While I was serving as pastor at Blakemore United Methodist Church in Nashville, Tennessee, the congregation welcomed into their space a congregation of Rwandan refugees who had come to the United States to escape genocide. Ordinarily the Rwandan congregation’s services were conducted on Sunday afternoon, so they used the sanctuary in the afternoons after the Blakemore UMC congregation held our services in the mornings.

Hutus and Tutsis attended the Rwandan services. If they had been in Rwanda, these two groups might have been stirred up to kill one another. That was exactly what had been happening in their homeland because of hatred that was tearing them apart. Instead, they gathered in a sanctuary to thank God for the love that binds them (and all of us) together. It was a remarkable experience to attend a service conducted in a number of different languages, including French, English, and several Rwandan languages.

One day the Rwandan pastor, Boniface Senturo, called me to plan a revival for the Saturday evening before Pentecost Sunday. On that Saturday night my Rwandan colleague called to tell me that the evangelist’s plane had been delayed. He asked if they could change the time to Sunday morning, when the Blakemore congregation met. They were willing to have it in the fellowship hall, so the two services were scheduled for the same time.

At Blakemore, the fellowship hall is immediately beneath the sanctuary. We conducted our usual Pentecost service upstairs, and each time we paused for silence we heard the sounds of singing from the revival just below us. That multitude of languages wafting up through the floor bringing peace to people who otherwise might be harming each other meant that on that Sunday we had a true experience of Pentecost.

God of all people, help me listen for your good news in those who are different from me. Amen.

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Lectionary Week
June 3–9, 2019
Scripture Overview

In preparing for Pentecost, we focus again on the work of the Holy Spirit. Acts 2 recounts the famous story in which the disciples are miraculously able to speak in other languages in order to preach to the crowds in Jerusalem. The psalmist states that God creates and renews creation through the Spirit. According to Paul, if we are led by God’s Spirit, the Spirit confirms that we are children of God. In the Gospel of John, Jesus promises to send the Helper, the Holy Spirit, who will teach us how to love him and to keep his commandments. In some branches of Christianity, fear of excess causes hesitation about the Holy Spirit; however, we must never forget that the Spirit is central to God’s redeeming work.

Questions and Suggestions for Reflection

Read Acts 2:1-21. The miracle of Pentecost is not only in the multitude of languages but also in the act of listening. How can you experience worship in many languages or offer deep listening this Pentecost?
Read Psalm 104:24-34, 35b. How do you witness God’s experience woven through all of creation?
Read Romans 8:14-17. The author reminds us that spirit also means breath. When have you felt led by the breath of God?
Read John 14:8-17, 25-27. How has fear kept you from trusting God?

Respond by posting a prayer.

I join many of those who will pray for you as you seek to discern what you are called to be at this moment. May God grant you the courage to fulfill that calling. May we all open our eyes and see the misery, open our ears and hear the cries of God’s people, and, like God through the Lord Jesus Christ, be incarnate amongst them.” 

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