Weekly Bible Devotional
“Everything Is Holy: Our Diversity”
May 23, 2021
Scripture for Sunday: Acts 2:1-13
When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place. 2 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. 3 Divided tongues, as of fire, appeared among them, and a tongue rested on each of them. 4 All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages, as the Spirit gave them ability.
5 Now there were devout Jews from every nation under heaven living in Jerusalem. 6 And at this sound the crowd gathered and was bewildered, because each one heard them speaking in the native language of each. 7 Amazed and astonished, they asked, “Are not all these who are speaking Galileans? 8 And how is it that we hear, each of us, in our own native language? 9 Parthians, Medes, Elamites, and residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, 10 Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya belonging to Cyrene, and visitors from Rome, both Jews and proselytes, 11 Cretans and Arabs—in our own languages we hear them speaking about God’s deeds of power.” 12 All were amazed and perplexed, saying to one another, “What does this mean?” 13 But others sneered and said, “They are filled with new wine.”
Notes on the Text:
This text is often referred to as the story of Pentecost. This is the Christian celebration of the coming of the Holy Spirit. This feast originated in the Jewish festival of the Feast of First Fruits (Deuteronomy 16:9-12), which was called “Pentecost” because it came fifty days after Passover. One of the gifts of the story of Pentecost is that it reminds us of the divine power we need to live in harmony with others. This power is a free gift of grace. Our work is to accept it.
The disciples were gathered to celebrate the feast of Pentecost, but they were still fearful. The vision of Christ for the reign of God on earth might have seemed like a distant dream for them due to the threat of violence they were facing. But the power of the Spirit came to their rescue just when they needed it. They received the power of the Holy Spirit in a way that filled them with the ability to enhance their connection with others.
This experience of the Holy Spirit helped the followers of Jesus cross the barriers of language without eliminating the differences between cultures. They did not speak one language. They spoke different languages. The Holy Spirit honored the uniqueness of each ethnic group and gave the disciples the ability to connect with those who were different from them. At Pentecost the Holy Spirit enabled the disciples to see their deep connection with all the people of the earth. It helped them to find the power within themselves to reach out to all the people so that they may reverse the hateful and dominating and divisive ways of their time. It was at that moment that they were mobilized for action to continue the mission of Jesus of building God’s reign on earth.
The story of Pentecost teaches us that the Holy Spirit is always leading us to greater love than what is humanly possible. The disciples were a small group of fearful people whose leader was executed. They were living under the pressures and fears of their day in a society that was tribal in nature where divisions were deep and well established. But through the work of the Spirit, those old and rigid barriers were broken, and the disciples were given a new vision of human connection and of what was possible for humans together.
We have access to the same power! We can hopelessly fall into the traps of hate, division, and fear that are all around us or we can allow the Holy Spirit to blow in and through us to expand our ability to build God’s world together, seeing diversity and difference as blessings. Of course, this is extremely hard to put into practice and that is why we need a power greater than our own. The good news of our faith is that each of us is blessed by the same Holy Spirit to find new ways to live out God’s dream for harmony and love.
In her book, Holy Envy, Barbara Brown Taylor reflects on the importance of our differences as the way God has reacted to the human endeavor of the building of the Tower of Babel. Taylor writes that difference is what best teaches human beings to first tolerate, then love each other and God. She looks at the story of the Tower of Babel as God judging a human domination project, and thus saving people by introducing diversity. “God decided it would be helpful for people to be different instead of the same…God decided it would be good for them to have to stop on a regular basis and say, ‘could you say that a different way please? I don’t understand what you mean,’ or ‘Can you show me with your hands?’…God decided it would be good for [us] to stop taking [our] communication for granted and work a little harder at trying to understand each other.”
“Touch Me with Truth That Burns Like Fire”
a prayer for Pentecost by Ted Loder
send the gift of your Spirit
to fill this place
and the world.
that burns like fire,
that moves me like the wind;
and set me free, Lord,
free to try new ways of living;
free to forgive myself and others;
free to love and laugh and sing;
free to lay aside my burden of security;
free to join the battle for justice and peace;
free to see and listen and wonder again
at the gracious mystery of things and persons;
free to be,
to rejoice as a child of your Spirit.
teach me how to dance,
to turn around
and come down where I want to be,
in the arms and heart of your people
and in you,
that I may praise and enjoy forever. Amen.