We don’t speak each other’s language today. Even those who live in the same country, occupy the same neighborhood, or live right next door to each other don’t speak the same language. We can look at the tragic events surrounding the death of George Floyd and “hear” it different ways, due to the filters we all have in our ears for processing such information.
The filters that divide our attempts at a common language draw up along the lines of black and white, conservative and liberal, rich and poor, blue and red, Democrat and Republican, and ridiculously, those who wear masks and those who refuse. Somehow we have lost the ability to hear the common language of justice, compassion, unity, and humanity.
Shame on us.
In the book of Acts, the Holy Spirit came upon the people gathered there like a “wildfire.” Wildfires are uncontrollable. They change everything they touch in an instant. Everything is treated equally in a wildfire. And this Pentecost wildfire brought an incredible gift: people of every nation were able to hear and speak each other’s language:
2 1-4 When the Feast of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place. Without warning there was a sound like a strong wind, gale force—no one could tell where it came from. It filled the whole building. Then, like a wildfire, the Holy Spirit spread through their ranks, and they started speaking in a number of different languages as the Spirit prompted them.
5-11 There were many Jews staying in Jerusalem just then, devout pilgrims from all over the world. When they heard the sound, they came on the run. Then when they heard, one after another, their own mother tongues being spoken, they were thunderstruck. They couldn’t for the life of them figure out what was going on, and kept saying, “Aren’t these all Galileans? How come we’re hearing them talk in our various mother tongues?
Parthians, Medes, and Elamites;
Visitors from Mesopotamia, Judea, and Cappadocia,
Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia,
Egypt and the parts of Libya belonging to Cyrene;
Immigrants from Rome, both Jews and proselytes;
Even Cretans and Arabs!
Even Cretans and Arabs could communicate! The power of that Holy Spirit wildfire knew no boundaries. God was enabling them to share an incredible message of the Good News of Christ’s life, death, and resurrection. They could all hear and understand the mighty works of God. They were thunderstruck with the enormity of it all.
“They’re speaking our languages, describing God’s mighty works!”
12 Their heads were spinning; they couldn’t make head or tail of any of it. They talked back and forth, confused: “What’s going on here?”
13 Others joked, “They’re drunk on cheap wine.”
Then Peter stood to give some context to what was happening. He reminded them of the Old Testament prophecies that pointed toward this very day—a day when young men would see visions and old men would dream dreams.
14-21 That’s when Peter stood up and, backed by the other eleven, spoke out with bold urgency: “Fellow Jews, all of you who are visiting Jerusalem, listen carefully and get this story straight. These people aren’t drunk as some of you suspect. They haven’t had time to get drunk—it’s only nine o’clock in the morning. This is what the prophet Joel announced would happen:
“In the Last Days,” God says,
“I will pour out my Spirit
on every kind of people:
Your sons will prophesy,
also your daughters;
Your young men will see visions,
your old men dream dreams.
When the time comes,
I’ll pour out my Spirit
On those who serve me, men and women both,
and they’ll prophesy.
I’ll set wonders in the sky above
and signs on the earth below,
Blood and fire and billowing smoke,
the sun turning black and the moon blood-red,
Before the Day of the Lord arrives,
the Day tremendous and marvelous;
This passage gives us hope that one day, through the power of the Holy Spirit, we will be able to set differences aside and hear and speak a common language.
A language of love.
A language of trust.
A language of righteousness.
A language that cries out in one voice for justice for ALL the George Floyds.
Holy Spirit, we need you now.
And whoever calls out for help
to me, God, will be saved.”
Help us, God. We need to be saved…from ourselves.