This Grace That Scorches Us

While the disciples were gathered in Jerusalem, the Holy Spirit filled the house where they were staying with the sound of rushing wind and divided tongues of fire, which rested upon each of the disciples. And then, in verse 4 “All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages, as the Spirit gave them ability.” The crowds gathered there were from every nation, and they were amazed to hear the disciples speaking in their own native languages asking, “Are not all these who are speaking Galileans? And how is it that we hear, each of us, in our own native language?”

The coming of the Spirit at Pentecost is like a reverse Tower of Babel story, where rather than separating people from one another based on different languages and cultures, God brings the message of the gospel of Jesus Christ to everyone, in their own native languages, so that all may hear and understand. The Good News is not for one race or people; it is for all people, everywhere, as is made clear at Pentecost. We are living in a time of great division between people; a time when deep fears and hatred toward “the other” have been stirred up and encouraged to fester. Pentecost reminds us that God calls us all to be one; to love one another; to share the Good News of God’s love for the world through Jesus Christ through our words and actions.

This poem, written by Jan Richardson, is a beautiful reflection on the blessing that Pentecost offers us, to look beyond ourselves and our own limited world-view, and to be open to the gift of the Spirit at work in our lives and in the world.

This Grace That Scorches Us
A Blessing for Pentecost Day

Here’s one thing
you must understand
about this blessing:
it is not
for you alone.

It is stubborn
about this;
do not even try
to lay hold of it
if you are by yourself,
thinking you can carry it
on your own.

To bear this blessing,
you must first take yourself
to a place where everyone
does not look like you
or think like you,
a place where they do not
believe precisely as you believe,
where their thoughts
and ideas and gestures
are not exact echoes of
your own.

Bring your sorrow. Bring your grief.
Bring your fear. Bring your weariness,
your pain, your disgust at how broken
the world is, how fractured,
how fragmented
by its fighting, its wars,
its hungers, its penchant for power,
its ceaseless repetition
of the history
it refuses to rise above.

I will not tell you
this blessing will fix all that.

But in the place
where you have gathered,
wait.
Watch.
Listen.
Lay aside your inability
to be surprised,
your resistance to what you
do not understand.

See then whether this blessing
turns to flame on your tongue,
sets you to speaking
what you cannot fathom

or opens your ear
to a language
beyond your imagining
that comes as a knowing
in your bones
a clarity
in your heart
that tells you

this is the reason
we were made,
for this ache
that finally opens us,

for this struggle, this grace
that scorches us
toward one another
and into
the blazing day.

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