It was a Carnival-like atmosphere. Celebration was in the air. It was just the day for multi-culturalism. People swarmed in from all over the place. Jerusalem, at the feast of Pentecost, was filled with people with strange foreign names from cities far off. As far as Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and Libya, Pontus and Asia. There were Parthians, Medes, Elamites, Cretans and Arabs, among the many others. While one may wish to question Luke’s geography, according to his known world this was indeed a representative gathering of “every nation under heaven”. There were young, old, rich, poor, men and women. The guest list would have included the immigrants, refugees and non-citizens, orphaned and widowed, the homeless and those on the margins. People were invited for the festival regardless of religion, race, gender, status or age. The human-made barriers that divided throughout the year were removed for the day of celebration.
The lonely little group of men and women, friends of Jesus “all together in one place” would never have imagined that the Spirit would grab hold of and lead them into the “dance of their lives”. This con-spiracy, (from con-spire i.e. with breath or breathing together) as one writer puts it, resulted in about three thousand of that crowd (including the lonely little group) having their lives radically transformed. One cannot read or hear the narrative without appreciating its radical inclusiveness. The wild, free, strange and wonderful wind-rush of the Spirit of God pulled down the barriers and evoked a variety and multi-ethnic group of people to begin “breathing together” and “fired up” for the adventure of their lives.
The varied bouquet of peoples with the orchestrated symphony of languages is not without significance. “God does not speak only one language” (Koyama). Here is the wind-rush God re-directing the Babel trajectory of homogenisation and the enforcing of a petrifying uniformity. With hurricane force wind and flaming tongues, God’s “YES” to the diversities of identity, taste, style, culture, ideology and vision is loud and clear. Indeed, “culture shapes the human voice that answers the voice of Christ” (WCC: 1973).
Our wind-rush God (initiator and moulder of communities) is not in the business of creating a community of one colour or one flavour. Diversity and multiculturalism should be received as a gift from God. Diversity in terms of accent, culture, race or ethnicity is not something to fear; it is something to appreciate about God. In God’s landscape all the colours are recognized and vibrant, enhancing each other, dull without the other, independent and interdependent. Cultural and other differences should not lock us into divided categories. For while the Spirit of the wind-rush God affirms the identity of each, She binds us together in a common community. We are more connected than we imagine. That’s good news then, now and always. You and I don’t have to pretend to be someone we are not, to be a part of the Christian community. We are already included in God’s landscape.
There is a kind of “dangerous restlessness” with our wind-rush God. God disrupts our ‘neat categories’ and de-envelopes or releases us to embrace new life and a new spirit. No matter how diverse and completely different we are from one another, within and beyond the household of God, the breath of our wind-rush God can empower us to “breathe together” so that we can speak in our own “languages” and understand each other. For, to speak the language that another uses (literally and figuratively) demands us to listen in love. When that can begin to happen then the wind would become a gust and the gust a storm and our diverse and colourful community would “catch afire” with dreams, visions, prophecy and new life.
Are we ready to be signs of God’s inclusive love across culture, race, class, gender, age and all other divides? Can we learn to embrace (not just talk about) a wider diversity of human experience in the Church? Our wind-rush God in Christ is waiting expectantly to power up a transforming storm in his House of Living Stones.
We are called forward to be the “ecstasy church” (from ek [out] and stasis [standing still or at rest]), that is, the community stepping out of stasis into something always becoming new – the ecstatic house of living stones. Hope is staring at us in the face if only we can notice her and her children and all the possibilities for new life! Breathe on us, O Wind-Rush Spirit of discernment.
©copyright jagessar 2007