A few years back, I had the opportunity to hear Naomi Tutu, daughter of Archbishop Desmond Tutu. To grow up in South Africa, under Apartheid in the 1980’s, was to live in a land of suspicion.
The law of apartheid divided the country into Black areas and White areas. People who lived in Black areas had to stop at Checkpoints and show papers to a soldier before they could continue. Naomi was a newly minted teen driver, the day she and her cousin were running an errand and came to a Checkpoint.
Frustrated and fuming at the delay and the system which created it, she happened to glance at the young white man checking her car out. She realized that he was terrified. At first she didn’t understand. “Why would he be afraid?” she wondered, “He was the one with the gun.”
Naomi knew herself to be a nice young woman who would never hurt anyone. But as she thought about it, she realized the story he was running in his mind about her, was entirely different. South Africa was in turmoil. She could be a terrorist. There could be a bomb in her car.
So she started a conversation with him. For a brief time, both came to know something of the other’s story. One small barrier broke down. For the teenaged Naomi, it was a revelation that barriers would only fall, if we learned to listen to one another.
Pentecost was a day of breaking barriers of language, culture, class and race. The Spirit of God was poured out on all who would receive this gift of grace. On Pentecost the Holy Spirit filled Jesus’ first followers with power to tell the Good news of God’s love for all people. Embracing people who look just like us and those who don’t . . . People who are amazingly, beautifully, different and perfectly made by our creator, into the very image of God.
There were at Pentecost, people who listened to the story of Jesus’ life, death and resurrection. On that day, each person heard in their native language.
In their listening was their salvation.
In their hearing was their joy.
“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. Divided tongues, as of fire, appeared among them, and a tongue rested 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 devout Jews from every people under heaven living in Jerusalem. And at this sound the crowd gathered and was bewildered, because each one heard them speaking in the native language of each.” Acts 2:1-6