“What Was That You Said?”

Sermon – 06-05-22 – Pentecost Sunday – Cycle C
Scripture: Acts 2: 1-21; Genesis 11:1-9; Psalm 104:24-34,35b; Romans 8:14-17;
John 14:8-17, 25-27
Sermon Title: “What Was That You Said?”

Pennsylvania Dutch and Spanish and all kinds of accents. Of course you may have a neighbor who speaks Taiwanese or any other language of the world.. Then we have many people whose physical hearing is a problem. Sometimes we mumble instead of speaking clearly. How to communicate? How to come together when language separates us?

Our main scripture passage today tells of the time when everyone could understand no matter their language. Yes, Pentecost. I always think of the little dancing flames more than the wind or the great understanding of language on that spectacular day. But surely the language part is very significant. Because an alternate reading we could have used today is that of the Tower of Babel.
Early in the days after Noah and the ark, people got to thinking that they could build a tower to heaven if they could cooperate for a project like that. Cooperation is fine and dandy but the goal of that project was not fine and dandy! God said, “Nothing doing. You cannot be greater than myself! This project has to stop!” You probably remember that God’s method of stopping the project was to change the language of the people so they could not understand each other.

But on the day of Pentecost – that is fifty days after Easter – the people with diverse languages come together in understanding! The words of the apostles are changed in mid-air so that each person hears the words in his or her own language. This is the work of the Holy Spirit person of God! You may be asking, “How long does this last?” And I say, “That is a very good question.” That is what we usually say when we don’t know the answer. That is exactly why I am saying it now. “That is a very good question.”

It seems to me that the gathered people understand Peter as he gives his big speech which garners 3,000 people being saved. That seems like excellent communication to me. But whether the ability to understand each other was short-lived or longer, it is reality that we speak different languages even though smiles and kind actions override any language barrier. But it is not full communication.

That is why we have endless translations of God’s Holy Word – the Bible. That is why we have language classes and language recordings. Some of us are naturals. Some of us flounder and eventually give-up. Which does God want? For us to understand each other? Or, for us to be separated, disconnected? Are we supposed to stay in our own corners in isolation? Or are we supposed to understand each other? What was that you said?

I feel the stirring in my soul. The Holy Spirit is trying to get my attention. Just as the Holy Spirit is the energizing force in the Pentecost event, the Holy Spirit is hovering among us waiting to be received and accepted now. It isn’t just a matter of understanding words; it is a matter of understanding the broader picture and the feelings. What do you – you as my neighbor – want me to hear and understand? What do you, God, want me to hear and understand? Amen