God Embraces Us
by the Reverend Noel E. Bordador
When the day of Pentecost had come, the disciples were all together in one place. And suddenly from heaven there came a sound like the rush of a violent wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. Divided tongues, as of fire, appeared among them, and a tongue rested on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages, as the Spirit gave them ability.
Now there were devout Jews from every nation under heaven living in Jerusalem. And at this sound the crowd gathered and was bewildered, because each one heard them speaking in the native language of each. Amazed and astonished, they asked, "Are not all these who are speaking Galileans? And how is it that we hear, each of us, in our own native language? Parthians, Medes, Elamites, and residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya belonging to Cyrene, and visitors from Rome, both Jews and proselytes, Cretans and Arabs-- in our own languages we hear them speaking about God's deeds of power." All were amazed and perplexed, saying to one another, "What does this mean?" But others sneered and said, "They are filled with new wine."
But Peter, standing with the eleven, raised his voice and addressed them, "Men of Judea and all who live in Jerusalem, let this be known to you, and listen to what I say. Indeed, these are not drunk, as you suppose, for it is only nine o'clock in the morning. No, this is what was spoken through the prophet Joel:
`In the last days it will be, God declares,
that I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh,
and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy,
and your young men shall see visions,
and your old men shall dream dreams.
Even upon my slaves, both men and women,
in those days I will pour out my Spirit;
and they shall prophesy.
And I will show portents in the heaven above
and signs on the earth below, blood, and fire, and smoky mist.
The sun shall be turned to darkness
and the moon to blood,
before the coming of the Lord's great and glorious day.
Then everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.' "
At the age of age of fifty six, long after her childbearing years, my mother decided to adopt a baby girl that was abandoned by her own parents. She didn’t tell my father who was out of town. She just took in the baby girl. You could just imagine my father’s surprise when he came home and found a new baby! The new addition to the family was not necessarily met with overwhelming joy; in fact, there was opposition from other relatives. Some thought mom was just foolish, that she didn’t think things through well. Others were concerned that people might think that my father was an adulterer, that the baby was my father’s child through another woman. Some didn’t like the baby because she was darker in color. Some thought she didn’t deserve to have our family name because she was not of our blood. But we managed to work through the opposition and what was important was that we made space for her in our family.
Today marks the solemn feast of Pentecost, the final day of Eastertide. It is the day whereupon the Holy Spirit descended upon disciples after the ascension of Jesus, making them bold missionaries of the good news of Jesus Christ to all peoples of different languages, races and nations. It is to be said that on Pentecost, the church became truly “catholic” in its scope and reach. The Gospel is meant to be proclaimed to the world, and not just to one group of people or to one race or nation. One can say that it is through Christ and Pentecost that God extended his family by expanding those who call to be part of his family. The family of God is no longer reserved to a tribe or tribes of people; the family of God is not merely made up of one chosen race or nation, but through Christ and in Christ, all the peoples of the earth have seen the saving power of God and made sharers in the salvation of Christ.
In church language, we call Jesus as the Son of God. In the Nicene Creed, he is said to be the “only” Son of God, the one and only Son of God “begotten” by divine nature. However, we all are children- sons and daughters of God- not by nature but by adoption. In Baptism, God adopts us as his children. Christ becomes our brother because we have been adopted into the family of God. God welcomes us into his family. God expands his family by adopting us and making us his children. Such is the generosity of God’s love.
Likewise, Pentecost challenges us to open our own spiritual family to include others who are not naturally part of us. That is a challenge because we are comfortable with who we know, with people we are familiar or who look like us or speak our language. We are not comfortable with people we don’t know. Are they going to be nice or are they going to hurt us? Indeed, these are valid concerns. We could be nice and welcoming of people in our midst but then they could take advantage of us or divide our community. That could happen. And so our natural tendency is to cling with the comfortable. Yet, Pentecost is challenging us to risk by opening ourselves to others, making ourselves vulnerable in the same way God expanded his family to make room for us and made us with Christ heirs of his eternal and divine life.
© 2015 Noel E. Bordador
Noel Bordador is a queer Filipino priest in the Episcopal Diocese of New York.
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