Our church finished a four weeks series on Acts 2 and the Holy Spirit coming on Pentecost to the disciples who had gathered for prayer. When the Jews in Jerusalem who were celebrating the Pentecost festival heard them speaking in various foreign languages from their homelands it caused them to ask, “What does this mean?” This was pre-work of the Spirit before the 3000 became converted (pre-evangelism?). I was surprised by the Spirit’s work which causes people to ask questions about God that led to putting their trust in God.
Most scholars recognize that the Spirit’s actions in and through the disciples on Pentecost 2000 years ago was a reversal of the Tower of Babel where language separated people who sought to glorify themselves. At Pentecost, God uses language to unite people who sought to glorify God. Pentecost is the undoing of Babel. So we see in Acts 2 that God’s first miracle in the church is the “healing of words” as Tim Keller points out.
In my diverse community in downtown L.A. I am glad to know that even in the first church God was speaking a clear message about unity amidst the diversity. Union Church has the young and elderly (just like in the Acts 2 church–but that’s for another blog topic), the homeless and the working professional, black and white, Asian and Hispanic and people at all stages of life. We want to a church that shows the diversity of L.A. and of our neighborhood as a sign of the coming kingdom of God. None of us should forget that God has always wanted to bring salvation to all the nations, even though he started with a mono-ethnic church (Jewish) to start it all. We need our churches to reflect the diversity that we experience Monday through Saturday. I hope our church and others will buck the trend of Sunday morning being the most segregated day of the week in L.A.
I’m also challenged to see the Spirit doing a miracle not only of languages but of healing words. Words are powerful so how strategic for God to doing healing work here because words truly have the power of life and death (Proverbs 18:21). I asked a group of young adults tonight to think about the worst words even spoken about them. No one can forget painful words directed at us. No one forgets the pain of words that we have longed to hear but never heard like “I love you. I’m proud of you. I’ll never leave you. I forgive you.” Words have the power of life and death. God has come to heal our words. We have been given the power of life and death by the way we use our words. We can give life if we listen and obey the Spirit.
Lastly, I am struck by how the Spirit wants to use us to raise questions. What if our church caused the non-Christian to ask, “Could this really be true?” Revolutions have started with questions like the One Campaign: “Should where you live determine if you live?” Jesus was an expert in asking questions.
Perhaps the Holy Spirit wants to do a whole new thing with our language:
Bringing diverse groups together to worship and glorify God
Healing our words so that relationship can be mended and we can be made whole.
Eliciting spiritual curiosity from non-believers: “What does this mean?”
May God’s Spirit send you out this week with healing in your words.