Spirit Breathed Words

Pentecost – June 5 2022

When we think of Pentecost we might think of the color red for fire or celebration.  We might think of wind, the sound of a mighty rushing wind as the gift of the Holy Spirit is restored and poured out upon or redeemed human race.  We might think of the “tongues of fire.”  The outpouring of the Holy Spirit broke through the language barrier that is part of our human condition.  Communication.  And communication challenges, difficulties, barriers.

There are many things that divide and separate us as humans.  That is not only a present day reality.  It is historic.  Read history and you find disagreements and division marks our existence.  

Learning how to listen and to speak with each other in a respectful way is a good goal.  The miracle of Pentecost takes the good news of Jesus’ love. demonstrated through the cross and empty tomb and plants it firmly into our lives.  Our call and goal as Christians in community and in this fallen world is to grab hold of that reality and live it out.  

The Day of Pentecost is fifty days after the resurrection, hence the name which is a transliteration of the Greek for “fiftieth.”  The disciples were gathered together in Jerusalem when “suddenly from heaven there came a sound like the fish of a violent wind.  It filled entire house where they were sitting.”  

The theological significance is stupendous!  We are created to live in harmony and fellowship with God.  Sin broke that relationship.  

Back in Genesis when our human parents were escorted out of the Garden of Eden is was symbolic of our broken relationship God.  Unholy people cannot survive in the presence of our holy God.  Thus we were “taken out of the Garden of Eden.”  God’s presence was removed from within us.  

Jesus is God’s “plan of salvation” to restore our broken relationship with God through His shed blood on the cross.  The empty tomb proved the words, “it is finished,” to be reality.  Now the Holy Spirit was able to return to us and restore our broken relationship.  That return is symbolized by the sound of a violent rushing wind.  

Frank Laubach was a missionary to the Philippines from 1915 to the late 1950s.

There were few people who could read or write in the remote Philippine communities where Frank Laubach served, so he developed a simple literacy method that employed charts linking pictures with words and syllables. His instructional method was so effective that it was easily adapted into a worldwide system for teaching literacy.

When Frank Laubach’s mission funding was reduced, he couldn’t hire and train enough teachers to meet the needs of his community. His passion for teaching people to read the Bible did not allow him to quit. 

He told a local community leader about the problem. The leader replied that Laubach should encourage every new learner to teach someone else. They adopted the slogan “Each One Teach One,” and encouraged new learners to pass on their skills to others in their community. It didn’t take much encouragement because the new learners were so overjoyed and empowered by their newly acquired ability to read and write in their own language that they were passionate about sharing the gift of literacy with their friends and neighbors.

Since it was developed in the 1930s, Frank Laubach’s “Each One Teach One” system has been used to teach 60 million people around the world to read in their own language. Here is something you probably didn’t know: Frank Laubach is the only missionary in the United States to have a postage stamp issued in his honor.

What inspired Frank Laubach’s passion for missions? I think we can see his inspiration in a quote from his writings: “Every person we ever meet,” he wrote, “is God’s opportunity.” Think about that: “Every person we ever meet is God’s opportunity.” (1)

In World War II, sisters Corrie and Betsie ten Boom were imprisoned in the Ravensbrück concentration camp in Germany. Their only crime was protecting Jewish families from Nazi persecution. In the evenings, after the two sisters had finished their hard labors, in the prison camp, they led a worship service in the women’s barracks. The women knew that if the guards caught them worshiping together, they could be beaten  or even killed. Still, the sacrifice was worth it to them. They gathered around a Bible that someone had smuggled into the camp. They began each service by singing hymns so softly that they were almost in a whisper. And then Betsie or Corrie would open the smuggled Bible and begin reading it aloud.

There were women from various countries in the concentration camp. So how did these women of different nationalities and languages worship together? Corrie and Betsie read the Bible passage in their native Dutch language, then translated it into German. Then other women in the barracks translated the German words into French and Polish and Russian and Czech. In waves of whispers, the women ensured that every person in the barracks heard the word of God in her own language.

As Corrie would later write of these secret worship services, “They were little previews of heaven . . .” (2). Preview of heavens. Imagine that! Our recent readings from Revelation tell us John saw a “great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and before the Lamb” (Revelation 7:9). 

Joel says everyone will prophesy. Men and women, young and old, everyone! God isn’t just talking about those 120 believers who were there on the day of Pentecost. That prophecy includes you and me.

Don’t let the word “prophesy” scare you. Prophets are simply truth-tellers. We are chosen by God to share the message of God. A message of warning. A message of hope. But every prophet’s message is essentially the glorious and grace-filled message in verse 21 of our Bible passage today: “And everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” That’s the message you and I need to share with our family and friends and neighbors and co-workers and random strangers and everyone. Share it with your words. Share it with your actions. Share it with your life.

A Franciscan friar from the 14th century once said, “There is little good in filling churches with people who go out exactly the same as they came in; the call of the Church is not to fill churches but to fill heaven.” (3) That is a great quote: “The call of the Church is not to fill churches but to fill heaven.” Also remember Frank Laubach’s quote: “Every person we ever meet is God’s opportunity.” 

What God-opportunities are right in front of you?

  1. ThisDaysThought.org https://thisdaysthought.org/favorite-quotations/; https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Frank_Laubach; https://www.bu.edu/missiology/missionary-biography/l-m/laubach-frank-charles-1884-1970/; Each one teach one: a personal approach to literacy (Laubach Literacy Program), Paziuk, Lynda; Gamey, D Lark. Canadian Woman Studies; Downsview Vol. 14, Iss. 4,  (Fall 1994): pp. 95-97. https://www.proquest.com/openview/e83cfeee67500da403f06dbada8ea15c/1?pq-origsite=gscholar&cbl=44042
  2. “10 Amazing Things You Never Knew about Corrie Ten Boom” by Debbie McDaniel iBelieve Contributing Writer, June 29, 2016.
  3. Andrew of Perugia, ThisDaysThought.org, https://thisdaysthought.org/favorite-quotations/.

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