I've been doing Bible studies
for the past few years, and we just started a 'semester' long study of Acts
. Acts is not about the word, but rather a history of the early Christian community and the formation of the church. It's in Acts where the New Testament
stops being about Jesus but rather about Christianity
itself. On of the interesting things my pastor chose to highlight was two separate speeches given, one by Peter
and another by Paul
). Now some context is order. It's been almost two months since Jesus was crucified, and he has returned to meet with the disciples and charge them with carrying his word throughout the world. So here is Peter (of the three times you will deny me fame) standing up in Jerusalem and deciding 'We need to go for it."
So, in Public, the Holy Spirit enters into a number of the early Christians who begin to speak in tongues. I suspect that some of you have seen Borat. Remember that scene where Borat, depressed to learn that Pamela Anderson is not a virgin, reaches his breaking point and wakes up at the doorstep of a Pentacostal church, strangely enough one that a U.S. Congressmen was speaking at. It's a charismatic service, and people start speaking in tongues and running about 'as the Spirit moves them'. Now I have a friend who has spoken in tongues. He's a recovering fundamentalist (now agnostic) who told me about it. He said, "It's like this: You're there and everybody is really excited, and you really want it to happen. And you don't think about it, but just drop to the ground and start jabbering."
Of course the real Holy Spirit actually provides correct grammar and vocabulary, but i even if they were speaking correctly, I can understand the response of passers by who wondered if they were drunk. To which Peter replies no, they aren't drunk it's 9:00 in the morning!
I buy that. I drank a lot in college, and immediately thereafter. I sleep very late when I've been drinking. Vodka does not a breakfast make. But it's like this, Jesus has been presented as the Messiah, and in most Jewish traditions the Messiah was seen as more a miltary deliverer than someone who came back to remind us that well, the thing that God wants most from us is to take care of each other. And he definitely doesn't get crucified. Peter and Paul (who spoke much later as he was persecuting Christians back in those days) both take the same tactic, the instead look back to earlier scriptures and point out that guess what, the messiah had to be killed to fulfill the scriptures. Paul takes it even farther looking at the hostile crowd and tell them that they, by crucifying Jesus for no reason, were the people who fulfilled the prophecies.
What audacity! I'd have never expected such a powerful response. And then I realized that if I'd been standing there that day, I wouldn't have believed a word of it. I'd have treated them like just another bunch of religious cranks. A cult. And yet those brave speeches were the beginning of my religious tradition.
I found it very disturbing to learn that my mind was closed to the sort of epiphany necessary for Christianity to survive. But then I have experienced an epiphany of sorts, and at the time it seemed to have nothing whatsoever to do with religion outside the whispered thought "Jesus will help." And in a way, the Red Sea did part on a piece of my life, though my decision to officially join the church came much later, that experience played a part in it.
I'm not sure those speeches did much good back when Christians were a strange offshoot of Judaism. Certainly some were affected enough to begin their own journey of faith. But I don't think the voice of God is loud and forceful. I think God speaks in whispers, and we don't always listen at the time.