Tuesday, May 22, 2018

A Way Of Life

May 22, 2018 - Tuesday in Proper 2

Sometimes, when I want to give my child one of those life-lessons that I hope she or he will hold onto forever, I pull that child aside and speak to her or him privately. That isn't because my words are some secret teaching--a Garner-family tradition--that no one else may hear. It is because I want her full attention and because I want to speak directly to her in a parent-to-child way that will leave an impression on her. Similarly, I wonder whether Jesus, when he pulls his disciples aside to give them a private teaching, is trying to tell them something that no one else will understand or simply something he wants them to hear in a deeper way.

In today's gospel lesson from Mark 9, Jesus is passing through Galilee, his home, with his disciples, but Mark tells us that Jesus did not want anyone to know it "because he was teaching his disciples" about his upcoming suffering, death, and resurrection. The way Mark introduces the encounter makes it feel like Jesus is teaching them something that he is trying to hide from everyone else. Mark loves secrets and repeatedly portrays Jesus ordering individuals not to tell anyone about him or the miraculous cure he had given them. But the nature of this teaching--this "The Son of Man is to be betrayed, killed, and, after three days, rise again" lesson--is so central to his identity that I wonder whether he might have a different pedagogical approach in mind.

Mark tells us that Jesus explained this to his disciples, but his disciples did not understand him. This was the second time Jesus predicted his passion and death. The first time came in Mark 8, after Peter acknowledged that Jesus was the Christ. That time, however, when Jesus predicted his death, Peter intervened, objecting and rebuking Jesus. We remember what happened to Peter--"Get behind me, Satan!"--and it doesn't surprise us that none of the disciples speaks up this time. But their lack of understanding is more than a failure to comprehend the fullness of what Jesus had told them. As the second half of this gospel lesson shows us, the disciples were on the wrong track in a bigger, deeper way.

When Jesus and his disciples got to Capernaum, Jesus asked them what they had been arguing about on the way. They never admitted the truth. They had been arguing about which one of them was the greatest. But Jesus, knowing in his heart (or perhaps his ears) what they had been discussing, sat the disciples down for another private teaching: "Whoever wants to be first must be last of all and servant of all." This is one of those "come-to-Jesus" meetings, when the master needs the disciples to be absolutely clear what he means. Jesus is trying to impart to them the kind of wisdom they are not able to find on their own, and that requires a full, intimate, face-to-face exchange. 

When Jesus teaches us to become servant of all, he isn't giving us advice on how to have a good life. He's not telling us that this is a good way, a helpful discipline, to get closer to God. This is what it means to belong to him. In the same way that I tell my children, "This is what it means to be a part of our family; this is how we act," Jesus is telling his disciples and all who would follow him that our identity is to become servant of all. That's what the passion predictions are about. And I think, in part, that's why they come in secret--because Jesus wants us to know that this teaching is meant specifically for us, for you, for me. 

What do Christians do? We love God and love our neighbor. We go to church. We say our prayers. We participate in the transformation of the world through the unconditional love of God in Jesus Christ. We do all of those things. Those are the habits of a Christian. But what does it mean to be a Christian? Who are followers of Jesus? We are those who suffer as Jesus suffered, who die as Jesus died, and who are raised as Jesus has been raised. We are those who become last, least, servants of all. Jesus wants his disciples' full attention. And he wants ours, too. Does he have it?

Vision of God

What does God look like? It's a question as old as humanity. One of the distinguishing characteristics of our tradition--our Jewish heritage--is the rejection of any and all images of the divine. The leaders of Israel knew that the human desire to make real, tangible, and physical that which is holy, mysterious, and totally other meant that any picture, image, or statue of God would become an idol that was worshipped in the place of God. So they rejected the practice on a matter of principle. God doesn't even have an effible name much less a caricature.

That principle leads to some other important theological conclusions, including the belief that no one is allowed to see God and live. Anyone who saw God, whatever God looks like, might attempt to reproduce in mind or physical form that which she or he saw. To see God was a death sentence. Even Moses, who was said to talk with God "face to face" wasn't actually allowed to see the face of God--only God's hindparts. In Sunday's lesson from the Hebrew Bible, Isaiah 6:1-8, we hear the prophet's words of woe at having been given a glimpse of the Almighty: "Woe is me! I am lost, for I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips; yet my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts!" It's interesting that the prophet, whose words would define him, choose "unclean lips" as the way of describing his unworthiness, and it makes sense, then, that having had his lips purified, the one who had seen a vision of the Lord would be the one empowered to speak the Lord's word.

The prophet was given a vision--a strange, mysterious vision of the Lord. God was seated on a throne, high in the heavens, but the hem of God's robe--the hem!--filled the whole of the temple. Above God were angels, who flew about and called to one another, singing, "Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts!" So powerful was their cry that the building was shaken to its foundation, and the entire temple was filled with the haze of smoke. It sounds like a pretty cool dream.

Who are we to approach the Lord? Who are we that the Lord would approach us? There is powerful mystery in these words. The prophet, terrified that he has seen what no human ought, is called into ministry and mission from this mysterious encounter. Isaiah encounters that which he cannot know, that which he knows that he is neither allowed nor capable of apprehending, and he begs for mercy. God, of course, has revealed God's self in this way to fill Isaiah's mind and heart and words with awe of the divine, an awe that will fill his prophecy. The instructions he gives to his people, therefore, are in adoration of the unknowable God. How much of our preaching comes from a similar encounter?

I don't know many Christians who actually worship--i.e. fall down in subjection to--an idol, statue, or image. But we've lost our sense of how powerful the desire to make specific that which cannot be narrowed down. Idol worship isn't only about false gods. It's about losing one's awe for God. This Sunday, Trinity Sunday, we have an opportunity to be in awe of God. Nothing is easy this week. The collect is wordy, the proper preface is wordy, St. Patrick's Breastplate is wordy. Don't go cheap and easy. God is bigger, richer, holier than any analogy you might use. Dear Preacher, let us stand in God's indescribable presence and give us space to be in awe. Then, we, a people of unclean lips, might be filled with wonder and hear again our call to worship, follow, and serve the Almighty.

Monday, May 21, 2018

Prayer Is Essential

Every year, I get to the Monday after Pentecost, the first day after Easter, and think, "I've missed green." The Daily Office this week, except for the lesser feasts that fall on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday, is back to ordinary time, which I've missed. But, by the time Sunday gets here, when we celebrate the feast of the Holy Trinity, we will be back to white again. Still, it's good to be ordinary again, back to the repetitious prayers that draw us ever closer to God.

In fact, as we approach Trinity Sunday, prayer seems to be of particular importance. In his letter to the Romans, Paul writes, "When we cry, 'Abba! Father!' it is that very Spirit bearing witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs, heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ." Notice carefully the logic that Paul uses. Although we might be the ones crying "Abba! Father!" it is actually the Spirit that is testifying within us, and the Spirit testifies that we are children of God and, thus, heirs with Christ. That we can call God our Father is a statement of our sonship (anyone have a better word for this?), yet we do not have the authority to make that claim on our own--only God himself can make it in us through the Spirit. Our identity as children of God and, as Paul goes on to explain, our identity as those united to Christ, is itself a statement made in and a reality experienced in Spirit-led, Spirit-articulated prayer.

This Sunday, we seek to praise God who is Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. We do not seek to understand God. No one can understand God. God is infinite--without bound or limit. No one can circumscribe God with one's mind. No one can contain God in mental apprehension. But we can approach God in prayer. We can allow God to move and speak in and through us. Through prayer, we can be drawn by God into the divine life and participate in the Holy Trinity and, thus, be forever changed. That might feel like it's a bit much to accomplish in church on Sunday morning, but it's what we do every week. God meets us and, by the Spirit which prays in us, draws us into God's self so that our union with Christ may become a union with God.

This is one of those weeks when we can pray it better than the preacher can say it. Let the beauty of our worship and the power of our prayer transport us not only into God's presence but into God's self. Yes, it's Memorial Day. Yes, it's the first weekend of summer. Yes, the congregation is likely to be smaller than usual. But don't skimp. This is a day when we need the fullness of what we do as the people of God. We need the depth of our worship and prayer to draw us in so that Trinity Sunday is more than a day on the liturgical calendar. If we are to worship the trinity of persons in unity of substance, a concept which escapes our understand, we need God to help us, and prayer is how we set ourselves apart to receive that help.

Sunday, May 20, 2018

God Love For All People

May 20, 2018 – The Day of Pentecost: Whitsunday, Year B

© 2018 Evan D. Garner

Audio of this sermon can be heard here.

I don’t often walk into a situation where I feel uncomfortable or unwelcome. Boardrooms, classrooms, barber shops, dress shops, dinner parties, debutante balls—I may not enjoy a particular meeting or social function, but I hardly ever walk through a door wondering whether I will be accepted, whether I will have a place at the table. Mostly, that’s the privilege of being a white, middle-class, well-educated man. Being a clergyperson is its own special privilege, one that grants me access to hospital rooms and bedrooms and other private places where few guests would be welcome. Most of you, too, enjoy the privilege of unfettered access to most of life’s circumstances. When was the last time you wondered whether you were being followed in a store not because the staff expected you to spend a lot of money but because they took one look at you and suspected that you might slip something into your purse or pocket?

Some of us, however, know what it means to feel moments of unacceptance and exclusion. We know what it means to enter a classroom with a learning disability and to expect that we will not fit in even before we get started. We know how it feels to wonder whether our lifelong friend isn’t returning our phone call because she has heard that our house is in foreclosure. We know what it means to suspect that our child didn’t make the all-star team because we didn’t grow up in this town. We know how it feels to come to church and sense that people are keeping their distance because of the messy divorce that we are in the middle of. We all experience moments of distance and dis-ease. Some of them are profound, and some are passing. But what would it be like if that were the defining characteristic of your life? What would it feel like to wake up every day knowing that you don’t belong, that you are unwelcome in your own life?

That’s the story of Pentecost—a moment when God invites a group of people who don’t fully belong to confront the very thing that keeps them apart. On the “fiftieth day” after Passover, Jewish people from all over had gathered in Jerusalem for Shavuot, the Feast of Weeks, which commemorated both the annual wheat harvest and the giving of the Law on Mt. Sinai. It was a time of international celebration, when everyone who was able to make the pilgrimage would travel to the holy city for the festivities. There were Jews there from all over the known world, “Parthians, Medes, Elamites, and residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya belonging to Cyrene, and visitors from Rome, both Jews and proselytes, Cretans and Arabs.” They were all there to embrace the one thing that they had in common: a Jewish ancestry which they claimed either by birth or by adoption. And doing so required that they put aside the national, cultural, and linguistic differences that normally separated them so that they could stand before God as a united people.

But God had something else in mind. Suddenly, there came from heaven a sound like the rush of a violent wind, and it filled the house where the disciples had gathered together. Divided tongues as of fire appeared and rested on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages as God’s Spirit gave them ability. So confusing and chaotic was the sound that a crowd of residents and visitors ran together to see what was happening. In the jumbled cacophony, individuals began to discern words spoken in their own native tongues, and they were amazed. “How is it that these Galileans are speaking to us in languages that don’t belong here in Jerusalem, languages that come from far away, languages that we left behind when we made the pilgrimage to the holy city? How is it, in a moment when God’s people are supposed to be brought together through the denial of their differences, that God shows up and reaches out to each one of us in our own distinct way?”

These spiritual immigrants had made the journey to the land of promise in order to participate in God’s great and ancient plan of salvation. That they needed to make a journey at all underscores their belief that only when they left behind the things that separated them could they find their place in God’s family. For millennia, God’s great and powerful movement in the world had been to unite God’s people into one nation with one language so that together they could worship the one God. But, at Pentecost, God began the great reversal of that saving work. Through the Holy Spirit, God gave his people the power to speak and hear the good news of salvation in every language known to humanity. But this was much more than a linguistic conversion. This was a reversal of how God’s salvation would be propagated throughout the world. No longer would people need to leave their differences behind in order to be brought together as the people of God. Now, God would unite them in their differences, refusing to allow distinctions of language, ethnicity, culture, or class stand in the way.

But that kind of reversal is threatening. To the powers that be, to the people who controlled access to God and God’s salvation, to the people of privilege who didn’t need to leave anything behind in order to belong, that great reversal was deeply threatening. “All were amazed and perplexed, saying to one another, ‘What does this mean?’ But others sneered and said, ‘They are filled with new wine.’” I have never met someone who surprised me by speaking fluently in multiple languages and thought to myself, “This person must be drunk,” but I’ve encountered plenty of people with ideas so crazy that it was easier for me to assume their inebriation than their genius. Of course some of the people sneered. Who would dare to contaminate this celebration of national unity by reveling in cultural difference? Who would dare to think that in the sacred streets of the City of David the good news of God’s salvation should be preached in the profane tongues of infidels? Who would? God would.

“Men of Judea and all who live in Jerusalem,” Peter said, addressing the religious powers of his day, “these men are not drunk, as you suppose, for it is only nine o’clock in the morning. Instead, this is the fulfillment of what God promised through the prophet Joel.” The prophet had envisioned a day when God’s word would be revealed to everyone—old and young, male and female, slave and free. All of them would see visions and dream dreams. Even the sun and the moon would declare the power of God’s intervention in ways that no prophet need explain. In his speech, Peter showed the crowd that at Pentecost God wasn’t doing something new but was doing something ancient in a new way. The salvation of God’s people was a work as old as time, but the fulfillment, the completion, of that work required a new and expectation-shattering approach. No longer would God’s story of salvation be limited to the Hebrew prophets and those who understood them, but everyone who called on the name of the Lord in whatever language he or she spoke would be saved. And Peter wanted God’s people to see that the day when that great vision of salvation began to unfold was today.

In the life and death and resurrection of Jesus, we see the story of God’s saving love and the power of that love to reconcile us to God and to one another. But, in the sending of God’s Spirit, we see the good news of that love being spoken into the minds and hearts and lives of all people no matter who they are or where they come from or what language they speak. At Pentecost, we see God declare that no barrier, no hurdle, no difference can separate someone from God’s saving love. You don’t have to come from where we come from and look the way we look and talk the way we talk in order to be a child of God just like us. God’s Spirit has the power to unite all of us—not despite our differences but right in the heart of them.

But that’s threatening. It’s threatening to people like you and me, who have the privilege of belonging, to hear that other people who aren’t like us have the same access and are granted an equal share in God’s love. Sometimes it’s the crossing of racial or cultural barriers that we find threatening. Other times it’s the blurring of traditional gender or socio-economic roles at which we bristle. More often, however, our discomfort at those differences becomes manifest in judgments of deservedness as we pronounce that a certain group of people is not entitled to the same access that we enjoy because of something that they have done, some rule they have not followed, or some disappointing habit that “those people” never seem to shake. But, whether it’s with our words or with our actions, whenever we say to another person that he or she does not belong until that person starts acting or speaking or living like us, we are denying the work of the Holy Spirit. The Spirit’s work is to bring God’s unconditional love to all people whoever and wherever they are and, thus, to unite all of us as one great and diverse people of God.

That great vision of salvation began to unfold at Pentecost, but, when we look around, we can plainly see that it isn’t finished yet. As disciples of Jesus, we are living in the age of Pentecost, the time of the Spirit-empowered fulfillment of God’s great promise to bring the light of salvation to all nations. Now it is our turn to participate in the fulfillment of that promise. Today, we remember that you don’t have to be like us to belong with us. Pray that the Spirit of God will fill us not to take away our differences but to take away our unwillingness to believe that God’s love is bigger than those differences. Pray that God’s Spirit will break down the walls in our hearts, in our lives, and in our world until the unconditional love of God is truly free from every bond and chain and shackle of distinction that we would place upon it. Then we will rejoice and say that the day of the Lord has truly come.

Thursday, May 17, 2018

Universal Signs

Earlier this week, Elizabeth and I were out of town for a couple of days because my parents agreed to keep our children and give us the chance to spend some time together. (Thanks, Mom and Dad!) On Monday morning, around nine o'clock, Elizabeth's phone rang. My mother was calling because she heard what sounded like a weather siren blaring outside of our house. "Should I be worried?" my mother asked. "Well," Elizabeth replied, "does the weather outside look concerning?" When my mother replied that it was a beautiful day, Elizabeth said, "Then it's probably just the monthly test."

There are some signs that we use that are designed to get everyone's attention: a tornado siren, the weather alert on our televisions, radios, and smart phones, the siren on a fire truck, the blue lights on a police car. Even if you do not know exactly what they mean, they grab your attention and demand your response. Try standing unreactively beside an ambulance when the siren goes off.

There are similar signs in the Bible, too: the plagues in Egypt, the cloud of the Lord's presence, the trumpets at Jericho, the chariot of fire, the appearance of the son of man. Sometimes the Lord speaks directly to God's people through a prophet or other messenger, but other times God declares himself in signs that no one is able to miss. These are moments when human beings do not need a mediator or a common language or tradition in order to understand the Creator. When the sky becomes dark and the moon turns blood red and the earth shakes and the mountains smoke, everyone knows to pay attention whether she has read the Bible or not.

Sunday's Pentecost story in Acts is one of those moments when God's speech and God's unmistakable acts are united in a display that no one is able to miss. The Holy Spirit descends upon the earth and upon the disciples with the rush of a mighty wind and blazing tongues of fire. The mouths and minds of the disciples are opened, and they begin to declare the good news of God in Jesus in the languages of "Parthians, Medes, Elamites, and residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya belonging to Cyrene." Anyone and everyone who was there could tell that something big was going on.

Peter, freshly anointed by the Holy Spirit, rises and explains what has happened, quoting the prophet Joel and, thus, linking Pentecost with God's unmediated display: "In the last days it will be, God declares, that I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh...And I will show portents in the heaven above
and signs on the earth below, blood, and fire, and smoky mist. The sun shall be turned to darkness and the moon to blood, before the coming of the Lord's great and glorious day. Then everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved."

Pentecost is the inauguration of the "Last Days" in the sense that from now on what God is doing in the world is meant for everyone. The fulfillment of the promise made to Abraham and, through him, to all the nations of the earth is coming to fruition. At Pentecost, the "Jesus Movement" has become the "Spirit Movement" that brings all peoples into the fold of God. This movement, this work of god, isn't different that what has gone on before just as the external operation of the persons of the Trinity isn't different or distinguishable. It is the same movement, but its reach and focus have grown. The prophets who have spoken to God's people are becoming universal voices and signs--the kind of earth-completing evidence that darkening sun and smoky mist speak to all people.

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Groaning Spirit

How do you pray? Do you talk at God whenever the moment feels right? When someone tells me that she talks with God casually throughout the day, I imagine those prayers being uttered in moments of minor need like stuck in traffic or running late or looking for a parking spot. Maybe you sit in the same place every morning and read some prescribed prayers: the Lord's Prayer, the Collect of the Day, the Collects for Peace and Grace, the General Thanksgiving. Or perhaps you set aside time each day to pray to God and naming before God the things for which you are grateful and the concerns of your heart. Maybe you keep a prayer journal of names and circumstances that you care about, reviewing them and saying them aloud every morning. But what happens when we want more? What do we do when we want to bring before God those needs of which we are not conscious? What about those deepest needs of the world and even of ourselves that we don't have words to express but are desperate to name before God? How do we pray when we don't have the words to do it?

Some people sit in silence for thirty minutes each day, bringing themselves consciously into God's presence and listening for the Spirit's quiet voice. In the practice of silent prayer, there is communion with God. The heart and spirit of the person praying are able to communicate with God, expressing in silence deep longing and receiving in return the Spirit's gentle, silent whisper. But, for some, silence does not work. In her book Praying in Color, Sybil MacBeth invites those of us who are distracted by silence to use holy doodling to hold specific needs or people before God in prayer. Still, what if you don't even know for whom to pray but want to do more than sit still? Some pray in tongues, uttering phrases and noises unintelligible to anyone but God. Those who do so believe that the Holy Spirit speaks through them, using their prayers as a channel through which God acts in their lives and in the world in ways beyond their conscious understanding. Those who pray in tongues sense a completeness in their prayers that "normal," understandable prayers can't quite provide. But praying in tongues isn't for everyone. Not everyone has received that gift. And some find it beyond strange, questioning its legitimacy.

There's another possibility--a mixture of these types of prayer that Paul might have in mind in Sunday's reading from Romans 8: "Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but that very Spirit intercedes with sighs too deep for words. And God, who searches the heart, knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God." On the surface, this seems different from the Spirit-led speech that the disciples offer in Acts 2, when they speak in the tongues (meaning languages) of people from all over the world. This is the Spirit "groaning" in ways that those who are praying cannot know. Paul acknowledges that prayer is an important practice that sometimes exceeds our capabilities. "In our weakness," the Spirit helps us by sighing or groaning in intercession in ways "too deep for words." And these groans are known by God (interestingly not heard) because, as Paul reminds us, the Spirit intercedes for holy ones (saints) of God.

What does this mean for us in the 21st century? Are there some among us through whom the Spirit sighs or groans in wordless intercession? Sarah Coakley emphasis such wordless, contemplative prayer as the only means by which individuals are able to communicate with God as they are thus incorporated into the divine life of the Holy Trinity. She's not the first to emphasize this, of course, and Christian ascetics have been engaging in this contemplative practice and prayer since at least the second century. Coakley also allows that contemplative, silent prayer's charismatic sibling, praying in tongues, while less fully developed in the Christian tradition, is an expression of the same thing. But it's important to note that neither Paul nor Sarah Coakley think that mere silence or the practice of centering prayer is sufficient. This is the Spirit doing distinctive work in and through the pray-er.

For us, we see that Paul and the early church to which he was writing understood that Spirit-led, Spirit-spoken prayer was central to our identity as Christians. The act of interceding in ways of which we are unable to be conscious is part of our Spirit-enabled practice. How do you pray? Even that question does not get to the whole issue. How are you a vessel for prayer? How does the Spirit pray in you and through you? How are you becoming a vehicle through which God acts in the world by pursuing Spirit-spoken prayer?

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Tongues or Tongues?

At Pentecost, the Holy Spirit came down and gave power to the disciples to speak in the languages of all the people who were gathered together in Jerusalem: "Parthians, Medes, Elamites, and residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya belonging to Cyrene, and visitors from Rome, both Jews and proselytes, Cretans and Arabs." Everyone marveled--the disciples, the crowd, and those who read the story. "How is it possible," the people asked, "that these Galileans know how to speak in all of these languages?" Clearly, God was at work. The Holy Spirit enabled the good news of Jesus Christ to be proclaimed across the known world. The rest of the Acts of the Apostles is a testament of the Holy Spirit's work in taking that good news out from Jerusalem to everyone and everywhere else.

Nowadays, some Christians celebrate the Spirit-given gift of tongues, but, in almost all cases, this means the glossolalia or indecipherable tongues that individuals utter when praying to God. Rarely do people speak of the Holy Spirit giving them the supernatural ability to speak Urdu or Mandarin. In part, it feels disappointing that the tongues that the Spirit inspires are primarily for personal prayer and not proclamation, but I want to celebrate this contemporary manifestation of the gift of tongues for another reason.

I am sure that there are some isolated languages in remote places into which the Bible has yet to be translated, and the Spirit-inspired work of bringing the good news to those places is commendable. Most of us, however, will never have a need to speak in those languages, but all of us who follow Jesus need to be filled with the Spirit's power so that the good news of God can reach the ends of the earth. This time, the barrier isn't a spoken language but a cultural one.

Actually, I don't want to celebrate the angel-speak that some Christians perform, and I certainly don't want to suggest that those who do not have that gift are not truly baptized by the Holy Spirit as some charismatic branches of Christianity proclaim. But I do want to proclaim that the Holy Spirit's power is as important in the twenty-first century as it was in the first. And I want to look for perplexing, startling, awe-inspiring manifestations of the Spirit that are just as clear and other-worldly as the Galileans speaking in all of those languages.

What does that look like? I don't know. But I think that our discomfort with the Spirit's power is standing in the way of the gospel's work. Look at the reaction of the crowd: "Others sneered and said, 'They are filled with new wine.'" What would it mean for present-day Christians to be so filled with the Spirit's power that some might even consider drunkenness as a possible explanation? There is nothing polite, cautious, or seemly about the Spirit's work in Acts 2. Maybe the strangeness of tongues is an invitation to pursue not simply angel-speak but the Spirit's power.