June 9, 2019

2019 June9_PentecostKids

Pentecost Sunday - Year C

Two Sermons Preached by The Rev. Ian M. Delinger

 

The 10am Version  

 

Today is the Feast of
Pentecost, and not only is it
Pentecost, but coincidentally – or
by the power of the Holy Spirit –
it is
National Children’s Day.

 

The Day was established by Reverend Dr. Charles Leonard of the Universalist Church of the Redeemer in Chelsea, Massachusetts in 1856. Originally, the day was for baptizing children. Then in 1995, President Bill Clinton proclaimed National Children’s Day as October 8, followed by President George W. Bush declaring the first Sunday in June as National Child’s Day. Now, National Children’s Day is generally celebrated on the second Sunday in June or October 8.

 

Pentecost is the Sunday we celebrate the Church receiving the Holy Spirit, commissioned to spread the Good News of Jesus Christ. It is commonly referred to as the Birthday of the Church. At St Stephen’s, we honor our children on Pentecost, and the Pentecost Pageant is in its 3rd year. A young women named Amanda Thayer wrote the skit for St Stephen’s. The Pentecost Pageant illustrates that the commission the Apostles received on the Day of Pentecost is still alive for us today. It is the same message that was prophesied by Joel and repeated by Peter:

 

When the Lord comes, it will be a great and glorious day.
“Then everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.”

 

What the children also illustrated is that this great and glorious day that is to come will not be an English-only event, and those who will be saved will not just be native English speakers. I’m just going to say it now for anyone who might believe the contrary: the Bible was not written in English, and Jesus didn’t know English. The language of Jesus and the Apostles was ancient Hebrew and Aramaic. Jesus and the Apostles were Middle-Eastern Jews.


The many languages represent 2 things: The universality of the message of Jesus Christ, and the empowerment of the Apostles, of Christians, of us by the Holy Spirit. Everyone can now hear the Good News of Jesus Christ, for in Jesus, there are no barriers of any sort. It also means that we are to listen to those whose speech, whose views, whose cultures are not like our own. And with Peter’s recitation of Joel, perhaps we are to first turn to our children, who will prophesy and see visions, for their interpretations of how we are to share the Good News of the Day of Lord’s Coming and how we can be saved.

 

Pointing out that the language of the Bible was not English and that the language of the characters of the Bible was not English is an important reminder to us who speak the most spoken language in the world. We have a tendency to be dismissive of the thoughts and ideas of those who speak other languages and who have accents, and we have a tendency to be dismissive of the thoughts and ideas of those who are “young”, an age that seems to increase in years with the age of the person speaking about the “young”. But, we need to be reminded that the greatest ideas of this world have not, do not, and will continue to not always come from the English-speaking world, and that wisdom is not a trait reserved for the age’d.

 

If we listen to what is spoken to us by those whom we would otherwise dismiss as not being influential, perhaps we ourselves might be empowered by the Holy Spirit to better understand our role in the Day of the Lord’s Coming. And today, since it is National Children’s Day and we are honoring our children, I suggest that we turn to the younger generations, both inside and outside of this building, in order to hear what the Spirit is saying to the Church: listen to the wisdom of our sons and daughters who prophesy and see visions of how to make a better world.

 

Allow me to share one example. In October 2012, a 15yo Pakistani girl spoke out publicly for the right of girls to learn and to go to school. On her way home from school, a masked gunman boarded her school bus and shot her in the head. 10 days later, Malala Yousafzai woke up in a hospital in Birmingham, England with millions of people around the world praying for her recovery. Miraculously, she survived and has recovered physically. Shortly after recovery, Malala began her campaign, not to serve herself, but for the right for girls to receive the same education as boys around the world. For her bravery and her work, she was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2014 at the age of 17.

 

Malala writes on her website:

 

Now I am studying Philosophy, Politics and Economics at the University of Oxford. And every day I fight to ensure all girls receive 12 years of free, safe, quality education. I travel to many countries to meet girls fighting poverty, wars, child marriage and gender discrimination to go to school. Malala Fund is working so that their stories, like mine, can be heard around the world. We invest in developing country educators and activists. And we hold leaders accountable for their promises to girls.


In addition to the Nobel Peace Prize, Malala has won a list of awards that fills an entire page, and she is only 21yo. The awards include the youngest ever United Nations Messenger of Peace. Why wouldn’t we listen to her as we endeavor to share the Good News and the Peace of Christ?

 

The children to whom we listen need not be famous. They do not need to have overcome adversity. They can be the very children in our midst. Isabelle Preston and Chris Baldwin-Grainger regularly write for The Witness, sharing their understanding of the Good News. Perhaps we should speak with them more often, and in person.

 

The Speaking in Tongues Event on the Day of Pentecost should compel us to spread the Good News of Jesus Christ, but it should also compel us to listen to one other; hear differences of thought, belief and opinion, listen to those who prophesy and see visions of a better future. When we do, we can better hear others speaking about God’s deeds of power and discover how expansive God’s deeds of power are – that those deeds span the globe, and aren’t always generated in the United States by middle-aged English-speakers.

 

And in particular, if we want to fully understand God’s deeds of power revealed in the prophesies and in the visions, they will never be more clear than if we listen to the tongues of our children.

 

 The 8am Version

 

Today is the Feast of Pentecost, once commonly known in Anglican circles as Whitsunday. It is the feast on which we celebrate the descent of the Holy Spirit upon the Apostles 50 days after The Resurrection. It is the second greatest festival in the Church after Easter. I know, I know. Most people think Christmas is the most holy day of the year, but that’s because we’ve added pagan and cultish practices around Christmas since the reign of Queen Victoria, and now we have commercialized it. Easter is where our faith is grounded; Pentecost is when we are commissioned to live out our faith in the world. The word “Whitsunday” comes from the white robes worn by the newly baptized on Pentecost, if they had not been baptized at the Easter Vigil. So, it’s all upholding the traditions of the Early Church and the continuation of the lives of the Apostles.

 

The 10am Children’s Pentecost Pageant illustrates that the commission that the Apostles received on the Day of Pentecost is still alive for us today. It is the same message that was prophesied by Joel and repeated by Peter:

 

When the Lord comes, it will be a great and glorious day.
“Then everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.”

 

What the children [will] also illustrate[d] is that this great and glorious day that is to come will not be an English-only event, and those who will be saved will not just be native English speakers. I’m just going to say it now for anyone who might believe the contrary: the Bible was not written in English, and Jesus didn’t know English. The language of Jesus and the Apostles was ancient Hebrew and Aramaic. Jesus and the Apostles were Middle-Eastern Jews.

 

The many languages represent 2 things: The universality of the message of Jesus Christ, and the empowerment of the Apostles, of Christians, of us by the Holy Spirit. Speaking in tongues, or glossolalia, is ecstatic speech, which is usually understood to be a switch from conscious control to subconscious of one’s speech, believed to be a sign of the receiving of the Holy Spirit. Glossolalia was supposedly common in New Testament times, but not universally accepted as a Gift of the Spirit or of value by all, including Jesus and Paul. Throughout the Bible, the instances of Glossolalia are both sparse and inconsistent, but are associated with prophecy. And in the Early Church, there is no hint of the practice of glossolalia in any other Christian texts before the mid-2C. In the 5C, Augustine regarded Glossolalia as “a special dispensation of the primitive church which is no longer of pertinence”. Modern scholarship on Glossolalia is also not in full agreement, whether inside or outside the Church. Yet, despite Augustine’s protestations, Glossolalia is an element of many religious revivals, and is a key feature in Pentecostalism and the Charismatic Renewal Movement.

 

But let’s look at the speaking in tongues on the Day of Pentecost in a different way. Perhaps a more pertinent message for us from this text would be that we are to listen to those whose speech, whose views, whose cultures are not like our own. And with Peter’s recitation of Joel, perhaps we are to first turn to our children, who will prophesy and see visions, for their interpretations of how we are to share the Good News of the Day of Lord’s Coming and how we can be saved.

 

Pointing out that the language of the Bible was not English and that the language of the characters of the Bible was not English is an important reminder to us who speak the most spoken language in the world. We have a tendency to take for granted that how something is expressed in English, and in the formal English or our own respective generations, has the most validity or currency. Yet, lovers of literature and of languages know that thoughts and ideas can be more beautifully expressed in one’s native tongue, and the greatest ideas of this world have not, do not, and will continue to not always come from the English-speaking world.

 

The Glossolalia of Pentecost sets the scene for the rest of the activities of the Apostles in the Books Acts, who are undisputedly the prophetic successors of Jesus. Once filled with the same Holy Spirit that Jesus was, they enacted similar signs and wonders among the people – not insisting on this work being done in a common language. In Acts, Glossolalia is an unambiguous symbol of the Spirit’s presence and a sign of the mission’s success. The Glossolalia of Pentecost enabled the Good News to be shared among more peoples, and now, to all people today.

 

So, if we listen to what is spoken to us by those whom we would otherwise dismiss as not being influential, perhaps we ourselves might be empowered by the Holy Spirit to better understand our role in the Day of the Lord’s Coming. And today, since we are honoring our children, I suggest that we turn to the younger generations, both inside and outside of this building, in order to hear what the Spirit is saying to the Church.

 

Today also just happens to be National Children’s Day.

 

Pentecost tells us that we should
listen to the wisdom of our sons
and daughters who prophesy
and see visions of how to make a
better world.

 

Allow me to share one example. In October 2012, a 15yo Pakistani girl spoke out publicly for the right of girls to learn and to go to school. On her way home from school, a masked gunman boarded her school bus and shot her in the head. 10 days later, Malala Yousafzai woke up in a hospital in Birmingham, England with millions of people around the world praying for her recovery. Miraculously, she survived and has recovered physically. Shortly after recovery, Malala began her campaign, not to serve herself, but for the right for girls to receive the same education as boys around the world. For her bravery and her work, she was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2014 at the age of 17.

 

Malala writes on her website:

 

Now I am studying Philosophy, Politics and Economics at the University of Oxford. And every day I fight to ensure all girls receive 12 years of free, safe, quality education. I travel to many countries to meet girls fighting poverty, wars, child marriage and gender discrimination to go to school. Malala Fund is working so that their stories, like mine, can be heard around the world. We invest in developing country educators and activists. And we hold leaders accountable for their promises to girls.


In addition to the Nobel Peace Prize, Malala has won a list of awards that fills an entire page, and she is only 21yo. The awards include 2017: Youngest ever United Nations Messenger of Peace. Why wouldn’t we listen to her as we endeavor to share the Good News and the Peace of Christ?

 

The children to whom we listen need not be famous. They do not need to have overcome adversity. They can be the very children in our midst. Isabelle Preston and Chris Baldwin-Grainger regularly write for The Witness, sharing their understanding of the Good News. Perhaps we should speak with them more often, and in person.

 

Even though the history of Speaking in Tongues is dubious, we can learn from the Glossolalia Event on the Day of Pentecost. We need to listen to one other; hear differences of thought, belief and opinion, listen to those who prophesy and see visions of a better future. When we do, we can better hear others speaking about God’s deeds of power in ways that we would normally fail to do. And in particular, if we want to fully understand God’s deeds of power revealed in the prophesies and in the visions, they will never be more clear than if we listen to the tongues of our children.

© 2019 St. Stephen's Episcopal Church
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