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01 June 2009

Forked Tongues Don't Always Lie

Fire is perhaps the most recognizable symbol of Pentecost. In part because fire is an enduring symbol of God's presence with God's people - the bush that burned and was not destroyed and the pillar of fire guiding the Exodus way in the night. Evoking fire, the color red is also emblematic of Pentecost.

I'd like to suggest another symbol. The forked tongue. This may be a hard sell for those who are superstitious about snakes, and (or as a result of) the Genesis story in chapter 3, or stereo-typical portrayals of Native persons in Hollywierd's Western genre.

But it is the forked tongue which appears miraculously in Acts chapter 2. The tongues, organs of speech (human? angelic? other?) are divided or forked in the same way as are flames of fire.
What then does the multiplicity or dual nature of the tongues suggest?

Perhaps the multiplicity and diversity of the church, our ways of worship, liturgies, songs, prayers and styles of preaching.
If the forked tongues of Pentecost are to represent duality, then perhaps, they represent the two languages of earth and heaven. For when we have done our best, preached our best, prayed our best, sung our best, we have failed to reproduce one syllable or a single note from the realm of heaven.

Back to the fire. I like to imagine that those forked tongues are indeed animated by Holy Ghost fire. And fire burns in red, orange, yellow, white and even blue hues.

So let the colors of Pentecost be many as are the languages, peoples, cultures and worship styles of God's people.

And let the forked tongue be a symbol of language that transcends human understanding, and our attempts to replicate and pronounce it.

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