Sundays at Harvard-Epworth

 Worship AT 10:00 AM IN-PERSON AND on Youtube  

A Reflection by Rev. Barbara Lemmel

From Steve Garnaas-Holmes, reflecting on Pentecost as described in Acts 2:1-21:

             All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit
             and began to speak in other languages,
             as the Spirit gave them ability.
                                         —Acts 2.4

Pentecost was not, as some say, “the undoing of Babel”—
now we all speak the same language!
No, it was the opposite: the blessing of Babel.
We learn one another’s languages.
We embrace diversity, and learn to listen to each other,
to see from another’s perspective,
to give voice to a life other than our own,
to make central a language that’s not our own,
to communicate grace that’s not on our own terms.
We acknowledge the differences in our lives,
honor one another’s various home places and cultures,
and cross over the boundaries of comfort and familiarity.

On that Pentecost day I don’t imagine they were eloquent.
They spoke in halting Phrygian, mangled Mesopotamian.
It probably took some back-and-forth, some double-checking.
It required not just proclaiming but listening, relating,
and patience on the part of the hearers,
and courage and humility on the part of the speakers—
willingness to be beginners, to risk, to appear foolish,
to forgo the safety of being in the dominant group.

Pray for such humility and courage, to risk for the sake of love,
to be foolish for the sake of relating,
to let other people’s reality be real.
In such loving, the Holy Spirit will speak, loud and clear.

“We learn one another’s languages.”  I like that.  As you receive this reflection, Mitch and I will just be arriving home from 3 weeks of bicycle touring in Italy.  We’ll have been immersed in another language, and (hopefully) will have absorbed some of it into our consciousness!  We will also have absorbed some of the social practices, the eating patterns, and the gorgeous scenery of Apuglia and environs.

Steve rightly reminds us that the work of Pentecost is to learn each other’s languages, to understand what is important and holy to another, and to develop vision that sees the world through other eyes.  I’m especially conscious of this expansive journey during Pride month.  This month we celebrate the gifts and graces of everyone across the gender spectrum.  During these weeks we uncover previously untold histories, weep over painful injustices, and grieve the lives lost to violence and suicide.  We bring both humility and courage to this process of widening our hearts and our embrace to welcome and treasure all of God’s created ones.

As Rev. Dr. Jacqui Lewis of Middle Church in NYC writes, “We’re trying to be Pentecost people … listening to and learning from each other, hoping to repair some brokenness with understanding.”  May that be true of Harvard-Epworth Church and of all God’s people!