The Language of Spirit
In preparing for the Pentecost season, I found Acts 2 was striking a different chord in me this year. Usually, when I have imagined the descriptors of the “blowing of the violent wind” and “tongues of fire,” which allows the disciples to “speak” so that all could hear and understand in their “own language,” I have connected to the excitement of this event. But this year…surprisingly…, I noticed the connection I was making was one of exhaustion.
Leaning into curiosity, I examined why exhaustion was the feeling and word rising in me when considering the Pentecost event. I realized my reaction was due to how I interpreted the actions of “speaking” and “hearing” in the scripture text.
Dear friends, I am sure it will not be news to you to hear there is great anxiety in the Church.
The anxiety present and experienced in the local church, and all levels of the church, are a microcosm of the anxiety in the world—the general themes of anxiety center around not having enough and not being enough.
And the result is so much speaking. So many words. Words. Words.
Everywhere we go, we encounter people filling spaces with so many words. And I realize the irony of saying this as I am typing more words for you to read and consider, but please stay with me in my train of thought here.
Words on every topic, thought, feeling, and opinion. People clamoring to make sure their words are seen and heard. Sometimes the urgency of words, the thoughtlessness, and the harmfulness of words feel like a “violent wind” and a “fire” that cannot be contained, which often leaves us exhausted trying to hear it all, process it all, and respond to it all.
So, when I imagined the cacophony of the Pentecost experience of so many people speaking and hearing, I imagined the chaos I feel daily in the oversaturation of language. Yet, the mistake is imagining what people heard in their language was a discourse of well-constructed, systematic theology. When honestly, I doubt what the disciples were sharing on that day were orderly and rational reasons why people should accept the doctrines of the Christian faith that were emerging at that moment.
Instead, I suspect that the disciples were sharing their own experiences of feeling a sense of peace, a sense of enough, about the world and who they were in the presence of Christ. While many languages were spoken that day, the common language was the Spirit language of belonging, inclusion, and love.
Spirit language is more than words; it is about how people feel in our presence. Consider how you communicate belonging, inclusion and love with a baby that has yet to develop verbal skills. With a baby, you would probably communicate more with smiles, tiny waves, and funny faces than words. In seeing a baby, you would be instantly open to expressing belonging, inclusion, and love to that little one. We often have an openness with little ones we don’t have with others.
Spirit language is about such openness, and it is about being open rather than being closed off. It is an energy we carry and a conscious choice of how we will move in and through the world. The language of the Spirit starts with intentionally having an openness, curiosity, wonder, and appreciation for all of God’s beloved creations and created ones.
This language, the language of the Spirit, desperately needs to be heard, felt, and experienced in a world filled with such strife, bitterness, and pain. And this is why the church's work, presence, and power are needed more than ever. In this season of Pentecost, may we speak the language of the Spirit with a message so all may hear and experience that they are loved, they are enough, and they belong to the One who gave us the gift of the Spirit itself.
Rev. Shana Johnson, ISC Conference Minister