“The Words We Live By” by The Rev. Stephanie Kendell
This coming Sunday is an exciting one! First it is Pentecost so make sure to wear your red and maybe even try a new language in worship! Second, we have Jonathan Soto preaching this Sunday. A new voice in our pulpit is always a treat and he is an incredible gift to this community. Finally, who is ready to party? We are having LatinX party celebrating the one year of bilingual ministry that we have done together. It will be a Sunday filled with warmth and love, energy and joy. ¡Ven! Come! We hope you will join us.
A few weeks ago, I took myself on a movie date. I don’t usually like to do things by myself, but I have found that the balance of my introverted-extroverted nature is fulfilled if I go to the movies on my own. Just enough people, but also just me. It helps me renew myself and take a break, which if you know me is always a challenge. However, if you also know me, you know that I like Chris Evans movies…well who am I kidding, I like Chris Evans everything. Now, unless you have been under a rock, you know that the new Avengers movies, “Avengers: Infinity War,” is playing in theaters, and my beloved Chris is reprising his role as “Cap” aka Captain America. So, I went, not really knowing what an Avenger was nor why they were in an infinite war. Don’t worry, I won’t spoil it.
Part way through the movie, there is a conversation about language and whether or not a place is real because the name may be made up. That is when the line “all words are made up,” strikes through the conversation to give the audience some post-modern realness. I was 5000% here for it! It also very much reminded me of the life of the church. How in multiple places in our scriptures, we see language being created and in turn creating new ways for God to show up in the lives of God’s people. We find two of those instances in our scriptures for this week, Gen 11:1-9 and Acts 2:1-8.
“God Turned Their Language into ‘Babble’”
11 1-2 At one time, the whole Earth spoke the same language. It so happened that as they moved out of the east, they came upon a plain in the land of Shinar and settled down.
3 They said to one another, “Come, let’s make bricks and fire them well.” They used brick for stone and tar for mortar.
4 Then they said, “Come, let’s build ourselves a city and a tower that reaches Heaven. Let’s make ourselves famous so we won’t be scattered here and there across the Earth.”
5 God came down to look over the city and the tower those people had built.
6-9 God took one look and said, “One people, one language; why, this is only a first step. No telling what they’ll come up with next—they’ll stop at nothing! Come, we’ll go down and garble their speech so they won’t understand each other.” Then God scattered them from there all over the world. And they had to quit building the city. That’s how it came to be called Babel, because there God turned their language into “babble.” From there God scattered them all over the world.
A Sound Like a Strong Wind
2 1-4 When the Feast of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place. Without warning there was a sound like a strong wind, gale force—no one could tell where it came from. It filled the whole building. Then, like a wildfire, the Holy Spirit spread through their ranks, and they started speaking in a number of different languages as the Spirit prompted them.
5-11 There were many Jews staying in Jerusalem just then, devout pilgrims from all over the world. When they heard the sound, they came on the run. Then when they heard, one after another, their own mother tongues being spoken, they were thunderstruck. They couldn’t for the life of them figure out what was going on, and kept saying, “Aren’t these all Galileans? How come we’re hearing them talk in our various mother tongues?
Parthians, Medes, and Elamites;
Visitors from Mesopotamia, Judea, and Cappadocia,
Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia,
Egypt and the parts of Libya belonging to Cyrene;
Immigrants from Rome, both Jews and proselytes;
Even Cretans and Arabs!
“They’re speaking our languages, describing God’s mighty works!”
We are a people that were created unique to share our gifts with each other, and when we go against that call and try to conform, our mighty God spreads us out to diversify again like leaves in the wind. When we spread out we force ourselves to confront that which makes us uncomfortable, and we also recognize our innate ability to adapt and connect. They did it in Genesis. Then again in the tower of babel. And we are doing it here each week at The Park.
Each week as we stretch our language muscles in our bilingual (and sometimes multilingual) worship, we sub/consciously disrupt human nature’s attempt to uniform the masses and create new bold spaces for God’s word and work to flourish. Creating something new, new worship, new friends, new words, new love helps us to make room for the Holy Spirit to roar within us and not only have faith in the church but be the church. Because although we celebrate the birth of the church at Pentecost each year, God is actually calling us to be reborn with and in the church every hour of every minute. But it isn’t an easy task. This is why we have to build communities that journey with us and support our growth. People don’t want to grow and change, but God does, God call’s us to newness, and God knows we can do it.
Church, we are a people of newness and renewal. May we feel the spirit to make up new words, create new visions of church, and boldly seek Gods love, mercy, and justice in new life-giving ways.