”!
Happy Pentecost Sunday!