Updated: Jan 28
My mother worked at Sears when I was growing up. It seems that everything we owned came from Sears.
Many things my mother would bring home had “Some Assembly Required.” As the “man of the house,” I got to put it all together.
I learned three things from that history: 1. Follow the instructions; 2. Have the right tools; and 3. Have a can or jar ready for spare parts or pieces you forgot to put on, when you are finished.
As I got older and began driving, I learned it was less costly to do my own basic auto maintenance – brakes, oil changes, filter changes, tire pressure checks, etc. – than it was to take it to an auto mechanic’s shop.
Following my experience of putting things together, I would regularly buy a shop manual for the car I owned. It is rule number one to have a set of instructions for doing one’s own car maintenance. Additionally, following rule two, I would buy gadgets like an oil filter wrench, a long plastic funnel, a spark plug socket for my ratchet set, an oil-can-piercing spout and a plastic pan for draining oil.
In those younger years, when I did my own automotive work, I found it was best to plan about five hours of my time to do what a real mechanic could get done in 30 minutes. I found out that my actual cars never exactly matched the pictures of similar cars that were found in the shop manual; so, I would do considerable head scratching, in addition to the standard scraping of many knuckles, elbows, and knees, which comes from doing things that others are far more capable of doing.
I found out that there was a lot of trial and error, redoing something done wrong (often more than once), and going back to the parts store because I had the wrong part. I learned from years of experience how that was part of my “fix-it karma.” I never seemed to be on the same page as those who wrote the books.
Many times … usually after something had been taken apart and seemed like it would never be put back together properly by me … I would have a conversation with God. Often I asked him, “Why me? Why do I try to do these things?”
Usually, a miracle of temporary genius would overcome me and allow me to see my way out the corners I would paint myself into, so the work would be finished. After all the sweat and grime had been washed away and a cooler head reappeared, I would realize that it was my inability to read the shop manual, or it was my going through the instructions too quickly that led to all of my problems. I suffered from “user error,” which comes from not regularly putting things together for a living.
The readings for this first Sunday that puts us on the cusp of Ordinary Time, beginning with the recognition of how the disciples turned into apostles on the Jewish day of Pentecost, are all about a failure to understand the language of God.
The Holy Bible is a collection of books written in a way that requires one to be knowledgeable of God’s specific terminology spoken to his priests. In that same specificity, a set of shop manuals are written in a language that is readily understood by a trained mechanic, but not a novice like myself.
Thus, I make the comparison of “Speaking in Tongues” to “Some Assembly Required.” As easy as it is for a layperson to think, “How hard can it be?” the reality is it will always be as difficult as you make it.
Whether it is the Gospel of John, or Chilton’s 1988 Honda Accord Shop Manual, or a set of instructions for an IKEA futon, you have to speak the language that is spoken … fluently … if your expectations of accomplishment from understanding are going to be met.
Even though the original Hebrew and Greek texts of the books of the Holy Bible have been translated into English – for us English-speaking Americans to understand – those translations are varied. One word’s translation can often mean more than the one word used in translation. This is like the Genesis story of the Tower of Babel, when God divided the languages of the world. From mortals having only one language to understand, a potential for danger was seen. This danger is because God knows not everyone can equally master instructions, tools, and control excess and waste. Therefore, God confused mankind’s ability to understand, so mankind would have to work harder and learn from its mistakes … by divine design.
Solving a word problem is more than seeing one answer. It requires being able to see what further problems will come from one solution to a past problem. Mankind struggles seeing into the future and solving problems it will have made in the past. This is why mankind needs God and should not have an immediate ability to understand one language without God.
The language confusion set in place by God is then how all of the Holy Bible is written. An example is how Jesus told his disciples, “I go and prepare a place for you [at my Father’s house], [and] I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. You know the way to the place where I am going.”
Confusion is why Thomas would say, “Lord, we don’t know where you are going, so how can we know the way?”
To Thomas, what Jesus had said was like me reading, “Take a 3/8” washer and apply to one 1 ¼” screw inserted through part 419, secured with one “Y” lock nut”
You lost me at step 2.
If not knowing where Jesus’s Father’s house is located was difficult for the disciples to comprehend – and they had consumed a number of cups of wine at the Seder meal, so they were not clearheaded – it is easy to see how confused they were when Jesus said:
“Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father is in me; but if you do not, then believe me because of the works themselves. Very truly, I tell you, the one who believes in me will also do the works that I do and, in fact, will do greater works than these, because I am going to the Father.”
As Christians today, roughly 2,000 years removed from that evening’s conversation in Jerusalem, we think we understand what that means. However, that is only the Big Brain Syndrome making us think that.
It is like standing at the auto parts store thumbing through a shop manual for a 1988 Honda Accord and thinking, “I can do this.”
It is no different than Philip asking Jesus, “Lord, show us the Father, and we will be satisfied.” That is no different than him saying, “Give us a manual, Lord, and we will all be fine.”
In this ultra-modern computer world, we don’t think we have the time to learn everything about everything, so we just want to go to Google Maps and print out the directions to the Father’s house – step by step, with distances to gauge each step by.
The dividing of the languages was so someone – anyone – who is not prepared to understand will not understand. Understanding is dangerous … if one is not prepared by God first.
In the reading from the Acts of the Apostles, a major part of the focus is placed on remembering how the Holy Spirit suddenly came upon the disciples, “like the rush of a violent wind.” We get shivers imagining how the disciples were given “divided tongues, as of fire,” which appeared instantly.
Then the new apostles began speaking fluently in foreign languages … languages they had never been trained to know.
It was as miraculous as if I could suddenly be able to put together an IKEA futon without needing to glance at the instructions, using only the “universal wrench” included in the parts bag, to tighten all the nuts and screws.
What is almost completely overlooked in the Acts story is how eleven “Babblers” were able to stop a large crowd of pilgrims, causing them to remark, “Are not all these who are speaking Galileans? And how is it we hear, each of us, in our own native language … them speaking about God’s deeds of power?”
The words the new apostles spoke were reaching all of those pilgrims and causing “Aha moments”. It was like suddenly realizing that the difference between a “A” screw and a “B” screw can be determined by placing a physical screw up to the scaled pictures of screws, printed on the instructions. It was like being handed some step-by-step directions to the Father’s house.
All of those pilgrim Jews – in Jerusalem for the commanded festival of Shavuot [Weeks] – had not only read the Scriptures but they had discussed them every Shabbat. They recognized God’s words, but not in the way the apostles were then explaining them. Suddenly – a bunch of hillbilly Galileans were telling those devoted pilgrims the true depth of meaning that was contained … hidden in those Hebrew words. The apostles were fluently speaking meaning.
All at once, all of the Jews with divided tongues, who had been scattered around the known world, understood “one language and the same words.” (Genesis 11:1) One mind had been joined with them all – the Mind of Christ’s understanding of the one language of God.
This communication via the spoken/written language “is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him.” A world of divided tongues can only come together under one common language when it knows God through the Holy Spirit.
Knowing God through the Holy Spirit requires the instruction manual be read first … especially the part that says, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.” Also important is: “Believe Jesus that Jesus is in the Father and the Father is in Jesus.”
“Believe in Jesus so you too can do the works that Jesus did,” which includes understanding the one language of God.
One-size-fits-all Tool Kit to Heaven
Now, when the shock and awe of the apostles “speaking of God’s deeds of power” wore off a little, some of the devoted Jews who heard that truth sneered. They did that because that truth the apostles spoke had never been heard before. That caused them to say, “They are filled with new wine.”
That also was the truth … only not in a literal sense. Peter denied they had been drinking fermented grape juice early in the morning.
The apostles (AND soon 3,000 Jewish listening pilgrims) were filled with the “new wine” of the Holy Spirit. This was a fulfillment of what would later be written, about a past event:
“[Jesus] gave [the cup] to them, saying, “Drink from it, all of you. This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins. I tell you, I will not drink from this fruit of the vine from now on until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father’s kingdom.” (Matthew 26:27-29)
Jesus was back on the day of Pentecost, multiplied eleven times, returning as them as they drank the “blood of Jesus” – the Holy Spirit.
To explain this in terms that had already been written and known by devout Jews, Peter quoted from the prophet Joel, saying:
“In the last days it will be, God declares,
that I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh,
and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy,
and your young men shall see visions,
and your old men shall dream dreams.” (Joel 2:28)
The “Doomsday Clock” is set now at 3 minutes till midnight; but are those “the last days”?
All of those Jews then linked to the one common language of God, through the Holy Spirit. They had read those prophetic words many times before and thought they referred to the end of the world.
Yet, Peter quoted that prophecy as being fulfilled then, in their presence, with them being part of that fulfillment.
The actual Hebrew (“wə-hā-yāh ’a-ḥă-rê- ḵên”) says, “Will come to pass after this,” where “this” is a one-word-statement of what follows textually (the pouring out of God’s Spirit). In the Greek text of John, Peter is said to have stated from Joel, “estai en tais eschatais hēmerais,” which translates as, “will be in the end days.”
Since both introductory statements lead to God pouring out his Holy Spirit, into sons, daughters, old and young, the “after this” and the “end days” means the “final hours” of one’s ignorance to God. It is the end of having divided tongues and confusion. It is the now of whenever that Spirit is received by one of faith.
It is the beginning of being the fulfillment of, “You know [the Father], because he abides with you, and he will be in you.”
It is the truth behind Paul’s words to the Christians of Rome: “All who are led by the Spirit of God are children of God.”
A true “child of God” is not a Jew. It is one who is reborn as Jesus … with God in one’s heart, knowing God through the Mind of Christ, and becoming righteous as Jesus – a priest in the order of Melchizedek.
With the Holy Spirit as your being, uplifting your soul to the Lord, “you have received a spirit of adoption.” That is how all true Christians call out, “Abba! Father!”
That cry is not because we honor God with the title of Father, as the maker of all Creation. We call out “Father!” because we have become his Son or Daughter, through adoption; and whether we are young or old.
Receive the Holy Spirit and God gains custody of your being … you body becomes an extension of the Kingdom of God.
The path to the room reserved for us at the Father’s house is where you sit on the bus stop bench right now. The path to God is within each of us … via our souls.
Today we, who have heard the word and understood, are called to go forth and preach that word to all who will receive it. We speak in one tongue that only those with the ears of the Lord can hear.
We prophesy by explaining the sacred texts … God’s deeds of power. We go to where our visions call us. We know what to expect to come, because we are led by our dreams.
We free those who are “slaves, both men and women,” who have eyes to read but cannot see the truth. We will go and teach them the common language of God, spoken through the Holy Spirit, so they too “shall prophesy” the word of God to others
That is the true meaning of the Fiftieth day. Pentecost is now about having the Spirit of God pour into one’s flesh, fulfilling the prophecy of Joel and returning the faithful to understanding the one language of God. Pentecost is the commanded Festival of Weeks, representing when the first fruits have matured and are fully consecrated as the children of God.
“O Lord, how manifold are your works! In wisdom you have made them all.”
“I will sing to the Lord as long as I live; I will praise my God while I have my being.”
“May these words of mine please him; I will rejoice in the Lord.”
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