When the Feast of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place. Without warning there was a sound like a strong wind, gale force — no one could tell where it came from. It filled the whole building. Then, like a wildfire, the Holy Spirit spread through their ranks, and they started speaking in a number of different languages as the Spirit prompted them.

There were many Jews staying in Jerusalem just then, devout pilgrims from all over the world. When they heard the sound, they came on the run. Then when they heard, one after another, their own mother tongues being spoken, they were thunderstruck. They couldn’t for the life of them figure out what was going on, and kept saying, “Aren’t these all Galileans? How come we’re hearing them talk in our various mother tongues? Parthians, Medes, and Elamites; Visitors from Mesopotamia, Judea, and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya belonging to Cyrene; Immigrants from Rome, both Jews and proselytes; Even Cretans and Arabs! They’re speaking our languages, describing God’s mighty works!” (Acts 2:1-11)

When the current coronavirus pandemic broke out, I like so many embraced the language of war and battle. I was comfortable saying we have to attack this enemy. I was cool with seeing the virus as a foreign entity that needed to be destroyed. Truth be told, I was also angry at China and the Wuhan province for allowing this invader to cross our border walls and get into our country. Yes, I even went along with the press as they tried to discuss the numbers of death from this virus in terms of how many were killed in Vietnam, Pearl Harbor and on 9/11.

All of this went against the Poor People’s Campaign and Kairos Center training I had been receiving, but what was the harm in talking about COVID-19 in military language and going out to defeat this enemy? What could be the harm in using Pentagon language verses Pentecost language?

Even after I grieved the death Ahmaud Arbery, who was killed while jogging, and wrote about how senseless racism and bigotry are at any time, but especially during the virus outbreak, and even after, that same week, we were confronted with more incidents of violence between black men and police and black women and police and black children and police, I still asked the question: What could be wrong with using Pentagon language versus Pentecost language?

What could be wrong with using Pentagon language versus Pentecost language?

It was not until I watched the video of the killing of George Floyd at the hands of the Minnesota police that I was reminded that we who preach and teach the Kingdom Theology of peace and nonviolence can never allow the language of war and hatred to come into our vocabulary.

It was only after watching a grown black man cry out to his killers for his mommy and with tears falling down his face that I remembered that one of the issues I had been focusing on this year was the over-militarism of our local police forces.

It wasn’t until I heard that familiar cry — I can’t breathe — that I was reminded of the murder of Freddie Gray and what it felt like to get arrested during the first Forty Days of the Poor People’s Campaign on a hot July day in Columbia, South Carolina. I remembered how, because of the size of my hands, the handcuffs would not fit without cutting off my circulation.  It came back to me that we had been saying it was wrong to train officers to hate, to fear and to engage their neighbors as if they are targets of some ongoing war.

So today it is with a sense of renewed passion that I proclaim this as Pentecost Sunday and no longer the year of Pentagon language.

So today it is with a sense of renewed passion that I proclaim this as Pentecost Sunday and no longer the year of Pentagon language.

Yes, today for me is the day I stop looking at the discussion of the COVID-19 virus as a battle and instead look at it to what it really is: a sickness. Yes, the virus is a sickness that is in need of healing.

You see, Pentagon talk speaks in terms of containing, controlling and overpowering some enemy. You must understand that Pentagon language speaks of fighting and of combat and of collateral damage. Pentagon language speaks in terms of acceptable losses and suffering and death.

You see Pentagon language, like President Trump’s tweets this week, speaks racially charged words like “thugs” and words of hate and aggression like, “When the looting starts, the shooting starts.”

We, as believers, cannot speak Pentagon language. We must speak Pentecost language!

Pentecost language speaks of all being together on one accord.

Pentecost language speaks of Jesus to send power to overcome whatever situation we face.

Pentecost language speaks of the tongues of Fire, the wildfire of the Holy Spirit, spreading around the entire community.

Yes, we need to talk in Pentecost language, because Pentecost language understands and accepts the humanity of all people. When you start to understand the Pentecost moment and the Pentecost movement, you don’t see some as essential workers and others as non-essential workers. You see everyone as a child of God.

When you start to understand the Pentecost moment and the Pentecost movement, you don’t see some as essential workers and others as non-essential workers. You see everyone as a child of God.

When you start to speak Pentecost empowerment, you understand that the true force of God can undo the sin of the Tower of Babel and allow all of humanity to work together to bring healing to our sick society.

Lastly, hear this, today this Pentecost Sunday, when we as a community start to speak with the voice of Pentecost power, we will realize that true power comes from speaking together about the mighty works of God. Some folks might critique us and say that we are drunk off of cheep wine. But when you have been with Jesus, you can stand and say we are not drunk on wine, for it is still early in the morning. It is still early in the struggle. It is still early in the recovery. It is still early in the Renewal!

No we are not drunk, but we are full: we are powerful! We are over-comers and we are a mobilizing force of poor, dejected, impacted, black and brown, white, yellow and pink people, who the prophet Joel spoke of, whose sons and daughters will prophesy, whose young men will see visions, whose old men will dream dreams, whose servants, both men and women, will prophesy.

When the power of God comes down, God says, “I will show wonders in the heavens above and signs on the earth below, blood and fire and billows of smoke. The sun will be turned to darkness and the moon to blood before the coming of the great and glorious day of the Lord. And everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” (Acts‬ ‭2:18-21)

This is the language of the Pentecost, not the Pentagon! We will study war no more!

We are over-comers and we are a mobilizing force of poor, dejected, impacted, black and brown, white, yellow and pink people, who the prophet Joel spoke of, whose sons and daughters will prophesy, whose young men will see visions, whose old men will dream dreams, whose servants, both men and women, will prophesy.