Language of the head or heart?

One of the question I have been asked is “how did the apostles speak all those different languages on Pentecost?” Did God give them some sort of instant Berlitz course? Was it an exaggeration of what happened? I believe my grandfather’s comment to me covers it “Everything is true and some of it actually happened.” We will NEVER know for sure exactly what happened in that upper room in Jerusalem almost 2000 years ago. We have a description telling us what it was like – LIKE the sound of a mighty rushing wind; and LIKE divided tongues of flame coming upon them. It was a kinaesthetic experience of sound and sight – not some sort of intellectual thought. But it probably wasn’t actual wind or fire they experienced. Wind and fire were Old Testament signs of God’s presence which may be why they were used as descriptors. Whatever it was it emboldened them to throw open the locked door and leave the upper room to tell the story of what they had experienced of God in the person of Jesus. In Jerusalem on that 50th day after Passover for the Shavuot holy day (one of three special days pilgrims) were people from various countries. The apostles took it to the streets and began to tell people what they had experienced in Jesus and why it made a difference to them. There were no philosophical expositions, no theological systems, no atonement theory, nor doctrines in evidence. They spoke of what mattered most of their experience of God – of what they valued the most. And each of their experiences were a bit different. So it makes no difference what language the apostles really spoke – what happened is that people heard the message in their heart language. This language of their deepest memories, joys, desires and longings. So for us the message of Pentecost is not about language (foreign or domestic) – it is about learning to talk from our heart language not just in head language. It means being willing to be real about what we have found and why it is important to us. When we are real and share it with another even now – even with us – God can translate our heart language into the heart language of the listener and they can hear a resonance deep within that speaks to their deepest needs, deepest joys, deepest hurts and deepest longings. And the Spirit/wind/breath of God will blow through us to enliven another. Which, in deepest truth, still happens when we get real with ourselves and others. Don

About don

The Rev Don Hill is an Episcopal priest, rail fan and writer. He and his wife the Rev. Dr. Nancy Woodworth-Hill are currently Co-Pastors of St Paul's Episcopal Church, Jeffersonville IN, in the Diocese of Indianapolis. They also work as parish consultants in Appreciative Inquiry, strategic planning and spirituality development for parishes and vestries.
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