“And how is it that we hear, each of us, in our own native language?” Acts 2:8
One of the most frustrating things about working to protect God’s Creation is that not much can be accomplished alone. Don’t get me wrong, individual actions are necessary and should be encouraged, but they aren’t sufficient for a problem of this magnitude. Companies that would like to reduce their waste can’t do it without losing out to the competition. Nations with strict laws on pollution suffer from competition with nations without strict laws. Protecting a Creation that was given by God for all people to hold in common requires people to act for the common good.
And yet, there is perhaps a hidden hope, the hope that a problem that demands global unity just might be the only thing that is actually able to bring about global unity.
This coming Sunday is Pentecost, a day the Church celebrates the descent of the Holy Spirit upon the apostles. The intensely personal nature of a relationship with the Holy Spirit sometimes causes us to overlook the communal implications of the story. The first act of the Disciples is to speak in other languages so that they could be understood by everyone. This is a clear reversal of the story of the tower of Babel (Gen11:1-9). At Babel, God made clear that God is God, and human beings are not. At Pentecost, God showed that the Spirit of God can unite human beings.
The end result of Pentecost is nothing short of remarkable:
Awe came upon everyone, because many wonders and signs were being done by the apostles. All who believed were together and had all things in common; they would sell their goods and distribute the proceeds to all, as any had need. Day by day, as they spent time together in the temple, they broke bread at home, and ate their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having the goodwill of all the people. And day by day the Lord added to the number those who were being saved. (Acts 2:43-47)
To clean up God’s Creation will require acts of cooperation no less remarkable. It will take a shared commitment to reducing consumption and making sure the Creation remains a gift to all people. Human beings, split and conflicted as we are, cannot do this on our own. Our different languages, values, and ideologies prevent us from working together for the common good. My prayer for this Pentecost is that it may unite us as the first Pentecost did.