Have you ever found yourself in a different country where you could not speak the language and had problems trying to communicate? I was in a small Italian village years ago and was trying to buy bacon and eggs in a teeny tiny market. I spoke no Italian. The owner and his wife spoke no English. Sign language would have to do. Have you ever pantomimed chickens and pigs? I looked ridiculous, a suspicion confirmed by the gales of laughter from the Italian couple. I also needed a birthday cake.
What does one do except hum “Happy Birthday to You” and hope for the best? With that, the couple really started howling and began singing together the birthday song. In English! I was so relieved to hear my own native tongue and to know that somehow we were communicating. Suddenly, I was no longer in a foreign country. I was home.
In the Acts of the Apostles, we hear of the Spirit descending upon the apostles, giving them the power of Jesus. They burst out of the upper room and spoke the language that all could understand. Even though these men were common, ordinary Galileans, they were able to work great signs and wonders.
So too for us. On this Pentecost Sunday, we, who have likewise received the Holy Spirit must burst forth from our church and work great signs and wonders in Jesus’ name. How? Just as did that Italian husband and wife. By trying to speak the language that the other can understand. The language of acceptance, of comfort, the understanding smile, the words of peace and forgiveness, the gracious nod of the head, the helping hand, the courteous gesture; this is the language of the Spirit. Everyone understands it, and it makes the stranger feel right at home.