Weekly Scripture Focus

Focus Reading: Acts 2:1-21

When the day of Pentecost had come, they 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 Arabsóin 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.'”

ReflectionMany different languages

Perhaps there are different “languages” in your congregation (literally or figuratively) that may divide the folks in your church, or at least make unity more difficult to achieve. What have been experiences of deep unity, across differences? Differences can actually enrich and enliven what we share, if we can reach across what separates us, not only in language and culture but also in religious upbringing, economic class, educational background, and even basic personality types.

If we learn to communicate effectively, to hear what God is still speaking today, we will hear a call, together, that may astound us and gather us into something more effective and more amazing that we were before. What events and experiences have made us cower, have made us confused? It requires the power of God, indeed, to draw us out of our “all together in one place” and send us out with courage and energy to proclaim the good news of the Risen Christ. If we are too closed up in our buildings, we may not hear the “loud noise” outside, calling us to new ministry in God’s world. We may not feel the rushing wind if we ourselves do not move out into that world, open to God’s leading in new and previously unimagined ways.

This reflection is from the Rev. Kathryn M. Matthews, retired after serving as dean of Amistad Chapel at the national offices of the United Church of Christ in Cleveland, Ohio.

Focus Questions:

  1. Have you ever tried to learn another language? What did it feel like with you tried to speak in it? Were you understood?
  2. There are many other “languages” we need to speak if we are to share the Good News of Jesus Christ in our contexts. Which one or ones are most pressing in yours? What do you need to learn about your community in order to understand and be understood?
  3. What do you find perplexing, confusing, amazing? Could it be that is a place or circumstance where the Holy Spirit is blowing?
  4. What are your loves? How do you need to widen them?
  5. Read Acts 2:1-21 out loud. What strikes you when you read it? Meditate on that part of the passage and note what you notice as you pray.