March 14, 2023
TODAY’S SCRIPTURE READING:
“For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ Jesus. It is the power of God to bring salvation to everyone who believes; first to the Jew and then to the Greek [read ‘to the rest of the world].” (Romans 1.16)
“They [the believers in the resurrected Jesus of Nazareth who is the Son of God and Messiah] devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. All the believers were together and had everything in common.” (Acts 2.42,44)
TODAY’S SCRIPTURE REFLECTION:
If there is any question as to why the current culture and climate is as it is, then we need to look no further than a broken heart. Essentially, there are two categories of “broken.” The first is the separating of something into various pieces whether in half or in many so that it can no longer serve the purpose for which it was made. It doesn’t matter whether it is literal or figurative, an object or a person or a promise. The true understanding of broken is the result. What is the result of this first “broken”? I would offer it is nothing less than control or the appearance of control. Such control comes in the exerting of force of one upon another in order to sublimate it or eliminate it. We all have examples of such an understanding.
The second is a breaking into pieces in order to share the whole with many. It is the manifestation of servitude and humility. It could be a “ground breaking” experience in order to construct something new. It could be a barrier breaking in order to release the opportunity to grow and mature. It could be in “breaking the bank” in order to give others the wherewithal to survive and thrive. While we all have examples of that category in our own lives, I would turn to the act of communion which Jesus shared with His disciples. It was not limited to that Upper Room experience from which the sacrament of the “Lord’s Supper” is instituted. We know of other “bread breaking” moments such as the feeding of the twenty thousand, dinner at the home of Cleopas and his wife or the lakeside breakfast where Jesus restored Peter’s confidence in himself so that he could again be the rock of faith upon which the Church would be established. That story of reconciliation found in the 21st chapter of John was “ground breaking,” “barrier breaking” and “bank breaking” all rolled into one. What was the purpose, or result, of that moment in Peter’s life? It was for the sharing of communion and the building up of the community of faith in Jesus as the Christ. It was the establishment of an eternal fellowship without which Peter would have continued to struggle in doubt and perplexity. And that “bread,” emblematic of Jesus’ body (the Church and its many members), was broken as an implementation of grace so that the pieces could be drawn back together into one reality and one truth.
That truth was evidenced at Pentecost ten days later. It was the contradiction to the ancient story of “The Tower of Babel.” At Pentecost all the languages of the world were treated as one spiritual language by which the gospel itself was presented. There is no debate here concerning whether it was the “speaking of a foreign language” or glossolalia, “speaking in a heavenly language.” It is about the result of such language whichever it was. Heaven seems to have become a foreign concept in today’s world. Speaking about Heaven and the Holy Spirit is that parenthetical “speaking Greek” experience which indicates not just a lack of understanding but no opportunity to understand. Pentecost 29 A.D. was bringing God to the people that they may be one instead of the intent of the builders of the Tower of Babel who sought to reach Heaven and claim equality to be one as God. A similar experience of transformation was evidenced in the “missionary” ministry of the Church. Regardless of the language spoken by those who were missionaries sent out to foreign lands, the intent was to teach those people first how to speak the language of the missionary so that communication would be possible. When it became the premise of the missionary to instead learn the language and culture of the people first, the gospel was heard best. The reality became evident that the people would “hear and receive the Word” better from a people who could relate to them in their own “culture and climate.” And that is what happened at Pentecost as the tribes and nations heard the gospel in their own languages from those who were under the influence of the Holy Spirit. There were a number of barriers broken that day. None were broken in order to exert undue influence or control over the people. What was broken was the extension of what happened on the day of Jesus’ death fifty days previous. I should rather say “what happened in the moment of Jesus’ death.” The gospels all report the moment when Jesus uttered those fateful words “Into Your Hands I surrender my spirit.” Similar to the woman who broke the seal on her expensive jar of nard to anoint Jesus’ feet after washing them with her tears and drying them with her hair, the Temple Curtain was rent in half and the Holy of Holies was exposed to the world. And it was the “breaking of His heart,” parenthetically speaking, where Jesus submitted to the will of God and was poured out as an offering to God to seal the covenant of forgiveness promised to all who would believe. At Pentecost, the Spirit of God was no longer the province of the priest and the Temple. It “broke out” on the people and they believed in the Word of God which was given and thereby established a new community of faith.
This is the province of the Church today. We “break bread,” “break barriers,” “break the bank” to open the door and the hearts of people to be with God. We also “break rank” with those who continue to attempt “with all the king’s horses and all the king’s men put Humpty Dumpty together again.” Ah the futility of Gorilla Glue and Duct Tape. The only true bonding and healing agent is the Holy Spirit of God given so that “love one another” becomes more than words but a righteous action. In it the pieces that the world created by breaking people in opposing communties with disparate language and vague intentions are brought together like stones stacked on top of another. The Holy Spirit becomes like the mortar between them to bind them together to build up a new community in faith. What was it that Jesus said to His detractors? I think He said, “Tear down this house and in three days I will build it up again.” And they did. And He did. And we are to continue to do so until we nearly reach the full measure and stature of Christ. But, our intention is not to be equal with Christ but to share in Christ to be near and with God our Father forever and ever. Then we shall dwell in a place where hearts, minds, spirits, bodies and souls will never be broken. Neither will there be tears, sighing, hungering, thirsting nor dying in that place. This is what Jesus’ heart was breaking for. Shouldn’t ours be as well?
Thank You, Father, for giving us the means and the opportunity to be restored and made whole so we can dwell with You forever and ever in Jesus’ name. AMEN.