Speaking My Language

(Acts 2: 1-21)


Houston in the late 1970s was a rapidly growing city with people coming from not only all parts of the country looking for work, but also people from all around the world looking to create a new life in the land of opportunity.  Many of these folks came from different cultures with different customs and spoke many different languages, languages I did not understand.  Just in my patrol district alone we had all sorts of folks from South America who primarily spoke some form of Spanish and we had a brand-new population of South Vietnamese immigrants who had been airlifted out of Vietnam just before it fell into the hands of communist North Vietnam.  These language barriers made it difficult for officers to conduct investigations when the victims or witnesses didn’t speak English.  I remember one time having a ten-year-old girl translate into Vietnamese for me as I tried to take a burglary report.  I felt bad for my victims who had had their box fan stolen right out of their apartment, which was all they had to move the stifling humid air.  Unfortunately, the department didn’t offer any classes in learning Vietnamese which I believe is a difficult language to learn, but there was a class offered that educated us on the growing Hispanic culture and basic conversational Spanish that would allow us to communicate somewhat.  I took to it pretty quickly and before you knew it, I was being called to crime scenes by other officers to translate.  The helpless victims seemed relieved and surprised that someone who wasn’t one of them was speaking their language.  If nothing else, it showed that we cared enough about them to learn their language.


And being able to speak their language and getting the message of the Good News of Jesus Christ out where it needs to be heard is what our scripture reading for today is all about.  That special day that Jesus had been talking about had finally come and come it did.  As a matter of background, just before Jesus ascended up to heaven he met with his disciples and told them not to leave Jerusalem, but to wait for the gift promised by God that they had heard him speak about, the gift of the Holy Spirit, the Companion.  And, in response to their question of when he would restore the kingdom of Israel, he told them that it was not for them to know.  But he told them that they would receive the Holy Spirit and be his witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.  He didn’t tell them how they would do that.  They would have to figure that out on their own, probably with the help of the Spirit.  It was ten days later, after Jesus ascended to heaven, that the Holy Spirit would come as promised.  That’s the day we know as Pentecost.  Pentecost was the fiftieth day after Passover and was the beginning of the Feast of Weeks which was a harvest celebration associated with covenant renewal.  Jewish believers from all over the known world would make the trip to Jerusalem to participate in the celebrations.


The Apostle Luke starts out by saying that when Pentecost arrived, they were all together in one place.  My study Bible says that the “they” Luke is referring to is probably the 120 members of the growing family of believers that was referred to in the first chapter of Acts that had grown due to Jesus’s ministry, and the “one place” he is referring to is probably the temple courts due to the group’s size and would be a natural gathering place for festival activities.  He says: Suddenly a sound from heaven like the howling of a fierce wind filled the entire house where they were sitting.  They saw what seemed to be individual flames of fire alighting on each one of them.  They were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages as the Spirit enabled them to speak.  That had to have been quite a sight and no doubt had everyone’s attention.  Luke tells us that there were pious Jews from every nation under heaven living in Jerusalem, many who had traveled a great distance to attend the Feast of Weeks.  And when they heard this sound, a crowd gathered to see what was happening.  We’re told that they were mystified because everyone heard them speaking in their native languages.  They were surprised and amazed, saying: Look, aren’t all the people who are speaking Galileans, every one of them?  How then can each of us hear them speaking in our native language?  Luke tells us that these Jews who witnessed this coming of the Holy Spirit were Parthians, Medes, and Elamites; as well as residents of Mesopotamia, Judea, and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the regions of Libya bordering Cyrene; and visitors from Rome (both Jews and converts to Judaism), Cretans and Arabs, who all heard them declaring the mighty works of God in their own languages.  They were all surprised and bewildered with some asking each other: What does this mean?  Others jeered at them, saying: They’re full of new wine!  I’m not sure, but if I had to make a guess, I’d say that new wine means cheap wine that hasn’t aged well.


In any event, the Apostle Peter who was there with the other eleven apostles, raised his voice and declared: Judeans and everyone living in Jerusalem!  Know this!  Listen carefully to my words!  These people aren’t drunk, as you suspect; after all, it’s only nine o’clock in the morning!  Rather, this is what was spoken through the Prophet Joel, and he goes on to remind them of what the prophet had prophesized hundreds of years ago.  This is significant as it is a coming out of the new Peter.  He was humble yet bold.  Before this he had been an unstable and unpredictable leader during Jesus’ ministry letting his bravado and impetuousness get in his way to the point, he had even denied knowing Jesus. But Christ had forgiven and restored him for the important task of spreading the Good News.  His new-found confidence came from the Holy Spirit who turned a hard-working fisherman into a powerful and dynamic speaker.  So now, speaking with the authority of a prophet himself, he reminds his listeners of what Joel reported when God said he would pour out his Spirit on all people, that their sons and daughters would prophesy, their young would see visions, and their elders would dream dreams.  God said: Even upon my servants, men and women, I will pour out my Spirit in those days, and they will prophesy.  God said he would cause wonders to occur in the heavens above and signs on earth below, blood and fire and a cloud of smoke.  The sun would be changed into darkness, and the moon would be changed into blood, before the great and spectacular day of the Lord comes, and that everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.  Well, that had to have gotten their attention.  A Galilean fisherman speaking with the authority of a prophet explaining to them what they had just witnessed, the promised pouring out of the Holy Spirit.  You can just imagine some of the Jews from out of town thinking about how they would tell their family and friends about what he or she had been unexpectedly privileged to witness.


The Day of Pentecost was a foundational event considered rightfully by many as the birth of the church, with Peter being the rock upon which Jesus said he would build his church.  Now, the work of the Holy Spirit on that day was primarily aimed at bringing salvation to Israel’s faithful from generation to generation among the people of Israel.  Bur on another level, Pentecost indicates the worldwide reach of the gospel as it includes everyone who calls on the name of the Lord, you know those other people mentioned in Acts 1: 8, starting in Jerusalem and expanding out to the four corners of the world, which apparently even means our very own “four corners” not far from our church here on the Olympic Peninsula.  Now, what’s significant here is that not everything mentioned in Joel was happening that particular morning.  The “last days” include all the days between Christ’s first and second comings, which means today, tomorrow, and the days after that, and is actually another way of saying “from now on.”  The great and glorious day of the Lord denotes the whole Christian age of which we are currently living in.  The point being that at Pentecost the Holy Spirit was released throughout the entire world, to men, women, slaves, Jews, and Gentiles.  Now everyone can receive the Spirit.


Now, to be clear, Christianity is not limited to any race or group of people, contrary to what you hear some misinformed people advocate.  Christ offers salvation to all people without regard to nationality, or race, or gender, or political affiliation, or status.  So, as Followers of the Way of Jesus Christ, it is incumbent upon us to learn how to speak their language, to speak to them in a way that they will understand and come to embrace the Good News we are working so hard every day to spread to the ends of the earth, which starts right here in our own community.


Let us pray.


Breathe on me, breath of God, fill me with life anew, that I may love what thou dost love, and do what thou wouldst do.  Yes, gracious and loving God breathe upon us your Holy Spirit so that we may be your voice, your feet, and your hands in this world carrying your Son’s message of love, hope, peace, forgiveness, grace, and mercy to those who are lost and searching, to those who have been victimized by those in power, those intent upon protecting their status quo.  Give us the words to speak in a manner that can be heard, that makes sense, so that your gift of salvation can be enjoyed by all.  In Jesus’ name, we pray, Amen.

To watch the service live, click link below

Christ offers salvation to all people without regard to nationality, or race, or gender, or political affiliation, or status.



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