Friday Scripture - Acts 2:4 All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages, as the Spirit gave them ability.
After pausing, watching and listening, Joel expects the people to act, to join in, to participate in what God is doing. Today we leap far beyond Joel and into the life of the early church to see how Joel's challenge, guidance, and promise would be and could lived out.
Today's verse is from Acts 2. This is the story of Pentecost. Pentecost is the day that the gift of the Spirit, promised by Joel and promised by Jesus, was given to the apostles. The Holy Spirit is poured out as Joel promised, and the disciples engage in a very interesting ministry. They tell the story of Jesus to a vast and diverse crowd. A great many diverse ethnic groups are represented according to the book of Acts. Yet each person hears the story told in their native language. And this is important because it didn't need to be that way. The apostles could have spoken in Hebrew or Greek and expected to be understood by most listeners. But the apostles, inspired by the Holy Spirit had been watching and listening. They knew that under Roman leadership this great diversity of people were only dignified and treated with any respect if they conformed to Roman custom and accepted Roman superiority. Requiring these people to communicate in the apostle's native language, for instance, would only have been a repetition of the same process of privileging one people over another. And this was not to be the mission of the early church. Something new was happening. A liberation from privileging one group over another, naming one group superior to others.
So in the book of Acts we see the early church begin to form missions to serve Gentiles and to give leadership positions to Gentiles. We see the message go out to an Ethiopian Eunuch and outsider in both ethnicity and gender. We see Peter go and eat with Romans. We see Saul, who resisted this movement, in which the critical factor for belonging was NOT one's ethnic heritage but the invitation of the Spirit, challenged and changed. This same Saul, newly named Paul would take Joel's prophecy and expand it to say, 'There is no longer Jew or Greek, Slave or Free, Male and Female, you are one in Christ.' And all of the ways in which humanity then divided itself into groups and then fought battles in which some were dignified and some not, some deemed worthy and some not, some deemed human and some not, loved by God and not, is undone. Ethnic and religious division, social and economic status, gender identity and role, all undone by a new identity, Beloved of Christ.
And in this day, in our nation, when we are so divided among political, religious, ethnic, and economic lines, perhaps this is the work of God that we need to watch and listen for. Our role is not to abide any person, leader, or system that deals in these divisions. Our role, promised by Joel, taught by Christ, and empowered by the Spirit is to dream of a community of dignity for all as God's Beloved, and then to live into being that very community.