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Saint Margaret’s Anglican Church Budapest, Hungary Acts 2:1-21; Psalm 104:25-35, 37; 1 Corinthians 12:3b-13; John 20:19-23 And how is it that we hear, each of us, in our own native language? First this morning, I believe we should commend James for making it through that list of peoples given to us in our first reading from the Acts of the Apostles, the description of the very first Pentecost. I may previously have told you the story of how, at a church I once served many years ago, the Reader assigned for Pentecost Sunday became so flustered by this list of strange- and alien-sounding names representing the nations and peoples hearing the message of the Apostles that she simply blurted out, “Er...All those people.” She then skipped the list entirely and got on with the rest of the text. I am not sure how all those people would have felt about being lumped together in such a haphazard fashion. After all, each of those ancient peoples had its own place in the sun, its own view of the world, its own traditions and culture, no doubt its own cuisine too, and its own language as the text itself forcefully reminds us. “How is it that we hear, each of us, in our own native language?” they ask themselves. So, giving them their due this morning, here is who they actually were and where they lived.... The Parthians were not a distinct ethnic group but part of an empire that extended throughout modern-day Iran and Iraq. The Medes were the descendants of people at the time who lived in the north of today’s Iraq. They too had their own customs, language, and religion; all poorly understood today. The Elamites on the other hand lived in the south of what is today Iraq; and are perhaps most remembered today by linguists because their language is considered to be a language isolate; that is, a language unrelated to any other known tongue. So, who knows...? Maybe they were ancient Magyar tribes-people... Mesopotamia is of course a catch-all term for the area between the Tigris and Euphrates rivers also in today’s Iraq, often considered the seat of the world’s very first civilisations. And Judea is the southern part of what we call Israel, the part nearest the city of Jerusalem. Cappadocia was an area in the central part of today’s Turkey. Pontus was an area along the southern coast of the Black Sea, again, in today’s Turkey. Asia, in the time of the New Testament, simply referred to all of modern-day Turkey. Phrygia was in the western areas of today’s Turkey. Pamphilia was in the southern part of today’s Turkey and along the Mediterranean coast. And last of all, Cyrene was a Greek-speaking city in today’s Libya, along the southern coast of the Mediterranean. So, there you have it: A cross-section of the United Nations of the ancient world hearing the Good News of the Gospel for the very first time on the very first Pentecost. One wonders if, some centuries from now, some text will reference the Hungarians, Kenyans, Nigerians, Americans, Canadians, and British as twenty-first century hearers and doers of the Word. Will people in that

futuretimeevenbeabletopronouncethenamesofourbelovedhomelands...? Whatwillthey know about our cultures and customs...? Linguists tell us there are over 6000 distinct languages in the world and no doubt an equal number of cultures and world-views. Actually, more. But no matter the language and culture of any of us, it remains small miracle enough when any of us hears and discerns the voice of God speaking to us; calling us out of our own little realms and worlds; challenging us to live the Gospel and proclaim it anew in our own day and age, just as our ancestors have done now for generations. After all, if they had not done so, we would not be here this morning. Some of course in any age mistake God’s language altogether and make a travesty of religion and belief; sometimes willfully, sometimes out of ignorance. They erroneously mistake the expression of their own desires and wants for God’s eternal Word. Some even so twist the language of God as to become evil-doers, even terrorists and war-criminals, all in the name of God. None of this is a new phenomenon, although we may like to think it so. I suppose such charlatans have been among us under various names and guises ever since there has been a humankind and human history. So, in some sense the promise of Pentecost remains unfulfilled even after some 50000 Sundays after Pentecost, give or take a Sunday or two. But the promise of Pentecost is still there. The genuine voice of God still needs to be heard amid the din of fake news and the pronouncements of fake world leaders and those who would do harm to God’s people; all in the name of God, of course. Pentecost reminds us that we are all in it together; whether we count ourselves Medes, Parthians, Americans, Hungarians, or the people of any nation on earth. After all, no wall can ever be built high enough to keep the other out for long. Indeed, the higher the wall, the greater the misunderstanding, suspicion, and fear; and the sooner we forget the language of divine love and mercy. A century or so ago, a Polish scholar invented the world’s first artificial language, Esperanto, in the hope of overcoming the divisions among peoples. By the way, the father of one of our Saint Margaret’s parishioners produced the first Hungarian-Esperanto dictionary. And alas probably the last. For, the Polish scholar’s efforts have been singularly unsuccessful. Others at the time touted French as the universal language of culture and intellect, the lingua franca if you will. Today, English is of course pervasive, happily enough for us who are native speakers. But no one human language will ever be enough to overcome all prejudice and fears among and between the nations of the world; much less the individuals who make up our world. We need only look around to see the truth of this. Only the Spirit of God, the spirit of love, can do such a thing. Only the voice of God, whispered quietly to each of us amid the dissonance of today’s world, can be understood by all. So, perhaps it is high-time that all of us signed up for classes in the language of Pentecost; the language of God and of love. We all need to study and make our own the grammar of grace and the vocabulary of redemption. The language of the Spirit is indeed a language all of us can speak, hear, and understand. But as with Hungarian or any other language, it takes time, effort, and patience to truly make God’s language our own mother-tongue. Luckily, it is never too late to start learning. Amen. The Rev. Dr. Frank Hegedűs

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