Acts 2: 1-21
While I was at Andover Newton Theological School Dr. Carole Fontaine, one of my Hebrew Bible teachers quoted the rabbis who said, “every generation reads the Torah anew”. What she meant by that was each generation lives in a different time and space then the previous generation. Therefore how we approach the Torah, or for us Christians the entire Bible, Old and New Testament is different than that of our parents and grandparents.
Times change. People change. Voices change. Women’s voices and stories are now being told which, in previous generations, were all but ignored. For example Shiphrah and Puah, remember them? They were Egyptian midwives during the time of the Exodus when the people of Israel were slaves in Egypt. These women were commanded by Pharaoh to kill all of the Israelite male babies. But they didn’t do that knowing that there was something much greater and stake here.
Their story and many others have enriched our understanding of just how gently or mightily the spirit of God can move through peoples lives in each and every generation and how redemption is possible and real. It is a good thing that each generation reads the Torah truths anew because our voices change and the context of our living changes, which adds immeasurable richness to the tapestry of God’s word.
Today we celebrate the Christian Festival of Pentecost. The church recalls this great story of when the breath of God, the wind, the Holy Spirit came rushing through the room where the apostles were gathered. Tongues of fire rested on their heads and they began to speak in other languages because the Spirit had given them such ability. They were powered by the Holy Spirit like a battery powers your computer or transistor radio!
Without the help of Rosetta Stone or Berlitz the apostles spoke in other languages and it wasn’t jibberish; they didn’t speak in glossalalia or in tongues. NO. They spoke in intelligible languages so that all of the tribes and people who were gathered at that time could understand what they were trying to say.
The Medes who happened to be in Jerusalem that day could understand the message because one of the disciples was speaking their native dialect of Persian. The Mesopotamian folks could understand the message because other disciples were speaking in Sumerian and Acadian. Each one unique voice was an individual expression of what they had witnessed about the life and death of Jesus Christ.
And although people thought they had been hitting the bottle a little too much, this was the way in which the Spirit of God expressed itself. You see, each apostle was given a voice, and each voice was heard and understood. They were, in effect, reading the Torah anew divinely sanctioned through the Holy Spirit.
Today we also celebrate Confirmation and the affirmation of faith that was expressed at baptism. What an exciting time for all of us on because we all have the opportunity to confirm and affirm once again the story of God’s love come down to us. These youth have certainly given voice to their faith; they’ve broken bread together several times, they’ve worked side by side and individually in service to God for the global community, the surrounding communities and the Orange Community.
Let me read a thank you from the Orange Community Services, “On behalf of the Town of Orange…I would like to thank Orange Congregational Church for the most generous donation….to the Community Assistance Food Pantry. I would also like to thank the Church Confirmation Class and their families for the numerous bags of….groceries donated to the Food Pantry. These thoughtful gifts are so greatly appreciated and will provide assistance to Orange residents. We are privileged to have you in our community,” signed Joan Cretella, the Director. Now that is making your voice for compassion and justice heard.
Let me tell you that these kids have voices! They were not afraid to talk (some incessantly)! We talked about silly things, about faith, about God, about the Holocaust and injustice. We talked about death and life and where God is in all that. They even got to sit in the God seat and be God and try to answer our questions. That conversation took on a life of it’s own. They found out that being God is not so easy and that everyone thinks that they are God.
And yet they believe. They believe that God created and creates and that God can and will always forgive them, no. matter. what. They believe that God accepts everyone completely for who they are and what may happen in life to them. They also know and believe that God doesn’t do everything for us that we have choice in every matter under heaven.
To the Confirmands.
Confirmands, the Holy Spirit is no small thing and neither is your faith. Each generation (YOU) reads the Torah anew-each generation gives voice to the awesome power of God. I believe the Spirit has grabbed each one of you and has taken up residence in your heart. You may not feel it or acknowledge it now, but you will perhaps when you least expect it. You now too add your unique voices to the harmony of witnesses and like the apostles of that first Pentecost you will go out and tell your story imbued with God’s story, just like the rest of us old timers.
So be at peace with yourself and know that you are right where you are supposed to be. So relax. Know also that OCC is a home for you. In the words that you will offer us later, ‘Settle down, it'll all be clear. Don't pay no mind to the demons, they fill you with fear….trouble it might drag you down, If you get lost, you can always be found. Just know you're not alone because OCC is your home.’