Welcome to Monday’s Podcast. My name is Tom and I’m part of the STC team. This week we’ll continue our series in Acts and pick up where Mick left us on Friday.
Our reading today is Acts 2: 5-13. Today I will focus on verse 7:
‘Utterly amazed, they asked: ‘Are not these men who speaking Galileans? Then how is it that each of us hears them in this own native language?’
How do we deal with division?
TV celebrity Chef Jamie Oliver was asked about Brexit in recent interview in The Times. He said in his view it had split that nation. It divided friends, colleagues and families. And I think he’s right.
From what I see on social media and see on the news: people are passionately divided.
So, what if anything do these few verses have to say about healing division?
In today’s passage we learn more about what happened at Pentecost. As Mick shared on Friday this incredible event, the birth of the church, the outpouring of God’s Holy Spirit was truly remarkable –– God poured out his very presence on all his people.
Mick, our church team leader, last week challenged our team that we should embrace the call to witness – to tell the story of what God is doing and has done.
There’s so much that has been written about Pentecost and there’s so much to say but I want to drill down to one thing – the disciples all spoke different languages. So, why is this significant and what can we learn from it?
Jerusalem was packed – heaving with people from all over the Middle East and beyond to celebrate the Feast(s) of Weeks & Harvest, two significant festivals in Jewish culture.
It was common for people in that part of the world at that time to speak at least three languages: Aramaic, Greek & Latin. Sometimes a fourth language with Hebrew.
But the really interesting thing is that as the disciples are filled with the Holy Spirit they speak in tongues – languages – that only a few could speak and understand. The gathered crowd pointed out ‘are these men not Galileans?’ – The whole ‘Galilean’ comment was a really, frankly, a snobby point – these men were considered uncultured. For example, I’m from the West Midlands. According to a national survey the Birmingham accent is the least favoured in the whole of the UK. I haven’t lived at home for 21 years but when you tell people you’re from Birmingham they inevitably either do a Brummie accent, badly, or say something about Dudley. Galileans had a reputation for having such strong accents it meant that when they spoke other languages – they were unable to pronounce certain sounds so unable to communicate effectively with others. But they’re speaking sophisticated languages – unusual – and doing it in such a way they are perfectly understood. God was speaking to every nation represented in their own unique language.
I once prayed for a man in church. As I prayed I sensed a nudge from the Lord to pray in tongues – not something I do often, or even at all. This man is French. I don’t speak French, at all. After praying he said to me – what language were you speaking because I could understand every word? I had no idea but when he told me what I’d said – it could have only been the Lord – that’s what’s happening with the disciples.
The fact that the disciples speak other languages confirms that when God pours out his spirit- it’s always to witness to others. It’s never just for my own personal blessing – but to empower us to do what he asks us to do. But also, and perhaps more apt for our own time, Pentecost is about deepening a unity – a coming together of different people, different ethnic backgrounds, different languages.
As disciples we need to be wise as to how we talk about Brexit. I find it so tempting to agree with the collective angst narrative – or when my neighbours lament at latest turn of events. But from what I read of what the Spirit does at Pentecost is that God’s activity is always to reach out – to build bridges – to connect. So therefore, our words or our Tweets, our Facebook comments or even the gifs we send on WhatsApp whatever we’re using – have influence? As believers we may different political visions for our nation but what unites is the clear Biblical call to pray – to honour leaders – and to seek the peace and prosperity of our city. Because we stand with the early church and declare that Jesus is Lord. BoJo is not Lord. Jeremy Corbyn isn’t Lord. Brexit isn’t Lord. We unite around the fact that God will work his purposes – we must not lose hope – we must make a stand against division and fear and start in our own hearts and to unite in prayer. My own personal challenge is this – next time I see my neighbours what will I say? Will I bear witness to God’s goodness – his heart to heal divisions?
Father, help us to work for unity – to bridge the divide. Amen.
READING: Acts 2:5-13
Now there were staying in Jerusalem God-fearing Jews from every nation under heaven. When they heard this sound, a crowd came together in bewilderment, because each one heard their own language being spoken. Utterly amazed, they asked: ‘Aren’t all these who are speaking Galileans? Then how is it that each of us hears them in our native language? Parthians, Medes and Elamites; residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya near Cyrene; visitors from Rome (both Jews and converts to Judaism); Cretans and Arabs – we hear them declaring the wonders of God in our own tongues!’ Amazed and perplexed, they asked one another, ‘What does this mean?’
Some, however, made fun of them and said, ‘They have had too much wine.’