The gospel is polyphonic!

Chapter 24/2020

Good Monday Morning to this week 23 of 2020

The image of God at Pentecost is multilingual, multicultural and multiethnic, not for a politically correct agenda, but because the gospel demands it. The gospel is polyphonic!

… I rediscovered the blues these past weeks …. speaking about guitars being polyphonic!

I’ll mostly quote from Luke A. Powery out of a sermon he held not too long ago. His speech has immense meaning.

Pentecost is the human experience of the first fruits of the Spirit. Worship has become informal, and ethnic diversity in congregations is on the rise. The present state of the changing church would have been more welcoming to B.B. King, the “King of the Blues.” In his early days, there was tension between blues music and the Pentecostal church. Some viewed the blues as the devil’s music and believed it had no place in the church. The church was a religious gatekeeper of who’s in and who’s out, but what Pentecost reveals is that that which is different or foreign may actually be the gift we need. Pentecost has many meanings, but at the core of its meanings is the idea of a gift.

Pentecost suggests that the ground of our spiritual life is fundamentally a divine gift. The coming of the Spirit is a gift, and all we can do, like the disciples, is wait for it (Acts 1:4), wait for the promise to be fulfilled. A gift is not something of our own creation; it just comes.

“And suddenly from heaven, there came a sound …” (Acts 2:2 NRSV). The sound came. The Spirit came on divine volition. The Spirit is God’s gift to us. Divine agency is the prelude to human action.

We hear that “all of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages, as the Spirit gave them ability” (2:4). The Spirit gives people the ability to speak in other languages.

“The first gift of the Spirit is the gift of speech”, multilingual speech, affirming the tight connection between word and Spirit. The gift of words is a gift of the Spirit, and the words we speak are about someone else, not ourselves.

The gift of speech is not given in order not to be understood. Why would anyone speak in an unknown tongue if they knew they would never get a hearing, another gift of the Spirit is obvious — the gift of hearing in one’s own language. The speakers were not of the same ethnicity and culture, yet they heard and understood. Understanding is gifted to us, because we don’t have the resources to manufacture it. There must be a Giver, without whom we would not receive a gift.

The word must be “native” to the hearer. Context is inescapable, because you can never escape your own skin or even your own native tongue, and that is a gift in and of itself. In the Spirit, the gospel incarnates through human languages such that people hear and understand in their own particular cultural language the universal message about God’s power.

Pentecost is the creation of a particular kind of human community, a God-centered community. The cultural particularity of the Spirit’s gift is not contrary to a universal quality. As one French theologian writes:

“The distinctive aspect of the Spirit is that, while remaining unique and preserving his identity, he is in everyone without causing anyone to lose his originality. This applies to persons, peoples, their culture and their talents. The Spirit also makes everyone speak of the marvels of God in his own language” (Yves Congar).

The Spirit will not allow us to forget about God, because “through the pouring out of the Spirit, God effects a world-encompassing, multilingual, polyindividual testimony to Godself. In this way God attests to Godself in a process that unites people in a way that causes them both wonderment and fear” (Welker).

The Spirit leads us to different views and voices, a different way of seeing the world and God. The Spirit leads us to embrace diversity as a gift of God while the Spirit moves us toward integration, collaboration and mutuality between different voices as a way to form community.

Pentecost suggests that the Spirit opens us up to the possibility of hospitable relationships across cultures, as opposed to closed systems and practices that restrain the full scope of the gospel of God. This means Bach and Brahms can be in the same spiritual family as B.B. King and Branford Marsalis. Hymns and hip-hop may actually commune with each other when the Spirit blows.

The church is called to be unified, not uniform. We are not the church when we are uniform; we are the church in the power of the Spirit when we are unified, a unified diversity focused on God!

Pentecost points us to a new order in the Spirit, a reordering of our priorities.
The image of God at Pentecost is multilingual, multicultural and multiethnic, not for a politically correct agenda, but because the gospel demands it. The gospel is polyphonic.

In other words, your voice matters, and you are a gift.

Wishing you a blessed week!
Philemon

 

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