Language and Understanding

I was driving through South Carolina and I needed to get gas. I go into the gas station and pay for the gas and as I turned around to leave I see these giant Vance stainless steel with a huge sign over the top that said boiled peanuts spicy and regular. I stopped dead in my tracks. I turned around to the two ladies working behind the counter and said who on earth foils a peanut? Of course they laughed at me and urged me to buy some for the road. With a Pepsi of course. So I get into my car, stick my hand into this bowl of hot water and mush and I pull out a peanut with now a thumb indent in it. I held it in one hand while I steered with the other. And I thought hard about if this was an occasion to take the shell off or not? I figured that we were way past the time for normal snack etiquette so I put it in my mouth and chewed a couple of times and then frantically opened the Pepsi. I swallowed hard that mess of shell and paste and there I realized that my yankee northern self was speaking a different language. A friends of mine was visiting me in Milwaukee. I took him to a very iconic hamburger diner called Sollys. We both ordered a burger and when they came he held his up and said to me “dude I think they put some Swiss or provolone cheese on this by mistake look at it gooping out when I picked it up. I explained that it was only butter and that’s how you eat a hamburger in Wisconsin- he stared at me waiting for a laugh. It didn’t come. We were speaking different languages. In our epistle lesson today- the iconic message for Pentecost, the issue is all in language and understanding. The apostles are filled with the Holy Spirit who causes visible tongues of fire to appear above their heads. They are speaking to a large group of people from different regions who spoke different languages- and they knew it. They knew that they were on their own as far as communication. The text tells us that people gathered from “every nation under heaven”. That is many different nations gathered. Then everyone realizes that they are all understanding what is being said even though they know they speak many different native languages. This causes some confusion because there isn’t confusion. The conclusion is that there must be a whole group of drunk people gathered because this just is not possible. Peter, the spokesman of the apostles gets up and says very clearly :listen to me! We are not drunk it is only 9am!” now that the crowds are clear on the miracle among them, Peter has their attention. Then he explains all the law and the prophets that has been fulfilled culminating in Jesus gift of the Holy Spirit that has come upon them.

The language that cuts through all misunderstanding, all culture, all human brokenness is the Word of God. In a world where most days the news is too painful to turn on or read, a world broken with sin and darkness, the language that cuts through it all is the Word of God. The Christian language of love and peace from God himself is the one that empowers us to give a hug to a neighbor when their eyes swell up. The Word of God is what empowers us to let that stranger with their blinker slide in in traffic. The Word of God is the one that empowers us to be polite when we are wronged or mistreated. The Word of God empowers us to seek the good in everyone remembering that they too are made in the image of the living God.

That day that our text speaks of, The day of the Lord, the great and magnificent day, all who call on the name of the Lord will be saved, that day is today, that day is right now. That day, this day is the one where we can cast our confusion, or brokenness, our sin aside knowing that God’s Word speaks to us today and tells us, your sin is forgiven in the name of the father and of the son and of the holy spirit. God’s Word speaks to us today and tells us, this is my body take and eat, this is my blood, take and drink for the forgiveness of all of your sins. Peace be with you.

I may have never found the common language of the boiled peanut acquired taste, but my friend has definitely adopted the Wisconsin butter burger as his own. The truth is that we all see the world a little bit differently. In this room we have people who would be most comfortable with beef on weck, key lime pie, injera, euchre, drinking from a bubbler or a drinking fountain, driving on the left or the right side of the road, just as we are all united in the pain and suffering the the world is so great at providing, the Word of God breaks through the noise, unites us, calms our hearts and our minds as we focus on Jesus who makes us his own from here to eternity.


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