The Spirit Means Business
May 24, 2015
When the day of Pentecost had come, the disciples were all together in one place. And suddenly from heaven there came a sound like the rush of a violent wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. Divided tongues, as of fire, appeared among them, and a tongue rested on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages, as the Spirit gave them ability.
Now there were devout Jews from every nation under heaven living in Jerusalem. And at this sound the crowd gathered and was bewildered, because each one heard them speaking in the native language of each. Amazed and astonished, they asked, “Are not all these who are speaking Galileans? And how is it that we hear, each of us, in our own native language? Parthians, Medes, Elamites, and residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya belonging to Cyrene, and visitors from Rome, both Jews and proselytes, Cretans and Arabs– in our own languages we hear them speaking about God’s deeds of power.” All were amazed and perplexed, saying to one another, “What does this mean?” But others sneered and said, “They are filled with new wine.”
Pentecost. The disciples, gathered together, probably hiding in fear, when suddenly…WHOOSH...a violent wind that filled the entire place. The Holy Spirit, like tongues of fire, descends upon them. They all speak different languages. People are amazed. Others think they are drunk.
It’s not a particularly tranquil and serene moment. This is not a scene of quiet music softly playing on strings as people sit calmly and sip herbal tea in a committee meeting. It’s big and bold. It stuns some, amazes others, and scares quite a few. Some are aware of the staggering mystery they see and are willing to ask questions and be led. Others dismiss it.
As we humans do. When something big and bold bursts into our lives, into our communities, and into our churches, we respond similarly. Some of us are called into action, speaking words that amaze and challenge. Others are witnesses, and still others dismiss or try very desperately to explain or manage this wild Spirit of God.
But the Spirit of God is not all that manageable. The Spirit does not offer Survey Monkey questionnaires asking us when a convenient time to enflame us to love more like Christ would be. She just bursts on the scene, often uninvited by those most comfortable in our expression of the Church. Such is the nature of the Spirit. The Coming of the Holy Spirit of Pentecost, and I’ve always connected it with the same Spirit who hovered over the chaos at the beginning of creation and who shook up the people of God on regular occasion by charging into their lives in most unexpected ways, is not always a sweet, calm event. We may think we contain it with images of doves, but make no mistake, when She arrives, when the violent wind of the Spirit blows into our lives, She means business.
And this business is the ministry of the Gospel in the community we call the Church. This business the Holy Spirit calls us to is the business of welcome, of love, of forgiveness, of commitment to the promises of baptism and a life modeled after the teachings of Christ. The Spirit lights upon us, asking if we are spending too much time talking and too little time doing. The Spirit enflames us, burning away the chaff of things we no longer need and igniting energetic fires of newness. The Spirit gives us new ways to speak, filling our souls with words we don’t always understand, but She gives us the courage to speak our truth in love, even when our voices shake.
Oh yes, She means business. And the Spirit is asking us today, “Are you still speaking the words of the Church? Are you still living the Gospel? Or have you let your fear get the best of you…again?”
Pentecost is not a past event we commemorate on this day. It is a continuing event. The Spirit is still rushing into our lives. She is still finding us in our closed rooms, hiding from the world and the movement forward we are called to make as Christians.
And she lights her fire deep in our souls, giving us new words to speak, daring words to speak, challenging words to speak. Then the Spirit moves us into action.
The Holy Spirit has arrived, my sisters and brothers. The Spirit’s fire rests upon us.
Will we try to extinguish it or dismiss it?
Or will we let it invite us into the business of the sharing the Gospel in new, uncertain, and exciting ways?
What are ways you and your faith community have tried to extinguish the Spirit? What are mindsets, ideas, and words that need to be burned away by the Spirit? And what are the new ministries of the Gospel that the Spirit may be kindling in you and your church?