Pentecost and six heart languages that God uses to speak to us
Some of my posts are based on messages I offer at the Circle of Hope, Broad & Dauphin PMs, you can hear the original message here. Subscribe to the podcast here.
It really is a beautiful image that the Pentecost symbolizes: that God speaks to us in a language that we understand. The most explicit way this is shown in that second chapter of Acts. I love this map because it shows two things: first, that Jerusalem was the hub where the gravity was, and you can really see the gravity pulling people to it. It’s a great image. Physicists still don’t know why or how gravity works, even the host of Cosmos doesn’t know. Isaac Newton said that gravity is a force that attracts objects to other objects. Einstein disagreed, his theory was that matter disturbs space and time, causing a curvature, and therefore causes objects, who are on a straight path, to be disturbed. And second that the church and its formation caused a disturbance large enough, or a force big enough (whichever physicist you want to believe), that it pulled people from across the world, including from two different empires. You can clearly see the warring empires right next to each other in the map: the Roman and Parthian. The church existing in spite of the Empires. It’s a great image of indifference to the powers that be because our power, and our leader, is resurrected. It’s a great sign that the gravity of the church is greater than the gravity of the Empires. Pentecost worked because there was a truth that was revolutionary, it drew people in. Moreover, people stayed to understand it because it was delivered to them in a language they understood. And they continued to movement because that truth was applied in a body of believers. What was that truth? Peter, in his long speech which is mainly purposed to help contextualize that truth, delivers the basics to them. Jesus died for us, resurrected, and have given us a chance at new life. Peter’s basic point is that Jesus freed us from death because he conquered death. We respond to that truth with action. We repent, change our ways. Publicly declare it in baptism that you were forgiven. So for us, we have the same truth and it might actually give us some gravity. But we need to consider how we deliver the message, how do we keep the Church going 2000 years after its birth? Practically, we actually use different languages as a way of knowing that the worldwide church is greater than the expression we have in Philadelphia, but more than that we actually sing in languages that people who might be a part of us might also use. We also use a variety of “heart languages”. Richard Foster describes them in his book Streams of Living Water, and we also do in our Public Meeting Plan. Think about which ones speak to you and your neighbors. Remember these are languages that often express the same truth.
The first one is the Contemplative Stream. The one that is focused on a prayer-filled life. We acknowledge how important it is to pray to God and give him loving attention. John the Apostle, Julian of Norwich, Thomas Merton, and Henry Nouwen are influencers of this “stream.” It pushes behind just our brains and the cerebral and really develops a heart-to-heart connection with God. It’s mastered by lovers of silence. It fans the flames of love. It recognizes that we are alone and it comforts the lonely. But it risks making the spiritual not ordinary. It encourages sometimes an unhealthy divorce from society, can neglect community, it can devalue intellect.
The Holiness Stream is next. It focuses on your character: doing what needs to be done when it needs to be done. Think James, Theresa of Avila, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, John Wesley, Menno Simmons. You can actually live a whole life in a dysfunctional world. You can overcome all the sin that tempts you. You can truly be regenerated. It helps you form a personality that reflects God. It’s action-oriented. It continually shows us God’s transforming power. But it can be legalistic—no drinking, dancing, or driving Porsches. It can create a “meritocracy,” a system that gives you value based on what you’ve accomplished. Can lead to judgmental—your perfect and no one else is. The Charismatic Stream is influenced by some major people that influence me: Paul and St. Francis being major influencers.
This is all about living through the Holy Spirit. Developing a consciousness for the gifts you have. Being able to give and receive, knowing your limitations, being able to be united despite diversity. It doesn’t domesticate God. It makes us energized and motivated; rarely complacent. It honors us as God’s creatures. But it struggles because it can make religion magical. It also rejects the rational and intellectual. Can make us less responsible because we are limited by our gifts. Often it deals with preoccupation end times speculation for some reason too.
The Social Justice stream has so often been drowned by Evangelicalism, that is often the stream that Circle of Hope is known for. This is exactly why I joined Circle of Hope: I found Christians committed to peace (and who were opposed to the War in Iraq). The Acts Deacons influence it, Martin Luther King, Dorothy Day, Mother Theresa, Desmond Tutu, Richard Twiss, Catholic Workers, abolitionists, are the influencers. The list goes and on and on. What if Jesus really meant what he said? Loving God means loving our neighbor. Justice, compassion, peace are crucial characteristics of Christians. Faith becomes real, not theoretical. Our personal ethics become social ethics. Helps us practically apply prophecies. Its perils surround social justice becoming salvific by itself. Our commitment to simplicity can be legalistic, sometimes our political stances get too much emphasis. We can focused on politics more than Jesus. We can strictly tolerant, instead of loving. The Evangelical Stream started off right at Pentecost: Peter is a major influencer, as are Martin Luther, John Calvin (Calvin and
Luther influence modern evangelicals, but weren't necessarily evangelistic on their own), and C.S. Lewis. It is committed to declaring the Gospel. Scripture is a faithful repository of the Gospel. It created the confessional witness of early Christians. It is committed to reading the Bible, sound doctrine, spreading the Gospel. But it can sometimes focus on peripheral issues that it makes fundamental. It can divisive and intolerant. It can be arrogant in its certainty. Too rationalistic, too scientific. Can sometimes view the Bible like it is the fourth member of the Trinity.
Finally, we have the Incarnational Stream. This is maybe the most beautiful stream. Look to Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo, Bach, Dostoyevsky here. It’s focused on how God is manifested in material means, it marries the religious and the everyday. Icons are a big part of this stream. We see God now in the earth and around us. It roots us in everyday life. God is among us. Gives meaning to our lives. It corrects the separation of physical and spiritual, sacred and secular. We are a sanctuary for the Spirit. But it can make material things idols. It could manage God through external things: sacraments, lighting candles, becoming a member. We want all of these streams to influence us. These are the languages that people speak and there might be even more that we can add to the list. People identify with worship that’s this diverse: it’s centered and spiritual, it’s energetic and emotional, it’s rational and intellectual, its’ beautiful and artistic, it’s action-oriented and just, it’s concerned with correct behavior. There are more and more things here. But it all seeks to deliver the truth that Jesus saves us and in Him we are building His body. These are the multiple languages that are similar to the ones that were being heard that day on Pentecost. Pentecost worked because there was a truth that was revolutionary, so it drew people in. Moreover, people stayed to understand it because it was delivered to them in a language they understood. And they continued the movement because that truth was applied in the Body. What should the church look like today? If we look at the end of Acts 2, we get the Fellowship of Believers and their life together. They form a community that exists despite their diversity, one where they share things in common, meet and eat together, and live out the life of the church. This is really what we are going for today.