Movements and Common Language of the Spirit – Acts 2

a fire

Last week I wrote a little about our experience of visiting another Quaker meeting in Portland last Sunday. During that time of open worship I thought some about Acts 2 and Pentecost.

It was obvious that there is much that these two communities have in common and can learn from one another. And given the current state of things we may end up needing one another more than we originally thought.

But there is also a lot of difference, and this may be just as important as our similarities. Last Sunday was the Sunday the church celebrates as Pentecost, the coming of the Holy Spirit upon the early Christians for the first time (Acts 2). There are many things we can say about this passage in Acts but two stand out to me in connection with last Sunday.

First is the movement of the Holy Spirit. “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.” The movement of the Spirit is forceful and it is powerful. While we were in silence the children were in the room, just like they are present with us while we worship. There were children running back and forth, just like at our own meeting. At one point, as I was sitting there with my eyes shut when the doors behind me opened. I didn’t turn back to look and see who it was, instead I just listened, and the footsteps weren’t really steps at all but were more like skips as though the child, I knew it had to be a child, were playing hop-scotch. It came to me in that moment that the Spirit, when he or she, enters the room, doesn’t somberly walk into that room, quietly, awkwardly, the way we do, especially if we know everyone in the room is trying to be quiet in worship. No, the Spirit steps into the room dancing and skipping. This is the same Spirit who animates us. The Spirit dances, rejoices and delights! Apart from the apathy we can often be consumed by, the Holy Spirit, who arrives on Pentecost, and skips through the room, animating those who are filled with God’s presence with new life, new vision, and new openness to wherever God may be present among us, or among them!

And it is this Spirit who becomes our language. What I really like about this passage is that it starts within the context of a bunch of different people all together in one place. The text says that there were Jews from at least 14 different countries in Jerusalem when this happened. There were people speaking all kinds of languages, and while Jewish, were culturally from different parts of the world. There were some serious differences here, many of these people could not understand one another because of the language barrier and then, like a mighty wind, the Spirit envelopes the room and it says “All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages, as the Spirit gave them ability…each one heard them speaking in the native language of each.” In other words, among all that difference, in the middle of people from all over the world, the Spirit becomes the common language that unites them all. Isn’t this beautiful? Whatever we do, and whomever we do it with, if we work at speaking the language of the Spirit we will be understood and we will understand. We will find unity, no matter how different we are, and we will be animated to skip and dance.

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Wess

...is the William R. Roger Director of Friends Center and Quaker Studies at Guilford College in Greensboro, NC., PhD in Intercultural Studies from Fuller Theological Seminary, served as a "released minister" at Camas Friends Church, and father of three. He enjoys sketchnoting, sharing conversation over coffee with a friend, listening to vinyl and writing creative nonfiction.

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