Pentecost: When Babel went into reverse

Sunday 9 June is Pentecost, the day the Church celebrates the coming of the Holy Spirit on the young Church. It's also the final day of Thy Kingdom Come, the prayer initiative that's seen hundreds of thousands of Christians around the world praying since Ascension Day for more people to come to know Jesus Christ as their Saviour. 

The story of the first Christian Pentecost is told in Acts 2. The believers – not many of them, as they could all fit in one house – experienced a strong wind blowing through the place, they saw tongues of fire alighting on each one of them and they talked in 'other languages' (verse 4). In the next section, where Peter speaks to the crowds from all over the known world, he appears to speak in just one language, but everyone understands what he says. 

This passage is loaded with symbolic meanings. One of them goes all the way back to one of the earliest chapters of the Bible, Genesis 11. That's where we read the story of the Tower of Babel: human beings decide to build a tower 'that reaches the sky, so that we can make a name for ourselves and not be scattered all over the earth' (verse 4, CEV). 

In the story, God stops the building, saying: 'Soon they will be able to do anything they want! Let us go down and mix up their language so that they will not understand one another' (verses 6-7). 

In other words, their potential for boundless achievement is closed down because they no longer speak the same language.

At Pentecost, though, this ancient limitation is reversed so that 'all of us hear them speaking in our own languages about the great things that God has done!' (Acts 2.13).

The Holy Spirit brings together Christians from different races, tribes, languages and nations and makes them into one people who speak the same language. All over the world, Christians are praying 'Thy Kingdom Come'. All over the world, we are praying to the same God in the name of his son Jesus Christ in the power of the same Holy Spirit. 

The Spirit releases the boundless potential of human beings as God erases the barriers between us. Pentecost marks the beginning of a new way of living and working together for the glory of God.  

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