The Day of PENTECOST
The Very Reverend Torey Lightcap, Dean

Acts 2:1-21
Romans 8:22-27
John 15:26-27; 16:4b-15

 

 

 

On an afternoon in the late autumn, a boy of eight climbed into his grandfather’s lap.
He man held his only grandchild close, so close they could feel one another’s breath.
After a while, the boy said,
“Grandpa, why do people all around the world speak so many different languages?”
The man had to pause for a minute – enough to remember something important.

He said, “A very long time ago, there was a great flood across the whole earth.
Not that many people survived that flood – really, just one family –
But those who did survive it all settled in one place, and had one language, and one identity,
And they wanted to build a monument to themselves,
Because they’d got to thinking they could do any little thing they put their minds to.

“So they decided to construct a tower, with a top that was so high up,
It would scrape at the floor of heaven.
And they worked hard, and made a good start – for a while, it looked like it really might happen!

“And the word spread about this tower,
Until one day an angel whispered about it into the ear of God.
And God thought maybe all those people had gotten too big for their britches.
So God took a landing party to earth, and they looked around;
And God saw that tower with its top reaching to heaven, and God wasn’t happy about it,
And God said, ‘Let’s confuse their language, and let’s scatter them all over the planet.’
And that’s just what happened.
No one understood anything that anyone else was saying,
And it became impossible to get anything done,
And they threw down their tools, and they walked away from each other.

“And that is why people all around the world speak so many different languages.”

A moment’s silence. Ten feet away, warmed by the fire, an ancient yellow dog snored to himself.
The boy took it all in.
“Grandpa,” he said, “what did those people do to deserve punishment?”
The man thought. He said, “Well, they tried to be God, and you can’t do that –
No matter how you try, or how lofty your thoughts are, or how good a person you are,
You can’t be God.”
The boy thought again. “Why?”

“You can’t be God because only God is God. Not you.
To me that’s always been the point of that story. And, ––
Believe it or not, when you get to be my age you may find that to be a source of great comfort.”
The boy whispered, almost to himself: “Ohh.”
He fell silent, back into the surety of his grandfather’s arms.

After a few moments, the boy raised his head again.
“Grandpa, if God is God and I’m not,
Then why do I feel God inside me so much every time I pray?”
“Inside you?”
“Here,” the boy said, pointing to his chest. “Getting big, like a balloon.”

A mix of pride and humility hung in the creases around the man’s eyes.
He said, “You feel it when you know God is near, so near it’s even closer than breathing.
That is the spirit of God that’s always with you, filling you up.
And if it’s always with you, that good place inside you can be big like a balloon all the time.”

The boy placed a warm hand on the man’s shoulder.
A mantle clock ticked away the seconds.
The tang of cinnamon hung on the air.

“I like it when God gets big like a balloon,
‘Cause that’s when I know I’m loved.”

“You are loved,” said the man.
“And I can tell you another way to know.”

“Okay, but I’m a little tired.”
“You just stay right there and I’ll tell you the story.”

“Remember the people who got confused because they couldn’t understand each other,
And they had to stop building that tower?
Well, like I said, they wandered all over the world.
And they settled all over the world.
They had their own languages, and it was okay.
They got along, but it was mostly just with themselves.
They didn’t mix too much with people whose language they couldn’t understand.

“But. After many long years apart, there was someone who changed everything. Jesus.”

“Uh-HUH,” said the boy, suppressing a little yawn.
“But Grandpa, I already know this part of the story.”

“You might think so, but listen to this.
Everywhere he went, Jesus told the people that they had to get together;
They had to deal with how different they were from one another;
They had to agree that God needed more of them than just whoever they were on their own.

“And after Jesus died –”
“I know, Grandpa – he died and God brought him back to life again.”
“Right. After that, he gave all those different people something really important.”
“Like a present?”
“Right. A present.
He gave them the Holy Spirit, and the gift of the church.”

At the mention of the Holy Spirit, the boy put his hand on his chest.
It moved up and down with the working of his breaths. The balloon.

The boy said, “And he gave them ‘the church’? He gave them a building?”

“No. He gave them something a lot more incredible than a building.
He gave them each other.
And you know, when Jesus did all that, a couple of incredible things happened.
The first thing was that there were flames in the room hovering over each person.
The second thing was that even though they all spoke different languages,
They were able to understand each other.”

“Is that like how you said that Jesus gave them to each other?”
“I guess so.”
“And is that like how you said he gave them the church?”
“I guess so.”
“… And did they have to have each other and help each other out?”
“Yes.”
“But what if they didn’t like each other?”
“I’m not sure it matters, as long as they loved each other.
I guess it’s like those people with that tower –
All together in one place, one identity, only one reason to be on this earth at this time.”

“But Grandpa, instead of being punished, they got gifts!
That’s the opposite.”

And that was true. It truly was the opposite.
Some terrible ancient curse was lifted when the Spirit descended that day,
Purifying minds with tongues of fire, and cleansing tongues to speak God’s truth,
And be heard, and understood.

The old man breathed. The little boy breathed.
“I love you very much,” the man said.
“Love you too,” his only grandchild said.
And they fell in together, and napped.