And then the wind began to blow.
(Now in biblical language, if the wind starts blowing,it means you had better wake up,because something very important is about to happen. The fire under somebody’s tush is about to be fanned)You see, in the Abrahamic faith traditions when GOD separates us humanity,the story does not end with the tower of Babel. The tower of Babel is just one of three stories closely woven together: Babel, Moses & the Commandments, and Pentecost. First, God separates the people because we were full of pride. And we learned to remain separated by joining with those who were like us and resisting those who are not. And from our separation came wars and –isms, racism, sexism, terrorism. We remained divided inter-personally as well.
With language and culture came writing and education. Our experience of the world began to be recorded – made permanent instead of fluid. And we began, at least in Western Culture’s history, to hierarchically judge our experience of the world, placing what could be classified and cataloged, above experiences of heart, and spirit, and intuition.
In Acts 2, something happens. The story takes a turn…Pentecost happened actually on
The Jewish Festival Day of Shavuot (which was celebrated long before Jesus came along)Shavuot was the day commemorating God giving Moses the Ten Commandments. This was the Birthday of the church…so to speak. Now everyone hearing this story in Acts, at that time,would know this. On that day, something very strange happens to a group of Jesus’ followers. Something happens that most Unitarians for the most part, I would assume, have dismissed. (I’m sure Jefferson didn’t keep this part in.) Pente means 50, so 50 days after Easter - on Pentecost –God, evidently, changes her mind.
On Pentecost,We are told, that people from all over Parthians, Medes and Elamites;residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Egypt and the parts of Libya near Cyrene; visitors from Rome (both Jews and converts to Judaism); They were gathered together (maybe trading goods) and there was a meal. Included at the event was a group of Galileans, those who had followed Jesus. So the wind begins to blow, and the people see what appear to be tongues of fire that separate and come to rest on each of Jesus’ followers. (I like to imagine them coming down directly to their hearts.) And they begin to speak. I’m sure, since they were practical people,the first thing they were likely to say to one another was
“You are on fire!”
I imagine, after the practical, everyone was speaking about how incredible
it is to be awake and alive. They were sharing their gratitude for their existence and
The wonders of the Holy. Now the passers by in the street are said to have heard a cacophony of gibberish. But the people in the room heard their own language coming from the Galileans. They heard a message that resonated with their experience. God must have decided that even in our differences, with some help, when our hearts are touched with the fire of the Spirit humanity could in fact understand one another. It was a miracle! And it fulfilled in the Christian Story the beginning of the church. The birthday in fact of the church.
People with very different experiences, with different cultures, and different understandings were all under the same roof declaring the wonders of GOD in their own tongues. And everyone present, and awake, and understood.
Now there were some skeptics, mind you. Not everyone was buying into this miracle.
Someone in the room (likely a Unitarian) exclaimed, “They have had too much wine!”
Peter corrected the skeptics: They were not drunk…it was only 9 in the morning.
The wine wasn’t even out yet.
So, God separates the people in Genesis, and then, by miracle of miracles, there is an opportunity to be together in the same room, speaking in our own tongues, about the wonder of God, the mystery of life, the wonder of our experience of being human and alive and they are understood by those closest to us.
What if our worship looked like that?! What if our worship could be a container that gracious? Our churches a meeting place for that kind of dialogue, a hearth from which many hearts can be warmed? From which we are sparked to know and manifest our gifts in the world? What if in our meeting places we could speak from a point of difference about the wonders of God and be heard?
This is the mission we are called to do.