In my experience, readers had the most problems with Pamphylia and Phrygia, with Cappadocia right behind. All these people, it is said, and more, heard of the works of God in their own language. And, in a curious compliment, those folks noted that the speakers were Galileans. To be from Galilee was evidently not a good thing, linguistically. Not to pick on any particular area with speech peculiarities these days, I must mention that people from West Virginia are often thought to be hard to understand by those from the more enlightened sections of our great nation.
So, the Pentecostal narrative is about hard to understand Galileans speaking to representatives of many political subdivisions, including Arabs. Then, there were those visitors from Rome, both Jews and proselytes.
I have been thinking about this passage as we enter the days following Pentecost, and as the time for the General Assembly approaches.
I am a Southerner, born on the coastal plain of South Carolina, and reared up in the rural culture of James Island. This gives me authority to speak on the subject of unity, which is one of the Pentecostal themes.
I am a lover of that specialty of my region called grits. It is, of course, ground corn meal. Some folks hate grits. Others, more advanced in culture know that this concoction, served with butter, or gravy, and accompanied with eggs or shrimp is as close to ambrosia as one can get, short of the Bread of Heaven. In fact, the state of my origin is blessed with a great annual Grits Festival, held in Dorchester County, in the town of St. George.
For many, grits is more than a food. Grits is a humble symbol of unity. What can be more united than grits? There it is, hot and steamy, full of life, lying on a plate or in a bowl, ready to be eaten. Well made, it is absolutely uniform. Its edges, as it cools, are closely defined. Is this not the unity we seek in the church and the world?
In my view, it is not.
Heretic that I am, I must leave my grits and butter, and attend to a bowl of nine bean soup, or if you will, fifteen bean soup. Here is a better symbol of unity. There is a fundamental unity here, that of the bean. Yet, there is variety, bound together by the rich broth, the liquid, a soup full of flavor. The edges are not as defined, and it is much harder to capture this concoction as we do cold grits, which we slice and fry and eat for supper.
With apologies to Rowan Atkinson, the original Mr. Bean, perhaps we could invite him to join our fragrant mix, leading us, as he does in his movies, on new and sometimes strange adventures!
The Pentecostal period can be a time of troubled thoughts, of a divine wind, and of great change. In our denomination, struggling here and there with questions that center around who is “in” and who is “out,” who is “respectable” and who is “not,” perhaps we can hold off the grits for a while, and sit down to a mess of all sorts of beans, bound together with a liquid that is baptismal in its quality and vigor.
In the search for unity, the cry should be: More beans. Less grits.
Lawton W. Posey is a retired minister living in Charleston, W.V.