"ALL FOR ONE..."
A Pentecost Sermon delivered at Bethany Presbyterian Church on Sunday, June 9, 2019
OLD TESTAMENT READING
Now the whole earth had one language and the same words. And as they migrated from the east, they came upon a plain in the land of Shinar and settled there. And they said to one another, "Come, let us make bricks, and burn them thoroughly." And they had brick for stone, and bitumen for mortar. Then they said, "Come, let us build ourselves a city, and a tower with its top in the heavens, and let us make a name for ourselves; otherwise we shall be scattered abroad upon the face of the whole earth." The LORD came down to see the city and the tower, which mortals had built. And the LORD said, "Look, they are one people, and they have all one language; and this is only the beginning of what they will do; nothing that they propose to do will now be impossible for them. Come, let us go down, and confuse their language there, so that they will not understand one another's speech." So the LORD scattered them abroad from there over the face of all the earth, and they left off building the city. Therefore it was called Babel, because there the LORD confused the language of all the earth; and from there the LORD scattered them abroad over the face of all the earth.
NEW TESTAMENT READING
When the day of Pentecost had come, the disciples were all together in one place. 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. Divided tongues, as of fire, appeared among them, and a tongue rested on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages, as the Spirit gave them ability.
Now there were devout Jews from every nation under heaven living in Jerusalem. And at this sound the crowd gathered and was bewildered, because each one heard them speaking in the native language of each. Amazed and astonished, they asked, "Are not all these who are speaking Galileans? And how is it that we hear, each of us, in our own native language?
Parthians, Medes, Elamites, and residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya belonging to Cyrene, and visitors from Rome, both Jews and proselytes, Cretans and Arabs-- in our own languages we hear them speaking about God's deeds of power." All were amazed and perplexed, saying to one another, "What does this mean?" But others sneered and said, "They are filled with new wine."
But Peter, standing with the eleven, raised his voice and addressed them, "Men of Judea and all who live in Jerusalem, let this be known to you, and listen to what I say. Indeed, these are not drunk, as you suppose, for it is only nine o'clock in the morning. No, this is what was spoken through the prophet Joel:
`In the last days it will be, God declares,
that I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh,
and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy,
and your young men shall see visions,
and your old men shall dream dreams.
Even upon my slaves, both men and women,
in those days I will pour out my Spirit;
and they shall prophesy.
And I will show portents in the heaven above
and signs on the earth below,
blood, and fire, and smoky mist.
The sun shall be turned to darkness
and the moon to blood,
before the coming of the Lord's great and glorious day.
Then everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.' "
There was a time - too many years ago - when I would do a Children’s Moment for the younger members of the congregation and this Pentecost reading was always a great delight. But as it says in 1 Corinthians 13, “When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child; but when I became a man, I put away childish things.” So the childish things of the past - the flares to represent the tongues of fire, the blower to represent the “rush of a violent wind” - must be put away.
Today I speak to you as your Pastor - a privilege I accept humbly. And with a new look at this wonderful passage that I hope inspires.
Keep in mind that Jesus was executed by the government. As to the specifics of his crime, that is never truly known, although the leaders of the Jewish faith who were threatened by Jesus, had a strong hand in influencing the Roman leaders.
By this nature, not only was Jesus arrested, tried, and crucified, but his followers were equally suspect. So much so that Peter - who was Jesus’ staunchest supporter - denied even knowing him three times immediately after Jesus’ arrest.
These men were under fear of arrest themselves. They had no obligation to remain in Jerusalem and could have gone back to being Fishermen or Tax Collectors or whatever their previous profession had been. They had seen a resurrected Jesus prior to Pentecost but had no idea what the future held for them.
Yet, “When the day of Pentecost had come, the disciples were all together in one place.” They were still together, ever faithful to the lessons they were taught.
We of Bethany can proudly make a similar claim. We have had many transitions and challenges and are currently seeking a new, permanent Pastor. Blessings to our Search Committee as they continue their work. But during all this time, we continue to stand together. Some of us have gone ahead to be with Jesus, a few have left us for other reasons. But if you compare the rolls of this church from ten or even twenty years ago, you will see many of the same wonderful names. Granted, we need to add more names to that list if we are to be here for another ten or twenty years, but together we are disciples of Christ - and we gather to continue to worship God and to celebrate and enact Jesus’ message to us.
Today we speak one language - the language of Christ’s love. Anything else we say is useless gibberish. We are, in fact, babbling.
The only new commandment Jesus gave us is found in John 13. “Love one another,” Jesus commands. “As I have love you, so you must love one another. By this, everyone will know that you are my disciples.”
If we took Jesus’ words literally, what would become Christianity would have ended with the twelve disciples in the room. And while I wasn’t in the room, everything Jesus tells us in the Gospels is to love everyone. Every one. Each other. Our neighbor, whether or not they attend our church or - heaven forbid! - don’t attend church at all. Love our Muslim, Jewish, Hindi, Bahai, Agnostic, and Atheist brothers and sisters.
Unfortunately, politics and unbridled media does everything they can to divide our nation. Some do this because their Jesus demands it - even on issues not found anywhere in the Bible.
Others sow the seeds of hate for - I don’t know why they do this - but their goal seems to be to create an “us vs. them” twisting Jesus’ message of love, and trying to turn brothers and sisters against each other for the slightest difference. We are in a world where any hateful thought can be spread to millions in a matter of seconds.
This corruption of the cross is not new. Our more senior members can remember a time in your youth where parts of the world saw Christ’s message twisted to the point that a broken cross stormed across Europe, symbolizing the lowest point for humanity in modern times. We defeated it then and for some inexplicable reason, we must continue the fight today.
Today, we cannot control the airwaves or the Internet that spreads these lies, but we can control our own emotions, thoughts, and deeds. It is so easy to hate, be it out of ignorance, jealousy, fear, or any number of reasons. But in Christ, there is strength. And there is love. And that is the power that must move us. We must love, with a single voice, the universal love that Jesus taught us.
Speaking with one voice of Christian love is one thing. Speaking of this love in the same language is something else entirely. There is an estimated 6500 spoken languages in the world today. In English alone, there are over 60 different versions of the Bible. Six - Oh. That means we have a possibility of over 39,000 different interpretations. And that doesn’t include American Sign Language or Klingon.
So what is God’s Word? Is it “Porque tanto amó Dios al mundo que le dio a su único hijo?”
Or “Dare demo kare o shinjite iru.”
Or “wawe na uzima wa milele.”
The answer is “si, hai, and ndiyo”
God speaks to all of us, in the Creation story that takes us from the beginning to today’s beautiful sunrise. God speaks to us through the great rabbi, Jesus the Messiah, whose lessons of love and stewardship still are relevant 2000 years later. And God speaks to us in a million unknowable ways, the Holy Spirit touching our hearts, our minds, and our bodies in ways that will continue, literally, beyond eternity.
Alex Dumas is credited with the phrase - and it is the Trinity which best exemplifies it: “All for One - And One for All.” Because with the help of the One Triune God, we are all in this together.