DO WE KNOW what we even mean when we say “God”? In the wake of the crucifixion, with our theological grammar shattered on Golgotha—where, in Jesus, God died—the events of Easter have us fumbling for new words.
To speak of our faith involves piecing together syllables into phrases that venture to say the unimaginable. The resurrection shocks us out of familiar patterns of thinking about God—an unsettling of our minds but also our lives. That is what we see on Pentecost: a bewilderment. People lose control of their tongues. The Spirit dispossesses the leaders of their power over communication. God reorders their movement with the invitation of the gospel. Pentecost morning concludes with an evening of food and fellowship, “the breaking of bread and prayers,” communion among strangers (Acts 2:42).
The Holy Spirit instigates a reformation of our communities as part of how we articulate the Word of God. “We need to find a new language,” writes Catholic theologian Rosemary Radford Ruether in Sexism and God-Talk, “that cannot be as easily co-opted by the systems of domination.” Habits of life accompany habits of speech. The events of Pentecost reveal a Spirit who refuses to honor our hierarchies of authority, of who represents God. From this primal episode in Acts, the church becomes a movement that transgresses the borders between insider and outsider, neighbor and foreigner, friend and stranger.