19: God is a foreigner.
-Rev Melissa Fain-
1When Pentecost Day arrived, they were all together in one place.2 Suddenly a sound from heaven like the howling of a fierce wind filled the entire house where they were sitting. 3 They saw what seemed to be individual flames of fire alighting on each one of them. 4 They were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages as the Spirit enabled them to speak.
5 There were pious Jews from every nation under heaven living in Jerusalem. 6 When they heard this sound, a crowd gathered. They were mystified because everyone heard them speaking in their native languages. 7 They were surprised and amazed, saying, “Look, aren’t all the people who are speaking Galileans, every one of them?
Acts 2:1-8 CEB
It was the 1996 Olympics, and I was excited. I was going to be able to watch an Olympic event live, and I wasn't going to have to pay to see it! Well, I would have to work. As a high schooler I worked concessions to earn money for band events.
Plus, I was excited about the possibility to use some of my German. I had brushed up on the German for certain lunch options. I was ready to go. Only I discovered I would not be working the lunch shift. I was working the breakfast shift.
I didn't consider what this truly meant, until I was standing in front of two German men wanting to order something I couldn't understand. They were frustrated. I was frustrated. I was the only one there who even understood how to say hello in German. Now, the only thing they wanted was to order something, and I had no way to know what it was. Unhelpfully, I kept holding up a bagel like eventually they would just order it out of frustration. It was a mess.
God is in that mess. I wanted them to understand me. They wanted me to understand them. The answer would have been a third way. Perhaps it could have been drawing pictures. Finding some common method we both understood for the sake of communication. It wasn't until a band mom began holding up various items that they finally sighed a sigh of relief. They wanted a doughnut.
Church is not the me, myself, and I show. We are not called to create an atmosphere filled with a bunch of people just like us. The Spirit calls us out to speak beyond ourselves. Part of the church's failure is the misunderstanding of "going out." Our atrophied Spiritual legs think sending out a pretty picture on Twitter will bring those outside in. In truth, we need to start working those muscles and spend most of our time outside the building, learning the languages. Hint: People cannot learn our language until we learn their language first. (Language here should be translated to mean culture. Even the people right outside your church doors have a culture.)
If you can't find God in your church, perhaps it's time you leave. God is a foreigner.
Pray with me:
Lieber Gott, hoerst du mich? Amen.