When our dreams, like those of Jacob, lie shattered in pieces, this story reminds us that God’s dream never dies. Though the stage on which we live may look like anarchy to our eyes, the Director in the wings continues to send new actors onto the stage; continues to lead the action with a subtle hand, to edit our script toward the promised end of a new heaven and a new earth.
The promise of the Gospel is that when we let go of our own agenda, discern the direction of God’s mission in the world, and join with it, we do not carry any burden alone. It is not our yoke, but Christ’s, and we labor under a load that is borne by Him.
The distraction of our own day is this illusion that racial injustice, the dehumanizing of the “other,” and the imbalance of power is only a political problem. When we read Genesis, it becomes apparent very quickly that these are human problems; these are moral problems that have spilled out into economic and political systems constructed by sinful human beings.
At its deepest origins, “disciple” means to form a relationship. Discipling is not something we do to somebody, but something we do in relationship with others. It is something God does in relationship with us.
Pentecost Sunday reminds us that God loves all of us for who we are. This story where the holy spirit grants everyone the ability to understand each other in their own language is amazing. God embraces everyone’s differences, God doesn’t make everyone speak a universal tongue but allows us to embrace each other in equal understanding.
Luke does not see the world through rose-colored glasses. Paul does not write that “all things work together for good” as though evil is not real. The Bible does not tell a story of the power of positive thinking to defeat the power of negativity. The Bible tells the story of God redeeming a fallen world. The Bible tells a story of God providing the gifts we need to walk the pathways of fiery trials, not to avoid them.
The wisdom of the story of Paul preaching in Athens is that the prevalence of idols in a culture is not an indication that God is no longer needed. It indicates the opposite—that the culture is desperately seeking what God offers—good news, the bold and provocative message that Jesus rose from the dead and so will we.