“Now the whole earth had one language and the same words.” Genesis 11:1
The importance of language cannot be overstated. Our capacity to communicate encompasses everything from basic needs to the complexity of emotion. The words we choose to share our experiences matter as we seek to create understanding. It is hard to imagine a world with just one language. Just think of the ease with which we could travel!
Even with just one language, I suspect there were a great many misunderstandings. I know I have experienced a failure of communication even when everyone shared a common language; regionalisms and intonations can leave us wondering what was really meant by another. Listening, really listening is another challenge we all face at times.
Pentecost is a celebration of God's power to unite us through the power of the Holy Spirit. As each heard the message of salvation in their own native language it did more than allow them to hear what was being said. It improved understanding and generated great compassion and genuine appreciation for the different peoples gathered. I hope that our celebration of Pentecost unites us in God's spirit. I hope also that as we gather, each may feel entirely welcomed as God's own.