We wrapped up Pentecost by watching the Red Sox game with friends. At one point, the commentators took time to talk about how quickly a batter has to decide whether or not to swing at a pitch. They showed the action in super slow motion, with a digital clock in one corner of the screen. On average, the batter has one quarter of a second to decide to swing or not to swing.
Our friend Terry said, “We don’t see and hear with our eyes and ears; we see and hear with our brains.”
Before the eyes have really had time to focus, the brain has already sized up the pitch and sent the message to the legs to dig in and the arms to start swinging to send the ball searching for the fences, all in less than half a second. All the hours spent practicing in the batting cages pay off because the body knows to trust itself and do what it has been prepared to do, which is an amazing and beautiful thing to behold for a baseball lover.
My earliest understanding of Pentecost was that the disciples spoke in different languages, thanks to the hair-singing descent of the Spirit (did anyone else think of Michael Jackson’s Pepsi commercial?), astounding those in the crowd. Years later, I figured out it was not that they spoke different languages but that the folks in the crowd heard their own language as the disciples spoke. They weren’t seeing and hearing with their eyes and ears, or even their brains, but with their hearts. Some heard nothing but a rushing wind and a bunch of gibberish, leaving them to accuse the speakers of being drunk on “sweet wine.”
“Seriously?” asked Peter. “It’s nine in the morning.”
Ginger spent a good part of her sermon asking what we need to do to talk about our faith and our church in a way that others can hear it in their own language, so they will know they are loved and welcome in Jesus’ name. Her sermon and the Sox come together for me because I think each day holds any number of opportunities where I have a split second to decide whether or not to swing, if you will – to try to speak the language of Love in a way that can be heard by everyone from Ginger to the guy at the convenience store to the people I work with in the kitchen. Occasionally, like a batter with a 3-0 count who knows a fastball is coming down the pike, I have some time to think about what I want to say, but most of the time the chances come quickly and I have to hope I have prepared my heart well enough to see and hear – and act – before I am conscious of the opportunity.
If today is the birthday of the church, as we say, then we do well to notice it began with people speaking and acting in a way that allowed those who were listening to hear of God’s love in a way they could understand – in a way that let them know they belonged with the beloved. That is our foundation, our heritage, our fundamental calling. And so I wonder tonight: who am I practicing to become? how am I training myself to respond to those around me? how does my life speak and what does it say?