It happened on the subway platform in Moscow. I’d been there for weeks and I don’t speak Russian. My ears had been in a sea of gibberish, random sounds that I couldn’t understand. Then, in an instant of clarity, I heard English from the other end of the platform. It was like a beam of light, piercing through all other sounds, straight to my ear--my native language. It was a homing beacon, sharpening my senses to its signal. I felt every molecule in my body relax. It felt like coming home.
When Jesus tells his followers (v. 8) that the Holy Spirit will come upon them, there’s no way the disciples could have expected what happens next in Acts 2. Perhaps they expected the Holy Spirit to empower them to perform mighty acts to impress the crowds, or to give them an action plan for ministry. Instead the Holy Spirit gave them power to speak in the foreign languages of all the outsiders in Jerusalem for festival days. For those visitors, their native tongues must have felt like coming home.
And when the Holy Spirit shows up, the power given to these Jesus-followers is a gift expressly for those outside the Jesus movement, those who felt displaced in a language-world not their own. We cannot miss this connection to mission! The power of the Holy Spirit is given not for the disciples themselves, but for God’s mission, for the outsiders who hear it and recognize at once their mother tongues. The Spirit welcomes all to make their home in God’s abundant life.
When the Holy Spirit empowers us for mission, it empowers us to connect to others. It points us beyond ourselves, our cliques, even beyond the church itself, to welcome those longing to live at home in God’s love in ways they can hear and understand.
What home-coming do you long to hear from the Holy Spirit? What heart language do outsiders around you long to hear? How might the Holy Spirit be at work in you this very today empowering you?