“All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enable them…Amazed and perplexed, they asked one another, ‘What does this mean?” (Acts 2:4, 12).
In Acts 2 God gathers a scattered people by fulfilling the promise God made in Joel 2: “In the last days, I will pour out my spirit…” In a bookend to what happened at the Tower of Babel, when people were scattered and their languages became incomprehensible to one another, God now draws people of all languages together and reasserts God’s promise of salvation.
Did you know that there are 7,139 known languages spoken today? As a Vice President of the WCRC, I have become accustomed to hearing many languages when the communion gathers. We employ interpreters who translate so we can do the work of communion and justice in a way that engages all of our voices. It feels like a type of Pentecost, when we speak clearly and listen carefully so that we can understand one another.
We speak different languages--and sometimes even when we speak the same language. We misunderstand one another and find it difficult to listen in order to understand. This happens in the political arena, on social media, and even in the church. As many are impatient to return to “normal” after Covid, we recognize significant injustices that Covid has accentuated. WCRC has engaged “Covid-19 and Beyond”, a process in which we are asking, “What does the Lord require of us?” (Micah 6:8). It is a similar question to the one asked in Acts 2: “What does this mean?”
Pentecost affords the opportunity to learn, or re-learn, the language of the Spirit. First, it is the language of new life. Jesus’ words in John 10:10, “I came that you may have life, and have it abundantly,” are significant for the WCRC. We seek to serve a God of life in all aspects of the communion. In the gift of the Spirit, we relearn and reassert the language of new life for all.
Second, the language of the Spirit is the language of love. When Jesus promised the coming of the Spirit, he said that the Advocate would remind the disciples of all that Jesus had taught them. On the night he was betrayed, Jesus gave a new mandate: that they love one another. Although they didn’t fully understand what lay ahead any more than we do at this moment, the Spirit would teach them to love, which begins with listening.
Third, the language of the Spirit is the language of new confession. After Jesus’ resurrection, the disciples responded by hiding out of fear of the Jews. It was then that Jesus appeared and said, “‘As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.’ And with that he breathed on them and said, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit’” (John 20:21-22). On Pentecost, Peter boldly confesses Jesus as Lord. “Covid & Beyond” emphasizes that we must not only be the church which has confessions, but which seeks to boldly confess the God of life in a world fallen among thieves (John 10:10).
Friends, let us seek to relearn the language of the Spirit: a language of new life, new love, and new confession of the God of life as we are called to communion and committed to justice. May we discern together just how God is calling us to live and work together at such a time as this.
—Rev. Lisa Vander Wal
Reformed Church in America
WCRC Vice President