We Have Voice!

Kenora                        Pentecost Sunday

Year A – 31 May 2020

Acts 2:1-21

Psalm 104:25-35, 27

1 Corinthians 12:3b-13

John 20:19-23

God of wind and flame, send your life-giving Spirit upon your people: give fire to our words, strength to our witness and boldness to our proclamation of your wondrous work in Christ; who, with you and the Spirit, lives and reigns now and for ever. Amen.

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I’ve been thinking, a lot this week, about what it means to have a voice.

Now, except in areas of disability, we all have voices, but the question then is: How do we make use of them?

And this question covers a lot of territory.

After all, if one group wishes to suppress another, they simply deny them “voice.” They deny them the opportunity to speak, and if they do try to speak, to express themselves, then they’re simply shunned, ignored, or these days subject to unwarranted violence.

We’ve seen this throughout history.

We’ve seen this across generations, and we are able to find instances, still today, when this is attempted between disparate groups. Times when segments of our global population have been, or continue to be, ignored or drowned out because others have felt that the ones striving to speak don’t deserve to be heard.

At conventions and formal gatherings one of the earliest motions that is passed, or at least considered is offering honoured guests “voice and/or vote.”

And the reason I’ve been pondering each one of us and our use of voice (as the lyric of Simon and Garfunkel’s “Sounds of Silence” run through my mind) is that today we celebrate Pentecost.

Today, we celebrate the dramatic arrival of the Holy Spirit, the Advocate, the Paraclete who intercedes between us and heaven, the throne of God and then enables our voices to share out the marvelous message of God’s love, of Jesus’ teachings.

We celebrate the arrival of the one Jesus promised, as Jesus ascended to heaven to sit at the right hand of God.

And what we know, then is that the Holy Spirit gives us the words to proclaim of how God’s love, of Jesus teachings, not just in the bible, but every day in our lives, and in our world.

What we know, then, is that the Holy Spirit guides each one of us, who believes, and this is equally as wonderous a miracle as the arrival of the Holy Spirit in the first place.

But the question we started from is how do we use our voices?

I’ve said, in the past, that I’m not a fan of public speaking, and yet, here I am, speaking to you, publicly, on a regular basis. A task, interestingly enough is more difficult because you’re on the other side of your screens, and I cannot see your faces, or read your body language.

But it wasn’t a gift of the Holy Spirit that I was able to fully embrace until I realized I had, that I have things to say.

It wasn’t until then that I “came into my voice”. It wasn’t until then that my voice got stronger, as did my sense of vocation / call “as a called and ordained minister of the church of Christ.” (EvLW pg. 96)

So, we’re told, today that “When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place. Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. … All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them.

Now there were staying in Jerusalem God-fearing Jews from every nation under heaven. When they heard this sound, a crowd came together in bewilderment, because each one heard their own language being spoken. …

13 Some, however, made fun of them and said, “They have had too much wine.”” (Acts 2:1-2, 4-6, 13)

So, isn’t interesting, here, that in the midst of the miracle that is wrought by God, in the midst of people suddenly discovering not only that they have voice, but languages, as well, that some people choose to deride it, put it down, and dismiss it easily, because “these are Galileans?” (Acts 2:7)

And we can see that there’s a lot going on in these verses.

For those gathered together since Jesus ascended, and wondering what this promised advocate will be like, I’m sure the pre-Holy Spirit conversation was focused on what to do now that Jesus had ascended to heaven?

After all, Jesus was the one who was out there teaching, and healing. Jesus was the one encouraging all to follow the love of God, fulfilling the letter of the law.

And Jesus was the one who was fulfilling what was written about the Christ, the Messiah, in the words of the prophets.

Sure, they’ve had a week, or so, where they went out into the world, in pairs, healing people, casting out demons and proclaiming the nearness of the kingdom of God to all who had ears to hear them.

But that was then, wasn’t it? and Jesus was still with them, teaching them, guiding them every step of the way?

Right?

So, now the conversation may have been on what to do next? What are the practical steps, how do they avoid being crucified, and what are they going to do about requests for healing, or for casting out of demons?

So, maybe, as an idea, they decided to open a little café and call it “Loaves and Fishes”?

I don’t think any of the believers who were gathered in that upper room saw themselves as being able to follow in Jesus footsteps. After all, those are some pretty phenomenal footsteps.

They probably didn’t see themselves picking up Jesus’ mantle and running with it, so now they need to find something else, some other way where, if people ask, sure one could admit to being a disciple of Jesus’ and share the love and teachings of Jesus with them, but since Good Friday, or since the Resurrection, or since Jesus’ Ascended, well, we cant do that, right?

So, a little café might just be the ticket…

But then the Holy Spirit arrives on the scene and in an instant, changes absolutely everything!

Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them.” (Acts 2:2-4)

The Holy Spirit brings the gift of many languages! It brings the gift of voice to those who considered themselves to be voiceless, powerless, and afraid.

13 Some, however, made fun of them and said, “They have had too much wine.” 14 Then Peter stood up with the Eleven, raised his voice and addressed the crowd: “Fellow Jews and all of you who live in Jerusalem, let me explain this to you; listen carefully to what I say. 15 These people are not drunk, as you suppose. It’s only nine in the morning! 16 No, this is what was spoken by the prophet Joel: … 21 And everyone who calls
    on the name of the Lord will be saved.’” (Acts 2:13-16, 21)

Peter stands up! Peter defends those who are experiencing this twist by the Holy Spirit, the gift of communicating in different languages about the love of God for all of creation.

Peter is urged by the Holy Spirit and he doesn’t back down from those who would diminish this miracle, who would brush it aside as intoxication.

Rather Peter, through the gifts of the Holy Spirit, thru his newly empowered voice, instead empowers people to hear what is being said.

He empowers those who now have words to say, and he empowers the love of God that is flowing throughout the world, still today.

So, I find a conversation about one’s voice is interesting, given the age we live in where today’s younger generation prefers texting and emailing to having a conversation.

But our individual voices are still tremendously important parts of our lives and of our lives of faith, today.

So, what is it, do you think, that our voices, the voices of those first touched by the Holy Spirit that really conveys all that the Trinity is looking for?

I’m reminded of Olaf, the snowman in Frozen II who when asked, by Anna: “What’s that thing you say, Olaf?” And he says: ”Oh, my theory about advancing technologies as both our saviour and our doom?” Its not what she was asking but it was the first of Olaf’s ‘sayings’ to come to his mind, and I think he’s right!

When we text or email, all that’s before us are the words. There’s no intonation, there’s no vocal inflection, and really it could be a recipe for noodle soup, instead of the secret of the universe that we are all beloved by the one who created it all.

But when we speak, when we read aloud, when we open our mouths and the message of God’s love and of our lives of faith come spilling out, then our conviction in those messages is also apparent to all who hear the words, see our faces, our gestures, our conviction that we speak, proclaim, pronounce the truth.

Really, we could just invite people to read the passages for a given day, silently, to themselves, but there’s no life in that method. The early Christians would read the gospels aloud. They’d read the letters of Paul in their gatherings, and those of the other apostles and disciples whose efforts compiled what we consider to be the new testament, today.

Texting and emailing are fine, but really, communication, communication from heart to heart, needs the voice, and we need to remember the strength of this tool.

During Jesus triumphal entry, when the people were getting boisterous their proclamation of Jesus as the King of the Jews, “39 Some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to Jesus, “Teacher, rebuke your disciples!”

40 “I tell you,” he replied, “if they keep quiet, the stones will cry out.”” (Lk 19:39-40)

We have voice!

Amen.

About pastorrebeccagraham

A Lutheran minister serving an Anglican parish in Northern Ontario.
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