Once upon a time, a long while ago, my sons and I were making s’mores over our hibachi. There’s an art to getting the marshmallow toasted and inevitably at least one catches fire. One caught fire and they asked why the marshmallow turned black.
This question was right up my alley! Chemistry. I explained that marshmallows were made of mostly sugar and sugar was a combination of carbon, hydrogen, and oxygen molecules. C12 H22 O11 to be exact. When sugar is heated, it begins to melt, changing it’s molecular combination. The hydrogen and oxygen escape, leaving the carbon behind. That’s why it turns black.
They stared at me and one of them finally spoke up, “Mama, are you talking to us?”
Often it seems that spiritual precepts are shrouded in mystery and those who proclaim its message speak from historical-cultural principles of another millennia or intone theological precepts expecting they are common to everyone.
Pentecost (there is one of those words) reminds us that it’s God’s desire that everyone have the opportunity to hear the message in simple, plain language. Pentecost also reminds us that the Spirit is active in any and every life where welcome.
This is how Scripture described it:
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?’ (Acts 2:6-12).
The essential point is that everyone present was able to hear the message shared in their own language. Those sharing the message were speaking in a language foreign to themselves, but familiar to the own with whom they were talking.
Why was that important? So people could understand. The Plan was for the message Jesus shared with his small band of friends to be shared with the world. Most of the world did not speak Aramaic or Hebrew. Although Jesus and his friends came from a specific culture and worship tradition, all that was changed, now welcoming any and all who were interested and open. Rather than falling on a select few, it was made available to everyone, in a language they could understand.
Not only is God’s message of love and acceptance simple and plain, it meets us where we are and finds us in unexpected places. We don’t have to walk through any doors, sit in any pews, sing any special songs or learn any secret handshake. God is talking to us, but in a way we can hear and understand. It’s simple and plain so that you may hear it.