The Story of God: Pentecost
This Sunday, we wrapped up our series, The Story of God, by seeing how the Holy Spirit is empowering us to join the mission of Christ here in San Diego and around the world.
Throughout Scripture, the people of God are called to remember and celebrate the faithfulness of God. But it’s not about dwelling in the past or getting stuck in bygone “glory days” like Uncle Rico.
As we learned together through the For the Life of the World series, this kind of remembrance is called anamnesis — the lived memory of the people of God. These kinds of moments bring together remembrance of the past as we seek to live out God’s calling in the present moment, eagerly anticipating and pointing toward the future renewal of all things.
The church’s celebration of Pentecost every year, then, is an invitation to join the movement of the Holy Spirit and to participate in the Story of God.
Acts 2:2 describes the special outpouring of the Holy Spirit as a multisensory experience — “Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting.” The recent viral phenomenon of the audio clip where people either heard “Yanny” or “Laurel” highlights how different people can listen to the same thing and hear different things (just as many people misunderstood or missed out on the movement of the Holy Spirit on that Pentecost day). Some audiologists point to differences in equipment, recording quality, and expectations giving this audio clip a sort of “optical illusion for the ears” effect.
This quote, in particular, jumped out: ““What you hear depends on which frequencies your brain emphasizes.”
[If you’d like to read more about this viral hit, Wired magazine has this article, The True History of Yanny and Laurel.]
There are similarities to how we hear the voice of God in our lives. What frequencies are we emphasizing? If God spoke or the Holy Spirit moved in power, would we recognize Him? How are we training ourselves to listen for (and expect to hear) the voice of God in our everyday lives?
The Holy Spirit chose to empower God’s people to speak in languages that others around could understand. The real miracle, perhaps, was not the “tongues of fire” coming to rest over each disciple but that God’s love for people is so great that He wants to speak their language.
Words have incredible power — they can speak life or death, build up or destroy a person’s life. In our homes, can we create new ways of speaking (especially to our children) that will create room for the Holy Spirit to move in their lives? Although it might be awkward at first, how would praying this kind of blessing over your kids each night change the way they see their relationship with you and with God?
The outpouring of the Holy Spirit reminds us of the Tower of Babel, but with several important differences.
At Babel, people wanted to build a tower to climb their way to heaven.
At Pentecost, we see the God of heaven reaching down to God’s people .
At Babel, the people clustered together in one place.
At Pentecost, God sends out His people to the ends of the earth.
At Babel, the people wanted to make themselves great.
At Pentecost, God’s people revealed the wonders of God to all.
It’s important to remember that the curse of Babel was not the diversity of languages but their confusion about communicating with each other. In a moment of beautiful redemption at Pentecost, the Holy Spirit affirms the gift of language and culture and overcomes the curse of our confusion by empowering God’s people to speak to people gathered from all corners of the earth.
What do we learn about God? God’s heart is to reach people of all cultures, languages, and ethnicities (this will be our future, after all). God embraces our differences and, instead of expecting others to change for us, empowers the people of God to adapt and learn to speak in ways that touch others’ hearts. God speaks your language, no matter who you are!
Here is another question to consider this week: What words could someone you love say to you that would change your life? What words could you speak to someone you love that would change their lives? How is the Holy Spirit sending you into the world with words of life, grace, love, and hope?
Peter, who was such a coward that he had rained down curses upon himself denying that he even knew Jesus, had been transformed by his encounter with the risen Lord. When the Holy Spirit moved in power at Pentecost, Peter was able to stand and proclaim the truth of Scripture to all who were gathered. His understanding was opened.
As the prophet Joel had prophesied, the Holy Spirit would be poured out on all of God’s people — young and old, women and men — to proclaim the Good News of Jesus to all people. While people may be more interested in building walls and limiting others, God loves diversity and calls all of His people to join His mission of redemption. Everyone is invited to participate in the Story of God.
Anchor City is blessed with many multicultural families and kids. As San Diego, our country, and our world become more and more diverse, theirs is the beautiful face of the future! And all of our kids (and each of us along with them) are learning to navigate multiple cultures in our rapidly-changing world. Our Third Culture identity is a gift of God to a broken world — we are given the privilege to be ambassadors of this life-changing Good News: God speaks your language!