“All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages, as the Spirit gave them ability…each one heard them speaking in the native language of each.” (Acts 2:4, 6)
The Story of Pentecost is the thematic reversal of the Story of the tower of Babel from Genesis (11:1-9). In that story, we read that in building a tower to the heavens, the people of the earth have their language mixed up. They move from one language to many, from connection to confusion.
With the coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost this is undone, understanding is re-established.
However, if Pentecost is the reversal of Babel, why did it happen like this? Rather than the disciples speaking in different languages, why didn’t those of different languages begin understanding Greek, or Aramaic, or Hebrew, or whatever these Galileans spoke – a move from many languages back to one?
I think that this gives us insight into the Spirit of God. The Holy Spirit delights in, and is the source of variety and diversity. We see this in creation, we see this in the Church, and we see this in all the peoples of the world!
The Holy Spirit is connecting, drawing us together into one. However, one does not mean the same. Sadly, we have far too often forgotten this. As a culture and as a Church we have tried to make others the same, and not just the same, but like us – in our own image. We have not valued and delighted, as God values and delights, in our diversity. Of this we need to repent, casting off those ways of being.
This Pentecost, let us celebrate the Spirit, who connects us to one another in all our amazing diversity.
Thanks be to God!