A Pentecost Homily by our Director, Deacon Scott D. Gilfillan
They were astounded, and in amazement they asked, “Are not all these people who are speaking Galileans? Then how does each of us hear them in his native language? Acts 2:1-11
We celebrate Pentecost Sunday to learn a new language.
It is not the language of the United States. Or the language of Mexico, Philippines, or Laos, or any of the numerous other languages spoken in our Church. This new language is the root of all of these other languages.
We have gathered here to learn the language that infants hear as they are being formed in the womb; the same language that the saints hear as they behold the face of God; the same language that you hear spoken in the depths of your soul – if you listen.
We have gathered here to learn an ancient language that was around before the beginning of time; the same language that breathed creation into existence, the same language Adam whispered to Eve before taking a bite of the apple; the same language that Jesus uttered on the cross when he “cried out again in a loud voice, and gave up his spirit.”
It is a powerful language. One word can open the ears of the deaf, cast out legions of demons, give a dead little girl new life, and send a thief to paradise.
In fact, this is a language that everyone knows but not everyone speaks. We have gathered here to relearn a language we have known since before we were born.
Can you guess the name for this language? It is the language of God; the language of God that comes to us through the Holy Spirit.
We have gathered here to learn again how to speak this language to a world that seems to have forgotten.
What happens if we start speaking the language of God?
Jesus spoke the language of God. Some listened. Some walked away sad.
On that first Pentecost, the disciples spoke the language of God. Even though all present understood these words in their own native tongue, some opened their hearts and heard the voice of God. Others closed their hearts and heard the voice of a drunk.
On that day, all heard “a noise like a strong driving wind.” All saw over the heads of the disciples “tongues as of fire”. On that day, the language of God was not subtle.
Other times, the language of God can be as quiet as a dove drifting from the sky or as sublime as a virgin mother holding her newborn baby.
On that Pentecost day, the language of God united all of the other languages through the power of the Holy Spirit. The church was born.
When the disciples went forth and spoke this language, the world was forever changed. When people opened their hearts and listened, they recognized this language as their true native tongue.
When we speak the language of God, people are reminded of their true nature. Their hearts stir with recognition. They hear Love’s invitation. They hear Truth’s unwavering tone. They hear the Good Shepherd calling them home.
The language of God, however, is at war with the language of the world.
What are the differences? The language of God unites, building bridges. The language of the world divides, building walls. The language of God speaks rock-solid truth. The language of the world chases empty promises. The language of God values all human life. The language of the world values choice, a word that often means death for some and life for others.
The language of God can be like the breath of Jesus saying, “peace be with you.”
The language of the world is like a hammer in the face. It tries to silence the language of God by bludgeoning it into submission. Or tries to seduce the language of God by dangling the glamour of the evil in this world. Or tries to intimidate the language of God with crass insults.
To speak the language of God, we must have courage.
What can we do?
What can we do in a world where people have forgotten the language of God? Simple. Avoid speaking the language of the world. Start speaking the language of God.
And have faith. Even though the language of the world is loud, boisterous, and demanding, the language of God will have the final word. Jesus promised that the Holy Spirit, our Advocate, will be with us always.
In the language of God, the Father hears our ‘inexpressible groanings’ and ‘searches the heart’. In the language of God, the people cry ‘Abba’ and the Father hears the voice of his beloved sons and daughters, freed from slavery and now heirs with Christ.
With confidence in the power of the Holy Spirit, this week speak the language of God. Speak the language of God to a world that has forgotten how to speak. Speak the language of forgiveness and compassion. Speak the language of encouragement and healing. Speak the language of patience and peace. Speak the language of wonder and mystery.
Ask yourself: Are my words and my actions speaking the language of God, or the language of the world?
Speak the language of God and renew the face of the earth.