I am once again reminded that I don’t like open time. Even with the thought that Isaac Newton developed his ideas on gravitation and calculus during one episode of the Black Plague in England (which is perhaps ironic for me as my first major scientific work dealt with Newton’s Law of Gravity) and William Shakespeare did most of his best writing in similar periods, for some reason I do not find the same spark of creativity.
But that is not to say that I haven’t been thinking and in the coming weeks, I will have to not only be thinking about what I am going to be writing but I will have to put some effort into the research phase of writing as I look at the history of our favorite hymns.
But, let’s step back a day or two on think about Pentecost and what it means for the coming days. There were three points made in the Lectionary for Pentecost – common languages, skills, and community.
When I was in high school, I planned on taking three years of German. But this plan was quickly cast aside when we moved from the Denver area to the St. Louis area and then to the Memphis area. The high schools I attended in Missouri and Tennessee did not offer German and I was not interested in taking Spanish, French, or Latin. So, the plans of my freshman year were cast aside.
That’s not to say that I don’t have a “foreign language”. My interests in computer programming would provide the basis for meeting the language requirement for my doctorate at Iowa as I used my proficiency with SPSS to meet the language requirement (and produce my first set of professional papers).
The idea of a foreign language being part of one’s doctoral program goes to the idea of being part of a community. For many years, German was the language of science and mathematics because much of the ground-breaking work was done in Germany. But over the years, the language of the lab became English and the demand for German dropped. But the development of computers suggested a new language, that of computers, as the means for communication.
There is still a need in science and mathematics for traditional methods, but computers offer ways to assist those traditional methods. And it was through computer-based communication that several of the papers that I wrote with Marcin Paprzycki and George Duckett were produced.
On Pentecost, many individuals, from various places around the Middle East, had gathered in Jerusalem for the Feast of the Harvest. One can only imagine the chaos of that time and place as people found it impossible to communicate with each other. But when the Holy Spirit came, it suddenly became possible for the visitors to Jerusalem to understand the Christians and each other. And though there were many different individuals, from many different lands and backgrounds, through the Holy Spirit, a new community was built. It was a community of believers, using the skills and abilities to meet the needs of the community.
If we fast forward to today, we find that the idea of the community of believers is being tested, tested perhaps to the breaking point. Can Christianity or any of its denominations, survive a time when many who identify themselves as Christians demand that believers accept what they believe as the absolute truth.
Can society survive when the search for truth, a process that requires many different skills and, often, people working together, is questioned. It strikes me than the greatest resistance to the search for truth often comes from people ensconced in their self-contained bubbles, impervious to change and new information?
Can society survive when, while we speak one common language, are unable to understand what others are saying? We see the same object but, at the same time, we do not see the same object.
We are at a crossroads and we must decide which way we are going to turn. One way leads to the Kingdom of God and the other leads away. What Pentecost tells us is that we must turn as one community, working together, using all the skills we have, finding many ways to communicate. If we declare that our way is the only way, we may find ourselves going in the wrong direction. But if we see that we are a community of many believers, then we will find the right path.