"All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages as the Spirit gave them ability." - Acts 2:4
Remember Susan Boyle, the unassuming woman who surprised the judges of Britain's Got Talent with her stunning rendition of "I Dreamed a Dream"? The video became a viral, international sensation in a few days, and is still the most viewed clip in YouTube history.
The Jewish festival of Pentecost was known for drawing an international crowd. You know the story: the Holy Spirit descends on a bunch of humble Galileans, disciples of Jesus, who pour into the streets of Jerusalem talking about God like a bunch of PhDs in Middle-Eastern languages. What better way to get the gospel to go viral?
Astounded onlookers chalk it up to drunkenness, forgetting that alcohol tends to make one less intelligible, not more. Besides, if drunkenness produced multi-lingual fluency, a good many college graduates today would be eligible for a job at the U.N. Likewise, Peter dismisses the charge and says "It's a God thing," exactly what the prophet Joel meant when he said, "In those days I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh: old people, young people, folk from every place and every walk of life!"
All that fits my progressive, inclusive values, but read any of Paul's letters and you'll see how God-gone-viral caused a world of diversity problems for the early church. Thankfully we're beyond all that now.
Not. The truth is humanity still has little talent for realizing God's dream of a beloved, global community. The blessing is, God is still in the business of defying expectations and doing astounding things anyway.
Come Holy Spirit!
Matthew Laney is the Senior Minister of Asylum Hill Congregational Church, UCC, in Hartford, Connecticut.