Midweek Faith Lift
September 23, 2020
Pentecost-Station 16-The Language of the Heart
Rev. Deb Hill-Davis
This week we are on Station 16, the last and one of the most powerful and vivid Stations of the Cosmic Christ- Pentecost. It is an event that is recorded in the 2nd Chapter of the Book of Acts and it is celebrated in most Christian churches 50 days after Easter. This year it was on May 23 and in the Hebrew calendar, it coincides with the festival of Shavuot. The earliest followers of Jesus were still practicing Jews, so they gathered in Jerusalem for this festival. This festival is a celebration of the revelation of the Torah, the first 5 books of the Hebrew Scripture given to Moses on Mt. Sinai. After 7 weeks in the desert, the Jews reached the mountain to receive the sacred teachings. How appropriate this is for the celebration of Pentecost for it is a celebration of receiving the teachings of Jesus in a whole new way with new understanding.
So what happened on the first Pentecost Sunday? It is recorded in the Book of Acts, 2:1-8, 12-13
The Coming of the Holy Spirit
2 When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place. 2 And suddenly from heaven there came a sound like the rush of a violent wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. 3 Divided tongues, as of fire, appeared among them, and a tongue rested on each of them. 4 All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages, as the Spirit gave them ability.
5 Now there were devout Jews from every nation under heaven living in Jerusalem. 6 And at this sound the crowd gathered and was bewildered, because each one heard them speaking in the native language of each. 7 Amazed and astonished, they asked, “Are not all these who are speaking Galileans? 8 And how is it that we hear, each of us, in our own native language? ….in our own languages we hear them speaking about God’s deeds of power.” 12 All were amazed and perplexed, saying to one another, “What does this mean?” 13 But others sneered and said, “They are filled with new wine.”
This is a powerful, Cosmic story of an awakening of a whole group of Jewish people who were beginning a new path, the path of the Cosmic Christ. Let’s unpack this a bit, for there is lot here. The number 50 emphasizes the humanness of all who are gathered, that this is a human experience of something larger than shared humanity. The Jewish number of 7 weeks is the same energy, for both numbers 5 and 7 emphasize our human experience: the 5 senses, 7 days in a week; how we know and structure our human experience. At the end of 7 weeks the Jews receive the sacred texts of the Torah and at Pentecost, the gathered early “Jewish” followers of Jesus are filled with the Holy Spirit and discover that they can actually understand each other. What does this mean?
It is a sign of a new age, an age of community, of transcending differences, of moving beyond transaction into a place of true connection. These are Jews from Egypt, Crete, Parthenon, Asia, Cappadocea among other places, and they all are able to speak each other’s language and UNDERSTAND each other. The rush of the wind metaphysically represents new ideas and thoughts. The fire represents the transformation process that releases old thoughts. That is no small miracle, right! I had never studied this part of the Christian Scripture before, so this was new to me. What a timely message! If we speak the language of the heart of love and forgiveness, we are able to understand one another. That is still true, dear ones, isn’t it?
This story is near the end of the Christian Scripture, and it stands in contrast to the story of the Tower of Babel, which is at the beginning of the Hebrew Scripture. We remember the Tower of Babel story in Genesis 11:1–9 which is an “origin myth meant to explain why the world's peoples speak different languages.” According to the story, a united human race in the generations following the Great Flood, speaking a single language and migrating eastward, comes to the land of Shinar. There they agree to build a city and a tower tall enough to reach heaven. God, observing their city and tower, confounds their speech so that they can no longer understand each other, and scatters them around the world.
There is a powerful object lesson in this story that humans do not acquire “heaven” by dint of their human efforts via constructing a Tower to ego. When heaven is approached that way, there is confusion and no understanding as everyone is speaking a “different” language with a different agenda. The story of Pentecost in the last Book of Christian Scripture offers a new path, a path of the Spirit and a Spirit filled consciousness that is transformed by the fires of suffering.
The story of Jesus is the story of how the shared human experience of the fire, of suffering, transforms us from being transactional with one another to being compassionate and having empathy for one another. In your suffering I can recognize my suffering and in the common language of the heart, I can find connection, empathy and compassion. It is in that way that the language of Pentecost happens, through our shared experiences of suffering and the awakening that it brings.
Peter, who was identified by Jesus as the rock of faith, speaks to the crowd and what he says rings true for us here and now in 2020:
Peter Addresses the Crowd
14 But Peter, standing with the eleven, raised his voice and addressed them, “Men of Judea and all who live in Jerusalem, let this be known to you, and listen to what I say. 15 Indeed, these are not drunk, as you suppose, for it is only nine o’clock in the morning. 16 No, this is what was spoken through the prophet Joel:
17 ‘In the last days it will be, God declares,
that I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh,
and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy,
and your young men shall see visions,
and your old men shall dream dreams.
18 Even upon my slaves, both men and women,
in those days I will pour out my Spirit;
and they shall prophesy.
19 And I will show portents in the heaven above
and signs on the earth below,
blood, and fire, and smoky mist.
20 The sun shall be turned to darkness
and the moon to blood,
before the coming of the Lord’s great and glorious day.
21 Then everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.’
What Peter makes clear to all is that what has happened was to be expected because it was foretold in the book of Joel. What is very powerful is that he specifically states that both men and women, slave and free all receive the Spirit and then are empowered to speak from that place of Spirit, of love. Given the sun being turned to darkness in the California fires, we are called to really awaken to this time of great change, right now, in the pandemic, in the quest for racial equality, in this time of great social change and upheaval. It is the last days of the old ways whether we choose to see it or not. Friends, we live in Biblical times whether we want to see it or not!
So what does that mean for me, you ask? It is a question each one of us encounters and has to wrestle with in these “biblical” times. And it is for each one of us to discern and know how the Spirit is stirring within us to awaken us to something more that will contribute to the process of knitting our fractured country, our stressed out earth and all its peoples back together. We open to Spirit to be filled with love and light so we can move from fear to faith. Last week I shared part of my experience of moving from fear to faith and just recognizing when I had been emotionally hijacked by fear. That is an ongoing process for sure right now.
We have to remember that we have the power, just like we said when we were without electricity a few weeks ago. We might be without electricity, but we are not without power! We are filled with the Power of the Spirit, a power that transforms us by allowing, supporting and sometimes demanding that we release that which no longer works! That is the process of fire; a powerful transformation that really takes everything that no longer works. If you have been through life threatening illness, untimely death of a loved one, divorce, job loss, bankruptcy, and any number of fire breathing dragons, then you know fiery transformation. It leaves you with no choice but to change.
So in the face of Black Lives Matter, in the face of white privilege, in the face of the great political divide, in the face of the COVID-19 Pandemic, the derecho, we seek and find our strength, our Spirit, our hope. My path is to learn by reading: White Fragility, My Grandmother’s Hands and listening to spiritual podcasts that keep me centered. My path is to learn how to listen to the “other” which was supported by a program called “Our Better Angels” that I experienced through Unity Worldwide Ministries. And to keep in my heart and soul a larger vision that sees with new eyes. My path is to practice gratitude daily for even the smallest things asking daily, “To whom am I grateful?”
It is important to honor our pain, to recognize that we fall short and we are not able to give our all to someone or some situation that asks that of us. In recognizing our humanness, our pain we strengthen our ability to be with and accept the pain of others and to feel the connection to others in that shared pain. When I can see with new eyes, Spirit –filled eyes, then I can let go of the need to sort everything out before I even begin. I can begin to act, speak and listen from my heart which is truly the language spoken by all on that day of Pentecost. I can have my own Pentecost and bring active Hope to my world.
Blessings on the Path,