Today is Pentecost Sunday, the day on the church calendar when we remember and celebrate the Holy Spirit coming to the early church. The Scripture we read today tells the story of people who aren’t from the same place and don’t speak the same language being united in a sudden ability to understand each other:
… the crowd came together, and were bewildered because each one of them was hearing them speak in his own language. They were amazed and astonished, saying, “Why, are not all these who are speaking Galileans? And how is it that we each hear them in our own language to which we were born?”
My church has been prerecording our Sunday services on Wednesday evenings during the pandemic. This week, our pastor preached a compelling sermon about how rarely we as Christians tend to try to speak about our faith with the goal of helping others understand why it matters to us. I was moved and challenged by his words as I feel like I am at best making baby steps toward the kind of boldness I want to have in “sharing my faith” and figuring out what that looks like.
But I also think we as Christians are not always good at the other side of the Pentecost coin–that is, listening to what others have to say to us. Making good faith efforts to hear people who don’t necessarily “speak our language.” Recognizing prophets in our midst instead of assuming they’re drunk, as did some casual observers of the first Pentecost.
This week, protesters across the country have cried out for justice, demanding to be heard and understood by people who have refused to do so for too long. This is not the first time, and it won’t be the last until we who have privilege and power can learn to really listen to the voices of the oppressed and to discern what the God of justice would have us do in response.
Because I shamefully can’t say that I’ve made it unequivocally clear before, I want to say that I believe that Black lives matter, that racism in any form grieves the heart of God, and that white Christians in America have a lot of work to do on our way to being good allies, good brothers and sisters, and good ambassadors of Jesus on these issues. But in the spirit of Pentecost, instead of writing more of what I think about this, I want to recommend the voices of some people who have been prophets to me as I’ve tried to listen and learn.
Lisa Sharon Harper is “a prolific speaker, writer and activist” and “leads trainings that increase clergy and community leaders’ capacity to organize people of faith toward a just world.” Website | Facebook | Twitter
Dr. Chanequa Walker-Barnes is “a theologian and psychologist whose mission is to serve as a catalyst for healing, justice, and reconciliation in the Christian church and beyond.” Website | Facebook | Twitter
If you have prophets to recommend to me, please do!
Other resources (adding as I remember or as people recommend them to me)