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Pentecost and the Voices in My Head

by Thyra Van Keeken

This blogpost was originally published on the CRC’s Do Justice blog.

A few weeks ago my sister was visiting me and I excitedly wanted to play her some new music that I’ve really been enjoying. She listened and enjoyed it too. But she also raised a concern with me. She had been with me a few days and almost all the music we listened to was made by men. As a musician herself, she told me more about some of the struggles women face in the music industry.

And I realized I was part of the problem. The diversity in my music collection is not great.

And that, of course, turned my eyes towards my book shelves. And wouldn’t you know. The diversity, while present, was not great. Again.

I wonder a lot about the voices in my head. Not literal voices, most of the time. But the voices that surround me that I listen to regularly. I wonder about who those voices are attached to. And for the most part, I’ve got to be honest, it’s not a diverse group. There are a lot of men. A lot of men who look a lot like me. Men who grew up in situations much like mine. Americans, Canadians, and Brits from middle class backgrounds.

And a lot of those men have made me who I am and I’m so grateful. I’m grateful for my Dad’s voice in my head. For my big brother. For good friends and pastor mentors. For C.S. Lewis. For Charles Dickens. For Walter Brueggemann (who has, over and over, reminded me why I am a Christian, just like my friend Kate Kooyman). I love these voices. I’ll never get tired of hearing from them. They have helped me become who I am.

But sometimes you have to physically make room for a different perspective. On purpose. With intention.

You have to be open, somehow, to a whole plethora of voices.

Sometimes you have to tear down the walls that society has been building for generations in order to get other voices up front and personal. Sometimes you just have to be silent for a while. To listen.

It’s Pentecost. A season of loud, unruly, and diverse voices. The Holy Spirit did not fall on just one kind of person. The Holy Spirit rested on all of them. From Israel, and beyond. From places we now call Iraq, Greece, from all over the Roman Empire, Egypt, and Libya. All over. Places are listed in Acts 2, in the recounting of the event. Places are listed so that we don’t miss out on seeing the real diversity present. People of all colours and nationalities and home towns. All understanding one another.

And then Peter begins to speak and he mentions the Old Testament prophecy of Joel, which foresees a day when men and women both will be filled with the Holy Spirit. This prophecy was being fulfilled in the sight and hearing of those gathered.

And it is inclusive in a revolutionary way. The prophecy that is being fulfilled doesn’t say: “A handful of important men will prophecy. Your wealthy families who look like you will get some dreams. And the oldest and wisest of you will have some visions to share.”

Nope. Old men. Young men. Old women. Young women. From here, there and everywhere. There is an invite here that is not based on gender or social status or age. You’re in this. Even on the male and female servants, says Joel. They too will be given the Holy Spirit. There is no class system here. That is what Pentecost is all about. It’s a vision of the Kingdom where everyone belongs. Where everyone has a voice. It’s just one more vision of the radical hospitality of God.

We’re in it folks. And we’re invited to share. Not just the vision of a Kingdom that is diverse, but a vision of the kingdom where everyone has a voice that is listened to. What a beautiful sound that is.

Rev. Thyra VanKeeken is the Pastor of First Christian Reformed Church of Toronto. She is a native of Edmonton, Alberta, and a graduate of Calvin Theological Seminary.

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