The Spirit’s Language
Rev. Dr. Donna Giver-Johnston
May 20, 2018
Have you heard about it? There is a debate that is taking the internet by storm. Radio hosts are talking about it. Politicians are debating it--Paul Ryan addressed it in his press conference. People are arguing over it around tables at work and home. It is sparking the greatest debate in several years. No, it’s not the economy. No, it’s not gun control or drug addiction. No, it’s not even Russia or North Korea or the conflict between Israel and Palestine. It’s….(Say Laurel, Yanny). What do you hear? Some say Laurel. Others say Yanny. Why do we hear different words? Experts in sound and language say that it has to do with frequencies--those who hear higher frequencies hear Yanny. Those who hear lower frequencies hear Laurel. It’s the same word but heard differently. The people who hear Yanny insist that there is no way anyone could possibly hear Laurel. And the people who hear Laurel insist that there is no way anyone could possibly hear Yanny. It’s impossible! The debate continues and people take sides and dig in their heels.
This is nothing new. Our country has a long history of people taking sides.
Loyalists vs. Patriots. North vs. South. Whites vs. Blacks. Rich vs. Poor.
Republicans vs. Democrats. Pro-life vs. Pro-choice. NRA vs. gun control. Straight vs. Gay
No matter the issue, we take sides and dig in our heels, refusing to listen to the other.
This is nothing new. Way back in the first century, people were taking sides about God.
In today’s lesson from the book of Acts, we read about the first Pentecost, when they were all together in one place. And suddenly a wind from heaven came, and all of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages. And yet, all those who were gathered from all over heard them speaking in their native language.
Some were amazed and in awe, wondering what it meant. Others sneered, “They are drunk.” Some were filled with wonder. Others were filled with skepticism, digging in their heels, refusing to listen to the other side.
This is nothing new. People are people. No matter who we are, we think we know best.
No matter the issue, we think we are right. No matter what the debate, we can’t imagine how anyone could not see it our way. No matter who it is...our spouse, teenager, co-worker, boss, neighbor, or news reporter….we take sides and dig in our heels.
This is nothing new.
But one thing is new.
In the midst of the showdown in Acts, Peter stands up in between the two sides and says, “Listen to what I have to say, they are not drunk. It is the Spirit. God declares, I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh..sons and daughters….young and old...both men and women. Then everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.”
Did you hear it? Peter said that God will pour out the Spirit on all flesh.
The Spirit does not take sides. It is for everyone.
This is new. This is brand new.
The Spirit filled all people.
The Spirit allowed everyone to hear God’s word.
The Spirit united the disciples in doing the ministry of Jesus Christ.
The Spirit gave birth to the church.
The Spirit was a uniting force that allowed people to meet in the middle.
The Spirit was a force for good...and it makes us wonder:
Where has the Spirit gone? If only we had the Spirit with us today.
Where do we find this Spirit? How do we harness its power?
(Read part of article--We Need Pentecost, from Christian Century)
Here’s the good news: On that first Pentecost, the Spirit was poured into the hearts of those first disciples, and Peter proclaimed that God would continue to pour the Spirit into the hearts of everyone. That means you and me. God’s Spirit is in you and me and all of us.
This is nothing new. God’s Spirit has been at work in the world since the beginning.
And God’s Spirit is still alive and well in the church today.
Today, we had 6 new adult members with 5 children; and 2 others next Sunday join our church.
Today, we will have 9 people be ordained and installed to serve the church as officers.
Today, people on different sides of the political divide are gathered together here in one place to worship one God.
Today, people on different sides of the gun control debate are gathered together here in this place to pray for peace.
Today, people who disagree on any number of issues are not digging in their heels but coming together to sing in one voice.
That’s the power of the church. That’s the power of the Spirit.
Today, people who are grieving the deaths of John Ferguson and Sandy Stauffer are gathered together here in this place to remember that no matter on what side of heaven we stand, what really matters is that in life and in death, we all belong to God. This is nothing new.
Say Laurel, Yanny….In the debate over which word was heard, I thought the best response to the question this week was a man who said this: I hear my boss saying, “Get back to work!”
On that first Pentecost, the Spirit called the people to be the church and to do the work of the church. Today, the Spirit is still calling us to be the church and do the work of the church: to share the truth, the faith, the hope, the peace, and the love we find in the church; and to share the good news with all people--in life and in death we all belong to God. Thanks be to God!