Be Still, My Cynical Soul

Today’s scripture: Acts 2:1-13 (NRSV) (The Message) (KJV) What might God be saying to me?

My thoughts (Jeff Miner):

Today’s passage is one of the best-known in the Bible. It marks the dawning of a new era — God’s Spirit being poured out on all who are willing to receive. And with these events, the church is born.

Sometimes the most famous passages in the Bible are hardest to study. When our minds keep getting stuck on the “big message” in a passage, we can miss more subtle, but equally important points. So as I read Acts 2 in preparation for today’s devotional, I asked God to show me something I had never noticed before.

Verses 12 and 13 jumped out at me.

Those verses describe the reaction of the crowds gathered in Jerusalem for the Feast of Pentecost. Imagine if you had been there. Suddenly, the followers of Jesus, who had been in hiding, flood out into the open. Loudly, defiantly, they spread among the crowd proclaiming that Jesus, who was crucified, had risen from the dead. “We have seen him with our own eyes. We are willing to stake our lives on it!” And as they speak, the text says “each one [in the crowd] heard them in the native language of each.” Think of it! A bunch of people with no formal education are suddenly speaking languages they never learned.

If you had been in the crowd, how would you have reacted?

According to verse 12, some reacted with amazement and began making sincere inquiry into what was taking place. According to verse 13, others reacted with cynicism, sneering and saying, “They’re drunk!”

Which kind of person am I?

A couple weeks ago, I saw a woman from Great Britain interviewed on a Christian TV network. I don’t recall her name. She was telling the interviewer about a series of nightly renewal meetings that had taken place at her home church. As the meetings unfolded, she said, people felt deeply moved by God’s presence and unusual things began happening. For example, when people would arrive in the sanctuary and sit down, there was no need to ask the name of the stranger sitting next to them. As if by some mystical telepathy, they instantly knew each other’s names.

As I heard this, I felt torn. Part of me said, “Yeah, right! You expect me to believe that!” Another part of me said, “How beautiful. I want to experience something that lovely in my life time.” There is a time and a place for skepticism; this I affirm. But I suspect the cynical side of my soul is already quite strong enough. It doesn’t need any further developmental work. It is the child-like side of my soul that needs to grow.

What about you? Jesus warns us about becoming the kind of people who “listen but never hear…; and look but never see.” Matthew 13:14.

Thought for the day: If you feel any impulse of cynicism today, squelch it — and dare to believe. It will be good practice, a great spiritual exercise. After all, we’re living in the age of the Holy Spirit!

We encourage you to include a time of prayer with this reading. If you need a place to get started, consider the guidelines on the How to Pray page.