There is a saying that goes, “Sticks and stones may break my bones but words can never hurt me.” This is so untrue. The fact is, words can do great damage. They can create chaos, conflict, war and even death. Words can also do the opposite. They can bring tremendous good. They can provide clarity, enlightenment, support and encouragement. Words have power.
In the story of Pentecost, when the Holy Spirit is sent to the disciples, it is language that unites the people. With the arrival of the Spirit, people from many different places and cultures can understand each other’s language (Acts 2:5-11). It is through words that the people hear the Holy Spirit’s message of unity, peace and love.
Pentecost is a good time to ask ourselves, “How is our language?” As disciples of Jesus, what kind of words do we use every day? Do the words we speak communicate respect, understanding and openness? What is the tone of the words that we use in our homes, around the table, in the car? How is our language at work? What kinds of words do we speak about our boss and our co-workers? Do we speak the truth? Do our words support the necessity of doing what is right? How is our language at school? How do we speak of our teachers and our classmates? What is the quality of our language when speaking of people different from ourselves? If you are a man, what is your language like when talking about women? If you are a woman, what is the content and tenor of your words about men? How do we speak about people from other cultures and religions?
The language of the Spirit which we celebrate on Pentecost is a language of joy, hope, forgiveness and peace. The only way the Spirit’s language is spoken is through us. Each day, as others listen to the words we use, would they recognize our words as the language of the Holy Spirit?