Please forgive the formatting--I am too tired to fix it.
Two baptisms on Saturday/tonight, a passel of confirmations this morning—God is good! All the time! All the time, God is good!
but it wasn’t always easy
for a long time, people weren’t together like this
we Christians didn’t used to be able to gather without bloodshed
for a long time, peoples across the world didn’t understand each other
there’s people walking around all over the world who don’t understand each other’s languages now
do you know Russian? Gaelic? Chinese?
Me neither–I wouldn’t understand if someone came up to me right now
people walking around all over the world don’t understand English–hard to believe, I know...
and it was the same 2000 years ago
when that story from Acts took place
the people who were there didn’t speak Russian or Gaelic or Chinese
but they also didn’t necessarily speak the same language as each other
–they could get by on a little Greek or Latin
but these weren’t their native tongues
so they went about their business
going to school, running businesses, raising children
having no idea what another person was saying
having no idea how that other person thought
see, language isn’t just about words
we communicate with our bodies, with our actions, with our beliefs
language is about culture, about what we value
and it is so difficult to understand what someone else means
even if you do speak the same language
Sister let me be your servant, let me be as Christ to you
Pray that I may have the grace to let you be my servant too.
When I was a youth minister, we held a semi-regular Parents and Teens event
if there were ever two groups who didn’t understand what the other was saying, it’s these
the idea was to talk about the same questions but in separate groups
adults in one room, teens in another
and then come back together to share their thoughts
what are you afraid of that’s coming up soon? What do you wish your parent or teen knew about your life? How do you talk to your parent/teen?
what did we hear?
They don’t get it, why don’t you just ask us, how can I trust you?
From both groups
I’ve seen teens at their worst
I’ve seen them angry and sulking, I’ve seen them broken
I’ve been them, not so long ago
in the middle of a fight, in the middle of heart-wrenching sorrow
where is the Holy Spirit? Who can understand this pain?
We went into those parents and teens events not understanding the other
not hearing what she had to say, not speaking the same language
and if there are ever groups of people who feel alone and isolated
because no one understands, it’s teens and parents
but this is almost a small problem in our world now
our history is one of violence and misunderstanding
The writer of Acts says
the Spirit is like the sound of a “rush of violent wind”
Our God is like a violent wind
and we have taken that violence to heart
few of us in this room speak Arabic or even fluent Mexican Spanish
How can we peacefully resolve the wars
in Iraq and Afghanistan
or the controversy over Mexican immigration
when we can’t communicate with one other?
we don’t understand, we don’t speak the same language
few of us in this room would look on
while a young woman was beaten in front of us
or would we?
Three years ago, a young Iraqi woman named Dua Khalil
was beaten to death by members of her family
and members of a crowd of onlookers
several men looked on
and captured the moment on their phones
the police in the area just watched
this was an “honor killing”
the men in Dua’s family thought
she had brought dishonor on them
and so they killed her brutally
and this kind of thing happens all the time, around the world
even here in the US
women are beaten and abused the world over
because they are seen as
as artist and critic Joss Whedon writes
“weak, manipulative, morally unfinished, and expendable”
how alone was Dua? Who could give her help?
Whose hand was stretched out to offer her life?
Who was speaking to her in a language she could understand?
Where was the Holy Spirit in that moment?
In the middle of this beating,
in the middle of heart-wrenching sorrow,
where was the Holy Spirit?
Who can understand the language of this pain?
Who among us has never felt alone?
Who among us has never felt rejected?
Who among us has never inflicted pain?
WE can understand this language, WE can reach out and understand the other
This is what (you/our students) are confirming today:
I will hold the Christ-light for you in the nighttime of your fear,
I will hold my hand out to you, speak the peace you long to hear.
the Apostles, the book of Acts says, were “all together in one place”
not moping or sulking in their own houses
or refusing to have anything to do with each other
out of pride for their homeland or tradition
no, the apostles were “all together in one place”
Mourning the loss of Jesus who’d ascended? Hanging out?
They were together when the Holy Spirit came to them
and they heard the word of God in their own languages...
They were alone no longer–there was another person who understood
There was another person who knew where they were coming from
There was another person who knew their sorrow and their pain
and who had a word of comfort
and after the mountain-top experience of the tongues of fire and all
Peter told them the Good News of Christ
in their own languages, they heard of the Apostles’ passion and connectedness
and they say 3,000 people were baptized that day
3,000 people heard the Word of God
and were moved to commit themselves to God
and each other in baptism
who can understand the language of our pain? God can
God’s Holy Spirit was there that day
the Spirit moved in those Apostles and in that crowd
the Spirit touched each person in the midst of their pain
in that moment of heart-wrenching sorrow or of overwhelming joy
or of apathy or of exhaustion or of disconnectedness or of doubt or of love
the Spirit touched each person and drew them together
“they were all together in one place”
that connection is what we’re about
that commitment, that understanding, that belonging
we are not alone
there is a moment of clarity, a moment of connection
when you understand another person’s point
another’s frustration or joy
there are people in the world who are refusing to be weak, manipulated, or expendable
There are women who will stand up when Dua Khalil could not
They are about connection, understanding, persistence, the surprise of the Spirit
Where the Dua’s of the world are asking “why?”
Other women are saying, “take my hand”
And those conversations between parents and teens yielded fruit
Those folk were having some great conversations together
half of the parents in those conversations we started
called or emailed the church office to say
they’d had some of their best conversations ever
with their teens
They’re listening to one another
recognizing that they do speak different languages
and that they’re in this together
I wonder if (you/our confirmands) have had the same experience?
Of speaking different languages than your folks
and of trying to learn that other language?
If not, give it a try
—it’s hard to believe, but your parents aren’t that dumb
—nor are your teenagers, parents
“we’re all together in one place”
you are not alone, someone understands, someone hurts with you
and we are not meant to be alone
we are meant to share this love, this connection we have with the world
when Jesus said “Go make disciples” it was not a suggestion
but a commission
and it was not for the sake of numbers but for the sake of relationship
we will not survive without each other
here is your challenge: find someone this week who you don’t understand
someone you don’t think you could ever understand
or someone you don’t think could ever understand you
find someone who speaks a different language
verbal, physical, cultural
and get to know them
learn their language, learn how to talk to them, learn why they
speak/act/exist the way they do
show this person that they are not alone simply by knowing them
show this person the Holy Spirit
written in every word you speak and in every line of your face
and (last night I told) little _________ and _________, you are not alone–
today you join the great cloud of witnesses, the Body of Christ
when you feel that water on your skin, remember that you have been reborn
remember that you have a higher purpose
remember that you are loved
I will weep when you are weeping, when you laugh I’ll laugh with you.
I will share your joy and sorrow till we’ve seen this journey through.