At first I was very pleased and proud of myself. I seemed to be understanding a good bit of the Spanish talks. "Wow!" I thought, " I've only been in Mexico ten days and already my Spanish is improving by leaps and bounds." Then one of the Spanish speaking presenters gave a talk in which he used no power point slides or accompanying video. Ooops. My un-visually aided Spanish comprehension skills turn out to be much less impressive.
Which brings us to Pentecost. It turns out you hear that story a bit differently when YOU are the foreign visitor in a city and cannot readily understand what the folks around you are saying. A mighty act of God that overcomes the language barrier sounds really, really good. When can we start?
I remembered the old debate among biblical scholars about whether the miracle of Pentecost occurred in the ears of the hearers or the mouths of the speakers. In other words, were the disciples speaking in the same old Aramaic they always spoke and the visitors to Jerusalem could somehow miraculously hear them speaking in their own language? Or were the disciples really able to speak in other languages?
The reformers, at least, seem agreed on this point. The Calvinist commentators in The Geneva Bible insisted:
Not that they spoke one language, and different
languages were heard, but the apostles spoke with different languages: for otherwise the miracle would have been in the hearers, whereas it is really in the speakers;
And later John Wesley agreed:The miracle was not in the ears of the hearers, (as some have
unaccountably supposed,) but in the mouth of the speakers. And this
family praising God together, with the tongues of all the world,
was an earnest that the whole world should in due time praise God in their various tongues."
I think most of us still wish the miracle took place in the ears of the hearers. That way, we're off the hook for changing how we communicate; for communicating in any way that changes or stretches us.