“Speaking in tongues and extolling God…”

Each of us uses the language that we are comfortable with –

for most of us, this is something that sounds like English – our ‘mother tongue’.

We have, on occasion, been asked to learn another language –

French, Latin, Spanish, Hebrew – for all kinds of reasons.

But within each language there are sub-divisions, if you will.

There is the language of the scientist, the artist, the criminal and the courtroom.

Academics, mechanics and health-care profesionals each have their own language –

technical terms and ways of speaking that can be like ‘Greek’

to those of us without the training (or the inclination) to follow the jargon.

It is no different with people of faith – in every age…


Peter has gone to the gentile side of town.

Called from Joppa to Ceaserea by a vision from God and the invitation of an man named Cornelius. Peter has, through this vision on a rooftop, come to accept

that there is no barrier between Jews and Gentiles;

specifically between Gentiles and the gospel of Jesus Christ.

So an invitation to visit a gentile home, in a gentile area is warmly received (by Peter, at least)

He goes, shares with them his recent ‘conversion’ offers these outsiders the gospel of Christ.

What happens next is certainly unexpected – a replay of the Pentecost story

(we are telling it out of order, but there you go…)

Those who had accompanied Peter

were astounded to see the Spirit fall upon this crowd of “uncircumcised” people.

The crowd is heard “…speaking in tongues and extolling God.”

Now we Presbyterians get a little bit nervous when the talk turns to this sort of ‘spiritual gift’

The coming season of Pentecost presents us with a mystery

that some of us would rather not explore;

but I would like to take some of the mystery out of this particular Spiritual exhibition.

Hearing these stories from Acts – this story in particular

makes me think that these people have been welcomed to an exclusive club –

no visible signs, simply great joy and praise to God offered by many voices.

The praise was recognized by the other ‘initiates’ who heard it for what it was;

a momentary breakthrough by the Spirit of God;

a shared experience that marked these gentiles as children of God too.

The Pentecost story indicates that actual languages were heard and recognized –

Parthians, Medes, those from Crete hearing the story of God’s Salvation in their mother tongue.

Why do we doubt that this example might be a real language too –

what is recorded here is not an excitable babble of divine nonsense,

but an artculation of divine presence – uttered in the language of the faithful: Praise.

Using terms of endearment that would be natural

to those whom God had claimed, and called children.


We too are hearers of the word.

We have received the Holy Spirit (or so we believe) at our Baptism.

The Spirit, in fact, is present with us – right now –

that, at least, is how we claim to understand the working of the Spirit.

But we are not so eager to SEE EVIDENCE OF THE SPIRIT AT WORK!

No tongues of fire, thank you very much.

No speaking in tongues either, for that matter – at least that has been our attitude.

But maybe we can learn a new language.

Have we not been trained in new ways to talk about God?

Perhaps we already speak the heavenly tongue…

I’m not talking about the jargon of the church –

words that we use that are a mystery

to those with no experience of worship or church government,

or even the words of the bible

(which present foreign concepts like forgiveness, repentance, salvation and grace)

I’m talking about the way we present our faith – the way we talk about God…

we have a way – not just of speaking – but of living – that is (or should be) joyful,

and this ‘language’ points directly to Jesus Christ.

because of Christ, God’s power – God’s love – God’s presence –

are suddenly being talked about in strangely intimate, wonderfully PRESENT terms.

It is a language that makes much of the love God has for us –

a manner of speaking (and living) that extends that love to others.

Jesus used this language too,

and no one seemed able to understand him (who was full of the Spirit and the power of God)

until he ascended, and the Spirit was let loose upon the world again.

We have within us the benefits of this gift of speech

The language of praise is our mother tongue.

It needs constant use, for it is very easy to turn to the local language –

a tongue that knows nothing of grace or service, or sacrifice –

Let us speak freely and clearly the language of praise – the language of love – the language of God

so may we honour the gift of God’s Son.


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