Reflection June 5, 2022 (Pentecost)
Acts 2:1-21/ Genesis 11:1-9/ John 14:8-17
All For God’s Reign and God’s Reign for All
All For One, One For All
There is a phrase that became iconic from The Three Musketeers by the French author Alexandre Dumas: “All for one, one for all.” I think this phrase is so cool and healthy because it doesn’t stop at the philosophy that requires members of a group to work and sacrifice for the greater good; it says that the members work for the group and the group will take care of its members in return.
Having grown up in Korea, I am familiar with the idea that the members should sacrifice for the good of the group. As the members of a society, we must sometimes lay down our individual wants and needs for the greater good. But if the members do nothing but sacrifice for the group, that would not be a healthy group; it would be dictatorship.
Having said that, the individualism of the western cultures sometimes catches me by surprise. For example, people who make noise and protest because they don’t want to wear masks or get vaccinated feel extremely selfish to me. Vaccines are a perfect symbol for what we owe to each other living in a society.
Quite literally, we rely on other members of the society to do their parts to create herd immunity to protect every member. Those who have medical conditions that compromise their immune systems and cannot get vaccinated depend on herd immunity to survive. It is our civil duty to carry the weaker members of our society, both inside and outside the medical field. The Three Musketeers teaches us to unite for one goal, under the same leadership, and to work as one for the greater good.
Pentecost and Tower of Babel
Today is Pentecost when we celebrate the coming of the Holy Spirit that gave birth to the Christian Church. The Old Testament and New Testament readings for today have one thing in common; they are both about languages.
These two stories are paired up for Pentecost Sunday because theologians see the Pentecost story as the rewriting or the undoing of the Tower of Babel story. In the Babel story, the division of languages was used to disperse people so they wouldn’t unite and rebel against God. In the Pentecost story, God’s children and disciples of Jesus became united by speaking each other’s languages, powered by the Holy Spirit.
The Pentecost story reminds us that, under the leadership of Jesus, different people are united in all their diversities. I call this “unity in diversity.” There is not one unified way of existing and uniting as God’s people. God created all of us differently; therefore, our diversities must be celebrated. It is God’s design and will for us, revealed in the life and teachings of Jesus whom we follow.
The various languages that the first disciples speak in Acts chapter 2 are a symbol of the diverse ways in which God created us. We may not understand everyone who is different from us, but we are all God’s beautifully made children. We are people of different ethnic groups, cultures and languages, sexual orientations, gender identities, and so on.
Today is not only Pentecost Sunday but the beginning of the Pride Month. Minority sexual orientations and gender identities are celebrated on purpose because they are usually considered “wrong” or “unnatural.” Minority identities in general must be celebrated to remind ourselves that we are loved and valued despite our differences, social stigmas, and marginalization. That is why we have Black History month, Asian Heritage Month, Indigenous History Month, Pride Month, and more.
Holy Spirit the Helper and Guide
In John chapter 14, before Jesus dies and leaves his friends, he confirms to them that he and God are of one mind, and promises the coming of the Holy Spirit to replace him after he is gone.
When Jesus was living on earth, he could guide his followers with his teachings about God’s will. They were connected to God through his teachings. We are connected to God though Jesus but also through the help of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit guides us, as Jesus did on earth, and teaches us God’s ways.
God’s ways that we learn from Jesus is the reign of love that is based on equality and justice. When the Holy Spirit lives in us, we are emotionally affected by the evil of the world and human suffering because we are given the heart of God and Jesus. We want to do good and reduce human suffering because we now own the heart of Jesus through the works of the Holy Spirit in us.
Learning from Pentecost and the Pride Month
Pride Month is a great opportunity for our narrow minds and prejudices to be challenged by the Holy Spirit.
We don’t like everyone. We don’t understand everyone. We don’t agree with everyone. However, If the Holy Spirit is in us, we can still acknowledge that we are all united as God’s beloved children and refuse to hurt each other; people who speak different languages, eat different foods, love different genders, live as different genders…
On this Pentecost Sunday, let us receive the Holy Spirit as powerfully as the first disciples did. Let the Spirit challenge us and guide us to love and value all God’s people. Let us unite in the Holy Spirit to work towards the greater good for God; to bring God’s reign on earth, to make a world where all are valued and no one is marginalized or oppressed. Let us be united in all our diversities. Let us proclaim, “All for God’s reign and God’s reign for all.”