Learning a New Language

Sometimes we don’t know what we don’t know. Other times I am acutely aware that I am missing pieces. Information and history that would fill in the puzzle. But I am not sure we always know the difference between seeing the full picture and putting our little section together.

Paul traveled to Ephesus and located the disciples there. They had been baptized. They were living into what they knew. They met together and encouraged each other in faith. There were about twelve of them. So what did they know? Paul asked them:

“Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you came to believe?”  They replied, “We’ve not even heard that there is a Holy Spirit.”  Then he said, “What baptism did you receive, then?”  They answered, “John’s baptism.” Acts 19:2-3(CEB)

Huh. Which of us would categorize the ministry of the desert revival preacher as sufficient? I mean, John the Baptist seems like the introduction to the gospel story.

But it was enough to become disciples. To turn toward God. I wonder if we ever think of ourselves as only knowing enough to begin? Or are we convinced that we have the whole story?

When New Covenant drove crosstown for a joint worship service with Restoration Urban Ministries on Martin Luther King Sunday, Pastor Williams asserted that next time, they would come to us. I didn’t know. I wasn’t sure if it was the beginning of a relationship, or maybe just a special-occasion thing. 

Good Friday brought together folks from across the community. But there are dynamics that I don’t understand. Divisions and histories alluded to in meetings. How much do I want to know? How much do I need to know? 

Paul explained, “John baptized with a baptism by which people showed they were changing their hearts and lives. It was a baptism that told people about the one who was coming after him. This is the one in whom they were to believe. This one is Jesus.” Acts 19:4 (CEB)

The first step is being willing to change our hearts and lives. Perhaps we need to pause here. And consider. Maybe we have rushed too quickly over John’s baptism to get to Jesus. The house church in Ephesus lived in that space for awhile. The willingness and commitment to change. This prepared them for Paul’s message. 

Maybe I need preparation for our next phase of worship with Restoration Urban Ministries. Better language skills to engage with other pastors of black churches in town. Am I ready to change my heart and life? Do I think I already know what I need to know? 

When I’m defensive, I feel like my anthropology major, my social work training, my participation in a *woke* church is enough. I know the concept of race is an illusion. But perhaps I don’t realize the power that illusion has wielded. Maybe I don’t recognize the patterns in which I participate in racial power structures. Am I ready to hear more of the message?

After they listened to Paul, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. When Paul placed his hands on them, the Holy Spirit came on them, and they began speaking in other languages and prophesying. Acts 19:5-6 (CEB)

There is so much more than John’s baptism. More blessing available to us. But it starts with the willingness to change. The acknowledgement of our own ignorance. Things we haven’t even heard yet. And the openness to listen. To hear, to embrace. To be empowered to learn another language so that the Holy Spirit can enable us to cross boundaries that separate us. 

Our leadership team asked Karyn Hunt for help. To take us a step further. We’ll watch RACE- The Power of an Illusion and discuss. I put aside my resistance; I am not a movie person, let alone a documentary-watcher. Pastor Williams acts on his words; Restoration Church is coming to join NCF for worship on June 23. I need to prepare.

And so I revisit the baptism of John. The willingness to change my heart and life. To be prepared for the next revelation. The good news of Jesus that brings unity. The empowerment of the Holy Spirit to learn a new way of speaking. A language to build bridges and cross barriers.

The disciples in Ephesus waited a long time for the Holy Spirit. They didn’t know there was more. There were only about a dozen of them. But God saw their hearts. Their willingness. And he sent them a messenger to take them to the next step. Their own Pentecost.

Come Holy Spirit. 

Bulletin: 6/2
Order of Service: 6/2
Sermon: Crazy is the New Normal -Luke 4:14-30
MLK Sunday at Restoration Urban Ministries
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