May 14, 2013

Do You Hear What I Hear?

Filed under: Financial Commitment,Lectionary — by Lisa Meeder Turnbull @ 1:00 am

No matter how many times I experience the practice of reading the Day of Pentecost passage from Acts in many languages simultaneously, I never get used to it.

The second voice takes me by surprise.

The third voice unsettles me.

And as the cacophonous chatter builds, I ride an arc of feelings from surprise, through anxiety, and finally to a place not of hearing words and languages, but of knowing the presence of the Holy Spirit in the rush of it all.

However, in my close reading of this familiar passage over the past week, I was struck not by the many languages that the apostles were given to speak, but by the writer’s emphasis on the crowd’s ability to hear. Listen to their reaction:

Are not all these who are speaking Galileans?

And how is it that we hear, each of us, in our own native language?

In our own languages we hear them speaking about God’s deeds of power.

In this reading, the crowd seems to assume not that the apostles were speaking in many languages, but that somehow a common language was being heard by each person in a way that he or she could receive.

That shift in emphasis, that change in perspective, is powerful. It raises some very exciting possibilities for me as one who strives to live fully into a life of stewardship.

My first reaction is to jump back to our reading from Genesis.

I realize, of course, that in this passage from Genesis the Lord was speaking to a very different situation. But for me as a post-Acts Christian, if you will, I take great hope from the notion that nothing we propose to do will be impossible if we are able to understand one another.

Note that the focus here, as in Acts, is not on speaking, but on hearing. We don’t actually have to speak the same language; our strength comes from the much harder work of hearing one another. If we can manage that, we can achieve anything.

The second thing that excites me about this emphasis on hearing of God’s deeds of power in my own language is recognizing that this moment of Pentecost is something that any one of us can experience firsthand, at any time. It is not confined to a moment in the history of the early church, nor to a single Sunday in the liturgical year.

Sometimes we experience it in those “big moments” of hearing the Holy Spirit and knowing how we are called to be God’s people in the world. Perhaps more often we feel the Holy Spirit moving in those little, every-day moments as we live into our baptismal covenant, seeking and serving Christ in others and loving our neighbors as ourselves.

This Spirit-led way of life is precisely what we mean by “stewardship,” defined broadly as “all that we do, with all that we have.”

When we understand ourselves to be stewards of all our many kinds of abundance, we grow into the truth that we are, first and foremost, stewards of the Gospel. Before we talk about time and talent, and certainly before we bring money into the conversation, we are called to be stewards of the Good News of God in Christ.

We are stewards of the hopes, and dreams, and prayers of our brothers and sisters in Christ, called to minister not just to one another, but to those beyond our walls, beyond our borders, even beyond our understanding. The church budget is but one of the ways we express this common ministry. It is a living document of our faith. It expresses our values; it explains how we will act out our commitment to live as stewards of the Gospel.

Take a fresh look at the church budget as a source of insight into who we are and what we do, a source of hearing the word of the Lord in action through worship, program, and outreach. Think about the invitation to support that budget as a Pentecost moment—a moment when the Holy Spirit moves through you and among you, inspiring you to give generously and joyfully.

Nothing we propose to do will be impossible if we understand one another, and hear the Holy Spirit at work in our midst.



1 Comment »

  1. Your writing always is an inspiration to me. You put abstract ideas into words in a way that we all can “hear” the good news.

    Comment by Joline Frazier — May 14, 2013 @ 8:17 am |Reply

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