"This is the sound of one voice.
One people, one voice.
A song for every one of us.
This is the sound of one voice..."
I can't get enough of the Wailin' Jennys "One Voice" this week. It speaks to me of something I am seeing for the first time about "the day of Pentecost" in the book of Acts.
The story goes:
"And when the day of Pentecost was fully come, they were all with one accord in one place.
"And suddenly there cam a sound from heaven as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting.
"And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Sprit gave them utterance.
"Now when this was noised abroad, the mulitude came together, and were confounded, because that every man heard them speak in his own language."
I've always believed this story, but couldn't imagine experiencing it. But today, I not only expect to experience it, I know that I have...and often. And I believe that you have too.
Let me explain.
About 20 years ago, I heard socio-anthropologist Jean Houston (I've written about her story before) share an experience she had as a little girl. According to my recollection, it goes like this:
Jean's father was a comedy skit writer for ventriloquist, Edgar Bergen, and his wooden-headed dummy, Charlie McCarthy. Going with her father to the Bergen's apartment to play with Charlie (while Edgar and her dad worked on skits) was a big treat for her.
One Saturday her dad asked her if she would like to go play with Charlie.
So off they go in a taxi to the Bergen's apartment near Central Park. They take the elevator, unannounced, up to the penthouse doors that are just a hair's breadth ajar. They can hear Edgar and Charlie in dialogue. Mr. Houston assumes that Edgar is rehearsing an act, and wants to see how it's going.
He motions for Jean to stay hushed, pushes the door open a bit more so that they can watch. There is Edgar in a chair with Charlie on his lap. But as they listen, they realize that Edgar is not rehearsing a comedy routine, he is asking Charlie all the most important questions of his heart. "Is there a God?" "What is my purpose?" "Where is God when bad things happen?
And Charlie is answering...and he is answering wisely and profoundly.
Houston realizes that they are listening in on a very private "conversation" and clears his voice, announcing his presence. Edgar jumps and turns. Houston, trying to diffuse the moment's surface tension with humor, asks, "okay, who's the new writer?" Edgar meekly replies, "Charlie." Houston, says, what do you mean, of course, you are the writer, Charlie is just a wooden-headed dummy. And Edgar explains, "You don't understand, when I ask Charlie all the most profound questions in my heart, I have no idea how he is going to answer."
This experience changed the course of Jean Houston's life. From that moment on, her eyes were open to what she calls "human potentiality," and the depth of the unseen divinity...wisdom, compassion, grace, humor...buried within each heart, mind..."soul."
And from the first moment I first heard her story...I got it. It changed everything. It changed the way I thought about conversations, prayers, lectures, congregational sharing...everything. No matter who we call for help, go to hear speak, show up in conversation with, we are only...through the collective experience of being with another or others...giving ourselves the permission to stop what we are doing, and hear the divine voice that is constantly speaking within our own consciousness.
We just can't imagine that if we stopped, and stood in the silence of our own Christlikeness, we would hear the wisdom of the ages...as it relates to our own unique needs. And, we would hear it in a language that resonates with our own life experience, cultural context, earnest longings, and where we are in our spiritual journey. We would hear it in "our own tongue."
Let me give one example before signing off so that I can go into my own "Pentecostal room" for a while. Okay?
Not long after hearing Jean's story about her dad, Edgar, and Charlie, I answered the phone in my office one night. The person was in great discomfort. I agreed to give treatment, but she asked if I could just talk to her a bit. I listened for inspiration, and the thoughts that came were lovely, and fresh. So fresh in fact, that I made notes myself on a pad of paper that I always kept by my phone for just that reason.
We hung up, and she agreed to call me back within the hour. At that moment I was called away from the office for a few minutes, and when I returned, the phone was ringing. I answered it, and it was the woman who had called just minutes before.
She began by telling me that it was a very quick "healing" and that, "When you said, 'da, da, da, da, da...'" Well, I am sitting there at my desk, looking down at the copious notes that I had taken, and I hadn't said anything that she thought she had heard me say. But, she had heard, exactly what she needed.
And the more I looked at my notes, the more I realized that what I had "heard" and thought I'd said, was exactly what I needed to hear from God about something I'd been struggling with for some time, but hadn't given myself permission to stop what I was doing for others, and pray about for myself.
Her reaching out to me, and me showing up in the office and picking up her call, was just the permission that we'd each given ourselves to stop and listen for spiritual guidance and inspiration. And the only Voice that answers that call, is the Holy Ghost, the Spirit...and it is always answering from within.
I believe that on the day of Pentecost, everyone in that room was earnestly longing for inspiration, guidance, comfort in the face of Jesus' crucifixion, resurrection, and ascension...and what it all meant to the future of this new community of "believers." They heard in their own hearts, the language of their heart...and spoke out from that language those healing, transformative messages that were meaningful to each of them.
Each time I turn to God, with my entire being, for answers...whether it is in the privacy of my own home, taking a call from a friend, in community at a lecture or talk, or as a part of a collective readership nurtured by an inspired text...it is a Pentecostal moment. We will each hear from God, what we need to hear, in our own tongue.
Back into the quiet sanctuary of earnest longings...with Love,
Kate Robertson, CS
If you would like to hear "One Voice" in a recorded quality (with lyrics), rather than the video of the live performance (above)...here is the link.
And if you would like to read an earlier post titled"This is the sound of one voice..." which also uses "One Voice," as its keynote...here is the link to that post.