Divided Tongues

Life Notes—May 20, 2010 

“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.”  Acts 2:1-4 

This Sunday we celebrate Pentecost, a somewhat un-Methodist-like event.  Speaking in tongues is not a practice any good Methodist I know dabbles in.  Many of us picture speaking in tongues based on what we’ve seen on TV.  A televangelist lays hands on someone and they fall to the floor and begin mumbling syllables unrecognizable to most of us.  It’s not what most Methodists are comfortable seeing in their aisles. 

I did have an opportunity to witness a speaking-in-tongues event once; one of a religious nature.  It wasn’t particularly weird at all, except for not understanding what was being said.  As a devotion before the meal one person spoke in another tongue, then an interpretation was given.  It was not too different from saying a prayer before a meal, except it wasn’t exactly a prayer and it wasn’t in English.  Other than that, it was similar. 

Actually, my family has been experiencing a lot of speaking-in-tongues in our own home since last August when Julia, our exchange student from Ukraine, moved in.  Her native language is Russian, although she also speaks Ukrainian, a little German and is learning Spanish.  Oh, and she speaks English, too.  When Julia finds another person who speaks Russian it is cause to celebrate!  She takes such joy in being able to communicate easily in her native tongue, without having to interpret from English to Russian in her head, and then back from Russian to English just to visit with someone. 

I think our experience of tongues with Julia may be similar to what the disciples and others experienced on the day of Pentecost than what we see on TV.  People were amazed to hear others speaking in their native tongues, and they could understand in ways they had never been able to understand before.  Lines of communication were opened that had been limited or closed prior to Pentecost.  It was like the Holy Spirit’s version of instantaneous communications software—the original Rosetta Stone, if you will.  Our experience with Julia’s native “tongue” hasn’t been weird at all, it’s just different.  And maybe not so un-Methodist-like after all. 

Kara’s sermon title this week is “Come, Holy Spirit,” based on the scripture Acts 2:1-21.  Life worship begins at 10:45 in Brady hall.  Traditional worship is at 8:30 and 11:00 in the sanctuary.  Contemporary worship at the west campus begins at 9:30. 

Come home to worship this Sunday.  Celebrate the coming of the Holy Spirit!

Greg Hildenbrand, Life Music Coordinator

2 thoughts on “Divided Tongues

  1. Greg: Your description of your exchange student’s language ability as someone from Ukraine who is able to speak Ukrainian in addition to her “native tongue” of Russian was interesting. It illustrates, I think, one of the problems facing this new country that only recently regained a place on the map after centuries under Russian control. Even after two decades of independence, many citizens of the Ukraine still find it difficult to embrace Ukrainian as their country’s first language.

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    1. Gary, yes it is very interesting. Julia lives in central Ukraine (Karavograd) where people speak both Russian and Ukrainian. School is taught in Ukrainian but at home they speak Russian. Julia says that if you travel east Russian is the predominant language, but to the west it is Ukrainian and you may be frowned upon for speaking Russian. If you’d like to visit with Julia let me know and we’ll set something up.

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