A Gift That Lasts -- Rev. Jody Long
A conversation about gift giving in our home can quickly lead to the question, “What do I give her/him?” The truth is, we’re pretty simple folks with pretty simple tastes. And so, after years of dating and marriage, finding the perfect gift for birthdays, anniversary, Christmas, and other good days can be difficult. I suspect that many of you share such sentiments.
But why is gift-giving so difficult? Is it because we’re tempted to make the next gift the most perfect gift ever? Is it because we’ve watched way too much television and are convinced that the “IT” thing is going to be fantastic? Is it because we haven’t paid enough attention to our spouses, children, family, or friends to know what they want or need? Whatever our reason, many of us confess that gift giving is difficult.
This Sunday is Pentecost. For many, this conjures up a caricature of people speaking in tongues that does a great disservice to our sisters and brothers who worship more charismatically. Tom Long once described the gift of Pentecost. He said that often times we either view Pentecost as a gift of “energy and excitement” or a gift of “power” to the church. Both of these are fitting and needed gifts, says Long, but Pentecost can be much more than that:
No, when all is said and done, the gift that we get on Pentecost is not the superficial gift of energy and excitement, an injection of artificial adrenaline. And it's not the kind of power that the world thinks of as power. The gift we get on Pentecost is the one gift we most desperately need and the world needs. Strangely enough, the gift of Pentecost is the gift of something to say, a Word to speak in the brokenness and tragedy of the world that is unlike any other word.
We are often fixated only the way the Word was spoken on that first Christian Pentecost. We get squeamish at the thought of the tongues of fire and the multitude of languages in which the folks spoke. Let us listen closer, though, to what was said. Echoing the prophet Joel who declared that one day the Spirit would be poured out over humanity and that sons and daughters would prophesy, Long says that Pentecost is the time when this prophecy was fulfilled.
Until Pentecost, the early followers of Jesus were silent. They didn’t know what to say and, if they did, they couldn’t put it into words. As the Spirit appeared to them, they were emboldened to speak. They began preaching in the synagogues, on the street corners and throughout the region. They spoke words of commitment, faith, discipleship, community care, and Resurrection hope. No longer would death and despair be the final word. The final word is always life and hope. That is the Christian message of Pentecost. That is a gift that lasts.