We celebrate Pentecost this weekend, and the story continues its extraordinary movement outwards. Last week, it was Ascension, when the disciples were still thinking in terms of their own people, and Jesus showed them an ever widening perspective (Acts 1:6-8).
Now, we see how God continues to open and include. It seems that all those gathered together (1:14-15) were part of the great outpouring of the Spirit, and the impact on the listeners suggests God was at work beyond even those. The barriers between us of race, gender, nationality, language, youth and age, are being broken down, moving us towards a deep unity (Col 1:17, Gal 3:28). No wonder the whole house was filled with a great sound! This is powerful and much needed work.
We notice how the barrier of language is overcome. We notice that God’s priority is not to change the listeners so they can understand, but change the words (and the speakers) so people can hear – directly, in a way that makes sense to them as they are.
The words are an overflow of joy.
Below is my version of the story, from The Bible Story Retold
If you wish to use it this weekend, please do, saying where it is from. I hope it helps.
From the fields it came: the first sheaf of barley cut for that year’s harvest. It was carried high through streets crammed with visitors, and on to the Temple. And then the priest offered it to God, giving thanks for the good land, and for the gift of harvest. For that day was the celebration of the first fruits. It was Pentecost.
Meanwhile, the disciples were all together, waiting. Then, suddenly, it began. It stared with sound – a sound like the wind – but this was no gentle harvest breeze. This was a shaking and a roaring: a sound of power, whooshing and howling about the house, rattling every door and shutter. The sound seemed to come down from heaven itself, and filled the house as the wind fills sails. Then, the disciples watched wide-eyed as something that looked like fire came down, and tongues of flame peeled off it and rested on each of them without burning them. All of them were filled, for the Holy Spirit had come. And as it happened, their tongues were loosened, and they began to speak as the Spirit gave them words. These words were not Aramaic, their own language, but in languages that were unknown to them.
A crowd had gathered by the house because of the extraordinary sound, but then they heard voices. There were pilgrims in Jerusalem from all over the known world, and they recognized the words the disciples were speaking.
“He’s talking Egyptian!” said one.
“That one’s talking my language,” said a visitor from Crete – and the same was true for all. Each person heard God’s praises in their own tongue.
“What can it mean?” they asked each other. But others among the crowd joked that the disciples had been drinking.
The Twelve heard what they were saying, so Simon Peter stood up to speak to the crowds.
“Listen, I’ll tell you what’s happening. We’re not drunk! It’s too early in the day for that! This is God’s promise come true. Do you remember what one of the prophets wrote long ago?
I’ll pour out my Spirit on everyone – young and old.
Your sons and daughters will prophesy,
young men will have visions, and old men dreams.
All who follow me – men and women – will
be given my Spirit, and there will be wonders!
Bless you this weekend, and always.