Signs of Pentecost

June 6, 2011

For more commentary on this week's readings, see the Reflections on the Lectionary page, which
includes Honig's current Living by the Word column as well as past magazine
and blog content. For full-text access to all articles, subscribe to the
Century.

It's commonly suggested that the Pentecost story is a
reversal of the chaotic separation of the Tower of Babel. That point gets
debated.

What isn't debatable is that people remain separated in
abundant ways. Even in the church--ostensibly the place where divisions are
reconciled--there is still ample reason for repentance.

But there are signs that the Spirit is working, that the Pentecost
vision of unity of tribe and nation and language in Christ is being realized.

An octogenarian woman from a nearby senior residence began
attending our church recently. She is always well-dressed, carrying herself in
a way that demands respect. She is a woman of few words and generally comes and
goes pretty quietly.

A few weeks ago, she happened to come to the communion rail
and knelt right next to one of our young Burundian mothers, clad in her
colorful patterned dress with matching head scarf, her little baby perched on
her arm. The baby nestled her head into her mother's neck, staring at this
woman next to them, perhaps wondering who this is who looks so different from
her own mother.

The older woman leaned into the young African mother, rested
her head on the mother's shoulder and gave the baby a grandmotherly pat on the
back. Both women smiled deeply, smiles that communicated more than a casual
hello. They betrayed rather the deep connection in Christ--at Christ's
table--of people different in so many ways, who speak different languages but
nevertheless are sisters.