5/24/2015 3:17:32 PM
A reflection on Acts 2
This story from Acts 2 is such a visual story. It almost deserves a Hollywood treatment. The apostles are gathered in a house, there's a sound that sounds like a tornado, and then flames of fire that show up on people's heads. This is a dream scene for a special effect artist. In the current miniseries on NBC, "AD: After the Bible," they creators did just that. There are clouds, flames, and bright lights where the apostles are gathered. This feels like a special effects kind of story.
But Pentecost isn't about visual effects; Pentecost is about something much less flashy. Pentecost is about the power of voice and understanding because the gospel isn't only centered in flashy moments. The gospel is centered in relationship; a relationship with God and with other people. For such relationships to exist, communication and commitment are more important than some visual effects we would see at a rock concert in a stadium.
When the Spirit comes to the apostles, the apostles are given a voice. We know the apostles could speak (they do question Jesus a lot) but they were a community that is at a loss now that Jesus was no longer physically with them. They've lost their voice. Then the Spirit comes, filling them with a strange ability: they could speak languages they didn't know. So they spoke, and people who were visiting Jerusalem from other places heard these apostles speaking in their home languages. Nothing in the text says that the apostles could understand each other. Instead, it's only after the apostles hear from the crowd that they are being understood that Peter finally understands what's going on. The Spirit is transforming the band of apostles to be something it wasn't before: a community full of people who don't look, talk, or act the same but who are united in their faith in Jesus and their love for each other. This community will include old and young, men and women, slaves and free. The community will prophesy, calling the world to live as God wishes the world to be. God has always been active on earth but this new community will purposefully include different kinds of people. And this community will be invited to be Jesus in the world, empowered by the Holy Spirit to follow Jesus' commandments: loving God and each other. To do this, we, like those early apostles, need to engage with people who aren't like us, learning their stories, and discovering just how God is working in them and in the places they call home.