Each of us can come across as, well, how shall we say it…ODD…at times. Our mannerisms, the things we like to eat or the sense of humor we carry can all strike others as being out of the norm or just a little bit off-centered. I tend to get those titles often! Acting outside of what can be characterized as “the standard” draws attention to us, and questions start to creep up, and rarely in a complimentary fashion.
One of my favorite verses in the entire canon is found in the story of Pentecost as recorded in Acts 2. We’re all familiar with the story: the disciples are gathered, a gust of wind bursts in on them, and pretty soon they have tongues of fire resting on their heads and are babbling in a dozen different languages. Talk about a strange sight! The “devout Jews” who had made the pilgrimage to Jerusalem were understandably “amazed and astonished,” and they began to ask questions. Some people felt it was a miracle; others chuckled as they ventured another possibility: “Surely they’re drunk!” It was a scene so foreign to their regular experience, so out of place, that probably the most logical reason was that the disciples HAD reveled a bit too strongly in the “new wine.”
And then comes the response, my favorite justification, the counter-argument that Peter uses to refute the assembly: “Indeed, these are not drunk, as you suppose, for it is only nine o’clock in the morning.” Really, Peter? That’s what you’ve got? It’s not exactly the beginning of a compelling legal case. It’s almost laughable. Ok, it’s actually hilarious. But then he goes on…
“No, this is what was spoken through the prophet Joel: ‘In the last days it will be, God declares, that I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh, and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams.’”
This isn’t just a run-of-the-mill kind of activity that’s going on: it’s the intrusion of the Holy Spirit into the lives and daily rhythms of ordinary people in an extraordinary way. Pentecost moved the first disciples to act in a startlingly-real fashion that raised questions because it was so far “out of the norm” that those around them couldn’t help but ask what was going on. And the people standing by felt the direct impact of the Spirit’s work as they heard the Good News declared in their own language. It was a glimpse into a new world, a new norm of living that ran contrary to generally-accepted expectations. A world that some might deem as “odd.”
Pentecost calls us to be different from many of the standards our cultures abide by. As we accept the gift and the power of the Spirit within our lives, we start to stand out as “unusual.” And that’s ok. When we carry the Light of Love into the world, risking our own status in order to prepare the way for the Good News, some will look at us like we’re funny, or filled with “new wine,” or perhaps a bit off-centered. But some will ask, “What is this?” And then we have the chance to tell them what’s really going on as we share our testimony of the work of God in our lives and in the world, the reorientation toward a new standard.
So let’s continue to come across as “odd,” a people who are called “peculiar” because of our “uncommon devotion to the compassion and peace of God revealed in Jesus Christ.” I can’t think of any higher compliment.