Pentecost, commonly known as the birthday of the church, is one of my favorite holidays. It has chaos, many languages, and, if done right, cake! Pentecost is a great time to talk with kids about diversity, especially about how difference and diversity has been part of the church since its start.
Acts 2, which tells the story of Pentecost, finds the disciples gathered in a room after Jesus’ ascension, when a sound like the rush of a violent wind sparks tongues of fire to rest on each of them. The result of the Holy Spirit’s presence is an explosion of linguistic diversity so that everyone in Jerusalem, from all the many places in the known world, could be told about God’s deeds of power.
The Holy Spirit doesn’t make everyone understand the same language, but instead makes the disciples speak everyone else’s languages. Many congregations take this opportunity to change parts of the service or readings to languages not usually spoken during worship.
This makes it a great time to teach kids a word or phrase like “Peace be with you” in another spoken language or in a sign language. Learning a new language can be a jumping-off point to talk about different languages, cultures, and experiences. Pointing out how cool it is that different words like paz, pokoj, salaam, and peace can all hold the same or similar meaning helps connect kids to those who are different to them. Pointing out how different languages can have words that don’t translate between them, like how koselig is a particular type of coziness that comes from being snuggled up in a home in the cold winter, or ojalá is a word that means a particular hope, rested in God, helps kids value and celebrate differences.
A conversation about different languages leads to a conversation about how we have different ways to talk to God as well. Some people talk to God out loud, some write to God, some sign to God, some draw to God, and some think their prayers to God. No matter how we communicate with God, what’s so awesome is that God understands it all! God speaks all of our languages, understands all our signing, and loves all our drawings. God loves our differences and Pentecost is a celebration of those differences.