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Day of Pentecost, Year C

Acts 2:1-11 - link to NRSV text
John 14:8-17 - link to NRSV text

A Pentecost liturgy pet peeve of mine: having several (or bunches) of parishioners join in on the Acts 2 reading in a variety of languages that very few people in the congregation understand. This especially bugs me when it's a bunch of ethnically homogenous parishioners reading the text in a variety of languages they learned in classrooms.

Believe me, it's not that I have a problem with multi-lingual culture, community, or liturgy. It's about the text of Acts 2, in which the miracle is that all present hear what is spoken as being in their own native language, whatever it is.

Or maybe that's the second miracle in the story. The first miracle was that all of these diaspora Christians took the time to gather together. These were people who literally didn't speak the same language. A cursory survey of what Judaism looked like in the first century also shows that these were probably people who had some very different ideas about what some might be tempted to call "orthodoxy," about how to interpret the canon and even which books should be in it. The fact that they were all devout speaks to how painful some of these cultural divisions must have been. Shouldn't they all know Hebrew if they were all Jews (proselytes were Jews too, after all)? A lot of folks would have said so. And there were quite a few people arguing that the inability of those who worship the God of the Hebrews to read the Scriptures in Hebrew was the root cause of the diversity of theology and praxis they saw as fracturing Israel, threatening its very existence.

So how was it that all of these people were gathered together? They didn't come for the great sermons, since they didn't understand the same language. Yes, they gathered to break bread together, but what drew them to do that much, when they had so little in common?

I've got to think that it was the call of the Spirit promised by Jesus that brought them there, that the Spirit's call was what gathered them to break bread together first, before they understood one another. The Spirit's call, and their response to that call before they understood it, enabled them to hear what the Spirit had to say to the gathered church at the birth of the church.

I think about that when I read John 14.

"You know [the Spirit] because he abides with you, and he will be in you."

By the way, the "you" is plural. I hear this as a word to the church: we know the Spirit because the Spirit abides with us. God's Spirit is in the assembly of God's people. And we don't have to do something to make that happen. We keep Jesus' word to love one another as he has loved us not so that God will send the Spirit, but to honor the Spirit who is present as we gather in Jesus' name.

We gather to meet the Spirit in response to the invitation set upon our hearts by that same Spirit. We're not gathering because of our shared understandings or our common language, but because we are sisters and brothers called to the family table at the invitation of the Father. And when we learn to recognize Christ in the faces of those gathered, we too will have seen the Father.

Thanks be to God!

May 24, 2004 in Acts, Holy Spirit, John, Pentecost, Year C | Permalink

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Dylan's lectionary blog: Day of Pentecost, Year C

« Seventh Sunday of Easter, Year C | Main | clarification on Pentecost entry »

Day of Pentecost, Year C

Acts 2:1-11 - link to NRSV text
John 14:8-17 - link to NRSV text

A Pentecost liturgy pet peeve of mine: having several (or bunches) of parishioners join in on the Acts 2 reading in a variety of languages that very few people in the congregation understand. This especially bugs me when it's a bunch of ethnically homogenous parishioners reading the text in a variety of languages they learned in classrooms.

Believe me, it's not that I have a problem with multi-lingual culture, community, or liturgy. It's about the text of Acts 2, in which the miracle is that all present hear what is spoken as being in their own native language, whatever it is.

Or maybe that's the second miracle in the story. The first miracle was that all of these diaspora Christians took the time to gather together. These were people who literally didn't speak the same language. A cursory survey of what Judaism looked like in the first century also shows that these were probably people who had some very different ideas about what some might be tempted to call "orthodoxy," about how to interpret the canon and even which books should be in it. The fact that they were all devout speaks to how painful some of these cultural divisions must have been. Shouldn't they all know Hebrew if they were all Jews (proselytes were Jews too, after all)? A lot of folks would have said so. And there were quite a few people arguing that the inability of those who worship the God of the Hebrews to read the Scriptures in Hebrew was the root cause of the diversity of theology and praxis they saw as fracturing Israel, threatening its very existence.

So how was it that all of these people were gathered together? They didn't come for the great sermons, since they didn't understand the same language. Yes, they gathered to break bread together, but what drew them to do that much, when they had so little in common?

I've got to think that it was the call of the Spirit promised by Jesus that brought them there, that the Spirit's call was what gathered them to break bread together first, before they understood one another. The Spirit's call, and their response to that call before they understood it, enabled them to hear what the Spirit had to say to the gathered church at the birth of the church.

I think about that when I read John 14.

"You know [the Spirit] because he abides with you, and he will be in you."

By the way, the "you" is plural. I hear this as a word to the church: we know the Spirit because the Spirit abides with us. God's Spirit is in the assembly of God's people. And we don't have to do something to make that happen. We keep Jesus' word to love one another as he has loved us not so that God will send the Spirit, but to honor the Spirit who is present as we gather in Jesus' name.

We gather to meet the Spirit in response to the invitation set upon our hearts by that same Spirit. We're not gathering because of our shared understandings or our common language, but because we are sisters and brothers called to the family table at the invitation of the Father. And when we learn to recognize Christ in the faces of those gathered, we too will have seen the Father.

Thanks be to God!

May 24, 2004 in Acts, Holy Spirit, John, Pentecost, Year C | Permalink

Comments

The comments to this entry are closed.