Acts 2: 1-21
Recently I sat through an orientation at St. Raphael’s Hospital put on by the Patient Care office. They introduced us to several different phones and systems whereby a patient who is deaf, hard of hearing or a non-English speaker can access their medical information through interpretation. On the door of their office is a bumper sticker that said, “Medical Interpreters Save Lives in Other Languages”. It sure does. I wish I had that service a few years back when I was in
and I found myself in Shaare Zedek, translated, the Gates of Righteous, Hospital. Israel
A hospitalization of four days was not one of the experiences I had hoped to have but there I was in need of medical care and was zoomed off by Hasidic paramedics in an ambulance. Life is of utmost importance in Judaism. I got the best of attention and the worst of food. You see Israel is on the cutting edge of technological advances in medicine so I knew that I would get extraordinary care. And I did. And, the food was kosher and while I’ve had some delicious kosher food, this was not by any stroke of the imagination even recognizable.
But the food was not the problem, I can always stand to loose a few pounds. The problem was, everyone from housecleaning, to the technicians to the doctors were Hebrew speakers. I am not. I had learned to read and speak (and I use read and speak very loosely) Hebrew in preparation for my year in Israel but gave it up quickly after I told someone over there that I had thirty children instead of three. All of
was laughing at me, I heard them. Language, is not my gift. Israel
I knew that I was in God’s hands when on the third day the cardiologist and a team of 10 other doctors and residents did rounds. There I was in bed, hooked up to monitors, not quite sure what the next step was going to be save for a few short, broken English translated phrases about drips and medications. The empathetic patient in the bed next to me was able to translate a bit of important information like diagnosis, which I already knew-afib, and treatment. And when I was released they gave me some meds, a bill, which was nothing compared to US medical healthcare costs, and a five page medical report, you guessed it, in Hebrew! I needed an interpreter.
It’s frustrating not being able to understand what is happening especially when you need vital information such as a medical diagnosis and your treatment options and plan. I think that’s what God already knew that day when the disciples were gathered once again in that very familiar and safe upper room. For what good is a plan if others can’t understand it?
The beginning of the Book of Acts is very a critical juncture for the disciples and Jesus and for the life of the early Christian community. By now Jesus has ascended. Their confidante, their rabbi, their beloved was gone and they would see him no more. Before he left he makes a promise and then he gives them a charge. He promises that the Holy Spirit will come to the apostles; that they will receive the power. And he charges them to witness throughout
Jerusalem, Judaea, and in fact, to the farthest corners of the earth. How the Holy Spirit comes to them and how they are to be witnesses is what we find in today's scripture. Samaria
You see they were hole up in that upper room in Jerusalem. Maybe they were sitting near or in the open windows just to catch a cool breeze after the hot blazing sun of the day. By now many of the pilgrims who had converged on Jerusalem for Passover had gone back home but many of them stayed and made Jerusalem their home. It had been 50 long days since Jesus’ resurrection, the apostles were probably tired, maybe sad and confused too.
Then, without warning, a great wind filled the house and what appeared to be flames lighted on their heads. The Holy Spirit had taken control and when the Holy Spirit takes control…watch out! They began to speak. Each one of them had their own story to tell of how they had experienced Jesus, of how he had called them from their fishing nets or their almond tree groves, of how he helped them along the way.
Each one of them could witness in whatever languages needed to be heard that day in Jerusalem. They were not speaking in tongues, their witness was not jibberish or slurred, they were not some sorry drunkards from the farmlands of the Galil. They spoke intelligible languages, it was Parthian, and Phyrigian, Hellenstic Greek and Aramaic, it was Cappadocian and Elamite however the people needed to hear the apostles stories, they were given the ability to tell it.
So Jesus’ promise of the Holy Spirit and his charge to be witnesses came true on that Shavuot, that Pentecost day way back. But there is one catch. The apostles had to expose themselves, they had to leave that safe upper room haven. Had they stayed in that room how would we know those old, old stories? If you stay inside this church how will others know about how God has impacted your life, how the grace of God has been gifted to you through Jesus Christ? We each have our own story to tell and we each have been given the ability, the voice, the gift to tell it.
Next week we will bless and say farewell for a week to the youth and adults who are going on mission to the Bahamas to rebuild lives. They will carry with them the message of love and dignity that God so wants for our lives and for all people. They will tell that story simply through hammers and nails. If you don’t think you have a voice, think again.
Earlier when our scripture was read, we heard the same message but in different languages all at once. What they read was a poignant passage from 1 Corinthians where Paul is encouraging the people at Corinth to use the gifts that they have been given to tell their story and to bear witness to the Gospel message, he says,
God's various gifts are handed out everywhere; but they all originate in God's Spirit. God's various ministries are carried out everywhere; but they all originate in God's Spirit. God's various expressions of power are in action everywhere; but God [himself] is behind it all. Each person is given something to do that shows who God is: Everyone gets in on it, everyone benefits. All kinds of things are handed out by the Spirit, and to all kinds of people! 1 Corinthians 12: 4-7 from The Message by Eugene Peterson
All kinds of things to all kinds of people and everyone benefits. That is the power of the Holy Spirit.
What is your story to tell and how can you tell it? How have you been picked up from the valley of depression? How have you been cured from illness or have made it through the night at the bedside of a child or a spouse or a parent? How has God helped you through cycles of addiction? When did you know, beyond a shadow of a doubt that you were completely and totally blessed? When did you know that you are loved? When has Christ shined the brightest for you? These are our stories and interpreters are wanted to interpret the great good news of Jesus Christ. (A MUST SEE VIDEO below)