I drew this ink rendering of the church at Pentecost to push at the edges of our visualizations of a global, universal church, since most artistic renditions of the church and of Pentecost are very homogeneous. Pentecost in Acts 2 stretches the boundaries of what it means to be a multicultural, multilinguistic, multinational church. This diverse, universal church is also imaged eschatologically in Revelation 7:9 as a church of all nations, tribes, and languages singing praise to God.
Because of our local, homogeneous experiences of church we tend to imagine church “in our own image.” Our local congregations tend to look and sound more like Babel than Pentecost. Acts and Revelation provide rhetorical visions of an inclusive, diverse church drawn together by the power of the Spirit, and not by our common race, ethnicity, politics, culture, or nationality.
There is a saying in the Khosa language of South Africa which, when translated, says, “A person is a person because of other people”. We are who we are because of other people. Together we are the church, with all our diverse faces, languages, and personal differences. Pentecost is a birthday photo of the church which reminds us that we are who we are because of other people. We are who we are because we are connected to a new family, a new people, a new society, a new nation made up of many peoples born of the one Spirit.
Leo Hartshorn is Interim Pastor at Zion Mennonite Church in Hubbard, Oregon. He lives in Portland.