Gay or straight, God speaks our languageBottom Highlights, Where's the Faith? Thursday, July 7th, 2011
Social Chaos: Where's the Faith?
A motivational speaker was lecturing in Latin America. He was going to be using a translator, so he decided to begin his talk by saying, “Good evening, ladies and gentleman” in Spanish, to connect with his audience.
He arrived at the auditorium a little early not knowing the Spanish words for ladies and gentlemen. Being rather resourceful, he went to the part of the building where the restrooms were located, looked at the signs on the two doors, and memorized those two words.
When the audience arrived and he was introduced, he stood up and said in Spanish, “Good evening, ladies and gentlemen.” The audience was shocked. The people seemed stunned. Finally, someone told him that he had said, “Good evening, bathrooms and broom closets!”
It pays to know the language of the people to whom you’re speaking. That’s one of the things that I love about the story of Pentecost (Acts 2).
“When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place. And suddenly from heaven there came a sound like the rush of a violent wind, and it filled the entire 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 languages as the Spirit gave them ability. Now there were staying in Jerusalem people from ‘every nation under heaven.’ When they heard this sound, a crowd gathered in bewilderment, because each one heard speaking in their own language.”
What an amazing event! There are two key points we can learn from this Pentecost.
First, our faith is a universal faith. People from differing nations understood the Gospel message. Why? Because the message of God’s inclusive love was meant for all nations and all peoples.
Like many people on Earth, we are somewhat ethnocentric, meaning we think everybody ought to be like us, look like us, talk like us and think like us. Sometimes that translates to our faith.
It shocks us when we realize that God is a universal God. Intellectually, we understand that it’s true, but at a more basic level we want a God who is very much like us. Surely God speaks English as His native tongue. Or does She speak Spanish? And we know that God has western values with light brown hair and blue eyes.
And then we meet a sister from Africa, or a brother from Asia, or Europe who has very different ideas about God, and it’s a little bit uncomfortable. We thought we had God in a box.
There are wonderful sisters and brothers in every nation in the world. Naturally, they see God and the world through the lens of their own culture and they think their way is best as well.
God is a universal god. God is the god of the Chinese and the Congolese, of the Iraqis and the Afghans, as well as the Canadians and the Americans. God is the god of the majority and the minority. God has no favorites.
What God favors is justice and righteousness and compassion and love – wherever those characteristics are found. What God is seeking is the day when all of the world’s people will know God’s love and God’s peace and will treat each other as brothers and sisters.
Second, God comes to us just as we are. People from these many nations heard the Gospel spoken directly to them in their own language. That is critically important.
Ron Mehl, Senior Pastor of the Beaverton Foursquare Church in Beaverton, Oregon, tells a story that speaks directly to this truth. After his children’s choir sang, Mehl learned that a certain little redheaded boy was in the audience that was deaf. As the concert progressed, the lad was at least mildly interested in watching the singing children but there was no message there for him.
Suddenly everything changed, says Mehl. The choir began to sing in this little guy’s language, signing the words with their hands as well as singing with their voices.
“The boy suddenly stood up in his seat. His eyes lit up, big as saucers. They were singing to him! He could hardly contain his joy. His little hands began to sing as he signed along with the choir.
“When the choir finished, that excited little redhead thought the evening had been planned just for him.” Mehl adds this comment, “And I believe in my heart that he was right.”
He was right. Whoever we are, God speaks our language. We don’t have to have a college degree to hear God speak to us. We don’t have to speak English. We don’t even have to speak or hear at all. God’s language is the language of the heart.
People are different. That’s the way God created us. Some of us are more emotional. Some of us are more intellectual. I’m convinced God speaks to engineers differently than God speaks to artists.
In worship, some people respond to scripture, others to the liturgy, and others to the music and even a few to the sermon. We are all different. The point is that God comes to us individually, as well as corporately. God speaks to us according to our needs. God comes to us where we are.
The gift of this text to marginal communities is the phrase in verse 11: “We hear them declaring the wonders of God in our own language!”
We all want to know the wonders of God in our own culture and context whether we are foreign nationals in the U.S. or LGBT people in heterosexual-dominant situations.
In the passage, the Spirit comes to a particular people in the upper room, but the good news is that it’s not confined to that closed-door experience. In God’s eyes, no person is unworthy. The Spirit includes everyone!
I believe there are people in this community who are waiting to hear the Gospel in a language they can understand. We need to translate God’s love into words and acts that no one can misunderstand – words like love, compassion, forgiveness and acceptance. Let’s do it. Rev. Dan Koeshall is the Senior Pastor at The Metropolitan Community Church (The Met) in San Diego, California, themetchurch.org.
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