Now to each one the
manifestation of the Spirit
is given for the common good. (1 Cor 12:7)
Our first reading today is the traditional
in which those of all linguistic groups and nationalities
can understand each other in the power of the Spirit –
The curse of Babel
(the division and enmity and mistrust between peoples
brought about by sin and pride)
is overcome by the Go-Between Spirit of God
who opens people up to one another in love and peace.
This is a miracle of God’s grace and power
which manifests itself in different ways
in different times and places.
And when a few weeks ago in this Church
13 different languages were used in the Bible reading
for our World Church Sunday service
and we all followed in a language we understood –
well then indeed the miracle of mutual trust and understanding
amidst a broken and defensive world was worked again.
The early Christians found that the Spirit’s power
to break down the artificial barriers of language
was manifested in a more one particularly dramatic way –
they found that some of their number were given a gift of tongues –
an ability to speak in a new language –
yet one which could be understood by at least some others
who would then interpret what had been said.
But Paul found that this gift could become a cause
in the early Church, and this specially the case in Corinth.
It seems that there were those who claimed that
speaking in this way was the best of gifts,
and therefore that those not blessed with this particular gift
were in some sense second class Christians.
Paul responds by saying two things to those who speak with tongues:
are many different gifts – tongues is just one of many
All gifts are equally valuable
is important – those who speak in tongues in public
should make sure that what they say is interpreted.
What should we make of this?
There are some Methodist who speak with tongues –
though it is not be a normal part of our Methodist practice or liturgy
But as Methodists we do well to reflect on the
and I would like to offer reflection in three areas -
A Gift of the Spirit or Learned Behaviour?
I recall a piece by a sociologist of religion demonstrating
that speaking with tongues can be socially learnt –
i.e. if you regularly attend a Pentecostal Church
where people are speaking in tongues,
you are more likely to develop the gift yourself
than if you go to a non-Pentecostal Church.
That should hardly surprise us –
But the underlying question is this –
if Speaking with tongues is socially learnt
does that mean it is fraudulent or not inspired by God?
The answer to that has to be “No”.
The gifts of the Spirit include many things –
such as administration and healing –
and no-one as far as I know suggests that people
who learn to type to do the Church notices
or who go to medical school before doing surgery
are somehow cheating or being necessarily unguided by the Spirit.
We all have to learn how to pray.
And when non Christians from overseas come into the Mint for the first time,
they have to learn about singing hymns
All patterns of worship and praise have a component
of social learning –
and that in no sense invalidates what we do.
Developing the gifts of the Spirit is always going
a mixture of inspiration and perspiration.
Heart or Mind?
As Christians we are called to love and serve the
with all our heart and all our soul and all our mind.
If we become purely cerebral or purely emotional,
we have lost what it means to offer our whole being to God –
we need the balance.
As a University linked Church containing
a high proportion of professional people,
we may be too easily inclined to emphasize
the mental over the emotional.
We need to recall that some people lack intellectual capacity.
Choir starts to sing and young Alex
(oblivious of all the fine words pouring from the pulpit)
suddenly breaks into a smile and starts beating the rhythm,
then we realize that we can celebrate God’s goodness in many ways.
sometimes about those who cannot read
and how we minister to them –
the first thing you are given when you enter this Church
is a pile of paper and a seat with three books in front of you.
are conditioned in the way of intellectual discourse
should rejoice in ways to God which do not have
linguistic or intellectual preconditions,
and may thus provide important routes to God for some people.
are still inclined to feel that all worship
must be firmly grounded in the verbal and the cerebral,
and emotion does not matter – let me ask you this:
If I were to pick Love Divine and Guide Me O thou Great Jehovah
next Sunday, but when we got to those hymns I were to say
“Lets not bother singing them, lets read them,
so that we can concentrate on the words –
some might be happy, but others would feel cheated and robbed –
Why? – because letting rip with a well loved chorus
is about more than words, it is a opening of the heart.
if you sing hymns just for the tunes,
and never listen to the words, that is another matter -
In Paul’s terms that is like speaking with tongues
without offering interpretation.
matters is that the non-cerebral
is not ultimately separated from the cerebral –
tongues and interpretation,
words and tune,
mind and heart go together.
Unity and Diversity
in Corinth was that those who spoke in tongues
felt they were superior. They had the best gift.
This has sadly led to the position in which some say:
“Unless you speak in tongues you have not received
the baptism of the Spirit and you are not a true Christian”
No – there are many gifts –
and none is mandatory or definitive for all Christians –
what if the body were all eye etc etc…
a danger that we all see our way
as the best or even the only true way.
members of our congregation
will occasionally raise their hands during a moving song or hymn.
Others will cross themselves before receiving Communion.
These are not right and wrong ways of praising God –
they simply demonstrate legitimate diversity.
I can think
of at least one member of this Church
who would cheerfully burn every copy of “Songs of Fellowship” –
one or two others who would like every piece of music
from that source.
that both sides of that debate have their tongue
somewhat in their cheek –
because of course we may have these preferences ourselves,
but it is not for us to determine
the only acceptable way of praising God.
certainly includes those who are give the strange but powerful
gift of speaking with tongues.
¨ Let us welcome diversity
¨ Let us welcome the Spirit into our lives.
¨ In his power let us praise God as he enables us -
¨ Let us praise God with heart and soul and mind
God speaks through us,
let us show the world that we are a Spirit filled people!!
ORDER OF SERVICE
Pentecost Sunday, 27 May 2007
6.30 p.m. Holy Communion led by Rev Andrew Sails
Hymn 14 “Praise the Lord, his glories show”
Prayers (MWB p 174)
Readings: Acts 2:1-13 (p.1093)
1 Cor 12:1-11,27-31 (p.1153)
Hymn 322 “O Spirit of the Living God”
Sermon: “Speaking with Tongues”
Hymn 745 “O Thou who camest from above”
Prayers and Lord’s Prayer (MWB p.176)
Holy Communion (MWB p.179)