When the Feast of Pentecost came…the Holy Spirit spread through their ranks, and they started speaking in a number of different languages as the Spirit gave them the ability. — Acts 2: 1, 4
There are many things I will miss about DC when she leaves us at the end of this month. One is a skill of hers I didn’t know about for a while – the ability to speak multiple languages with tremendous ease. And not just speak them – sing them!
I was first made aware of this hidden talent last summer, worshipping in the Fellowship Hall. Last hymn of this particular Sunday, #341, “Blessed Assurance, Jesus Is Mine.” I was singing along but something sounded strange, different. I looked around and my eyes fell on DC, just a few feet away from me, standing behind the makeshift lectern. As my eyes and ears honed in on her I quickly realized that she was not, in fact, singing English, but the alternate Korean text: Joo ahn eh ees suh jeul guh wuh rah…..” Wow! I had no idea!
It was on that day I learned: whenever a Sunday morning hymn presented an alternative to the boring English, you could count on DC engaging that foreign tongue with fervor and gusto. Spanish on “Lord, You Have Come To The Lakeshore.” Korean on “How Great Thou Art.” Even Choctow on “Amazing Grace” (when she wasn’t singing Cherokee). I’d look over at her and she would just smile. Classic DC.
The real beauty of this, on my end at least, is that in some weird way, by hearing her singing all these different languages, I somehow started paying closer attention to what I was singing myself. Hymns I’ve voiced since my childhood, hundreds of times. Now the words were speaking anew to me: This is my story, this is my song. Praising my savior all the day long. Now my boat’s left on the shoreline behind me – now with you, I will seek other seas. Then sings my soul – how great thou art! I once was blind but now I see…..
We celebrated Pentecost last month, but its impact continues far beyond an annual calendar date. And contrary to popular belief, it’s not “speaking in tongues” that’s going on here. These are actual languages the disciples are suddenly able to give voice to (a skill I would’ve killed for in my high school Latin final….) And why? If these disciples were going to tell the world about Jesus, they would need to be equipped with the most important skill of all: speaking the language.
Thing is, that can go far beyond the words that come out of one’s mouth. I believe each of us has been given an ability to communicate the love of Christ to those who have yet to hear it, or hear it completely. Maybe it’s language. Or maybe it’s a caring heart, or a sympathetic ear. Or maybe it’s the ability to write, or the ability to serve food at Room In The Inn, or surprise a total stranger with an unsolicited smile. There are thousands of extrapolations of how to speak the language in a way that resonates with someone else – all it takes is us to go figure it out and then engage it fully.
Does that take us out of our comfort zone? I certainly hope so! Pentecost was not about people feeling comfortable, but people feeling inspired – literally, in-spired. Breathing the Spirit in so we can exhale things like grace, hope, love in our own language. A language that will most assuredly be heard by someone else in a way they had never heard it before.
That’s one of the many lessons I’ll take from DC. Well, that and the ability to sing Korean in a Presbyterian hymn. When we speak God’s language, whatever that language is, we can always count on lives being refreshed and renewed – others as well as our own.
Your pastor and friend,