A Two-Part Pentecost Miracle

A Two-Part Pentecost Miracle

Dear Friends,

All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit, and began to speak in other languages, as the Spirit gave them ability. (Acts 2.4)

On Tuesday afternoon, I participated in a Shavuoth Zoom teach-in called “Torah for 12” during which a rabbinical friend was a featured guest. For 12 hours, rabbis addressed various aspects of the call to “love the neighbor”—a virtual, biblical dance marathon. My rabbi friend and I have taught together over the years, always in interfaith settings during which we were careful to avoid the jargon, shortcuts and inside humor we might have used in a strictly denominational audience. Because of that, I like to consider myself relatively fluent in Judaism (such hubris), and expected to participate easily. I was so wrong.

I was the only goy on the call; my friend was in his rabbinical element. Speaking as often in Hebrew as in English, referencing both Old and New Testaments, the Talmud and Midrash, he led us in a fast-paced, intellectually stimulating session that challenged all my conventional thinking about “neighbor.” At least I think that’s what he did. I couldn’t keep up with his intellectual leaps or his language, but others nodded and laughed and questioned with the ease of old friends. I pretended to follow along, finally turning off my video so they couldn’t see the confusion in my eyes.

I was blessed to sit at my friend’s feet as he spoke; my work was only to listen.

All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit, and began to speak in other languages, as the Spirit gave them ability. (Acts 2.4)

Like shots fired from a rooftop, we have been assaulted with the depth of the racial divide in our country. Ahmaud. George. Christian. Breonna. These are the names of African American siblings who in recent days have paid a very high, very public price for our inability to address the hatred and discrimination baked into our society.

I have no wisdom to offer about how to heal these centuries-old wounds. I cannot fathom the fear and stress that accompany daily life for persons of color. I will not add my uninformed opinion to discussions of law enforcement and economic inequity and healthcare disparities.

Words need to be spoken. Not by me. Not by you. But by those whom we have silenced. I can try to listen. I can try to hear. But it will not be easy.  Because if I felt confusion listening to a trusted friend speak in a language I could not understand, what will it be like to listen to those who speak to us in their own words, from their own wisdom about a broken system of which I am a part? A system that alternately privileges and punishes because of the color of our skin.

It is time for the silenced to speak, and the rest of us to listen.

All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit, and began to speak in other languages, as the Spirit gave them ability. (Acts 2.4)

On Sunday, we celebrate the Festival of Pentecost, the end of the 50 Days of Easter. On that first Pentecost in Jerusalem, frightened disciples were unable to withstand the onslaught of the Holy Spirit. They opened their mouths to protest and instead spoke languages foreign to them. They taught with the wisdom of rabbis though they were illiterate fishermen. They were propelled from fishing boats on to a world stage from which the Jesus movement was launched into the stratosphere.

That first Pentecost was a miracle not only of speaking, but also of listening. Many visitors in Jerusalem were willing to listen to the disciples as they spoke of God’s deeds of power, and then carried that message back home with them. But, as is always true when we are uncomfortable, others closed their ears and opened their own mouths. Afraid to hear a word that questioned their conventions, they mocked the disciples’ lack of education, questioned their sobriety, hurled racial slurs. (“Stupid Galileans.”)

But the Spirit will not be stopped. No matter how hard we try. The Spirit is always speaking through unlikely individuals, in words that make us uncomfortable, creating a reality that lifts up the lowly and, to our dismay, brings the mighty down from their thrones.

I pray for us in this frightening time of pandemic and division, that the Spirit will perform a Pentecost miracle among us—the dual miracle of speaking and listening. I pray that, when moved to speak, our words will be of “God’s deeds of power.” I pray that, when others need to speak, our ears will be able to hear their experience, their wisdom, even their anger.

All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit, and began to speak in other languages, as the Spirit gave them ability. (Acts 2.4)

Some spoke. Some listened. It is the Spirit’s work to determine when it is our mouths or our ears that ought to be opened.

“See” you Sunday,

Pastor JoAnn Post

PS Thank you for your kind, generous greetings and gifts on the occasion of my 35th ordination anniversary on Pentecost. Parish ministry is the only thing I know how to do, and I am honored and humbled to be doing it with you.

 

 

 

 

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