Pentecost. I guess if you’re into superheroes, it’s a little like Shazam. And if you’re into horror movies… Oh wait, maybe that first Penetcost was kind of like this:
When the day of Pentecost had come, they 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. Acts 2:1-4
Wow! Flames over their heads, and everyone speaking in tongues, and no one even yells “stop, drop, and roll!” If the onlookers only accused them of drunkenness at 9 am, well, that was mild. How would you make sense of it all if you were there? And isn’t it funny… the devout Jews don’t show up until AFTER the fireworks are done, and all they hear is a cacophony of languages, all proclaiming the glory of God.
What do I really want to say about Pentecost? Well, we TALK about a Holy Spirit dwelling within and among us, but we don’t SEE it, and usually don’t FEEL it either. We say all kinds of things about that Holy Sprit doing amazing things in us, but how do we KNOW?
But before we get to that point, we really have to at least acknowledge that our God is VERY unusual. What God sends himself to take up residence inside of us? We can’t just think of God up in heaven and us bumbling idiots down below. We’d totally miss the crucial point. It’s God above, below, around, and inside of us. God knows our brokenness, and yet, chooses to dwell within us. If it was up to us, we’d rather hang out with winners or superstars. But not God – God dwells within me and you, and sets out to transform us into something far greater than we could even conceive. That’s …. grace.
So, how do we KNOW we’ve got Holy Spirit? Well, there’s no medical test, or written exam, or any human creation that can prove it. All we have is our faith to reassure us of it. But every time we proclaim it together in worship, we proclaim it to each other. We remind each other that it’s true, even when we just can’t seem to believe it ourselves. The world doesn’t want us to believe it, but the Church stands in part to remind us, to retell the story to us, to affirm and reassure us of it. Our friends may not be able to solve our problems, but they can comfort us and walk with us through our doubts and fears.
Doubt happens, so let’s not pretend it doesn’t, and let us keep an open mind to the unexpected thing that we hear or see from our friends this week. And even if we just aren’t feeling it ourselves, maybe our word of love or support to someone else will in fact reassure them in their own doubt. Faith is funny like that. The Holy Spirit is funny like that. No proof, no scientific evidence. Just God, and our friends, to lean on.
So, even when we’re completely out of gas, the Holy Spirit still gives us this remarkable capacity for building up other people’s waning faith. That gives me the thought to offer a prayer for the Church, which of course is US. As the Holy Spirit descended on our ancestors and guided their tongues in ways they couldn’t have anticipated, that the same Spirit might guide our own tongues as we care for everyone around us.
Spirit of Truth and Faith, at Penetcost, you gave words of life to your followers to pour out for all people to hear. Give us our words here and now, to give life to those around us who doubt, who question, or who fear. Empower us to be with them in their daily struggles, to reassure them and strengthen them for their days.
We know that the whole creation has been groaning in labor pains until now; and not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly while we wait for adoption, the redemption of our bodies. For in hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what is seen? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience. Romans 8:22-25
This Scripture seeks to empower us for the mysterious journey of faith we walk each day. Murky, uncertain, and even reassuring when we least expect. We know the world is broken. You can’t read or watch the news and miss that painful reality. Just as we can’t prove anything about the Holy Spirit to ourselves or other people, to all appearances the world is lost. But then we have those moments when we discover a hope we can’t explain, when we can be optimists. People of the glass half-full. Those times when we can read between the lines and see goodness and mercy happening to ourselves and other people.
This makes it even more important to consider how our words can help others to read between the lines with us. You might be reading this very blog post and thinking I’m full of it. Or, maybe you’re thinking “oh, maybe he’s right.” If it’s the former, then this just might not be the way the Spirit chooses to reach through me to you. But if it’s the latter, well, there you go. And none of it was ever under my own power. I write all these things as I seek to explore my faith, to discover the new thing that God is doing in my own life. But just as I do that, I have hope that sometimes, my own faith journey can empower others. We cannot see the end, and it can be painful today, but we can fall upon the mercy of our faith to lead us forward to brightness.
This inspires me to offer a prayer for our community. It’s so easy to name every way that we seem to be headed to hell in a handbasket. But yet, there is redemption and newness of life happening around us, whether we see it or not. If only to have eyes to see that, to be able to rejoice in it.
God of Hope, with your creation we groan in labor pains, hoping for what we do not see, for redemption and wholeness. Grant us eyes of faith, to see you always at work in our neighborhoods, our families, and our own places of work, to celebrate Your new creation unfolding around all of us, and to give hope to others to see that same newness springing forth.
So, hopefully this week can be a time for us to reflect on what it means to live as people marked by the Holy Spirit. What is our role, our part to play, among everyone around us, because of our being marked? And how does the Spirit sustain us in our low points? Instead of thinking about those first Christians and their tongues of flame, think about how we are experiencing the very same thing right here and now. We are honestly connected to them, experiencing the same, contrary to all appearances. And maybe, this was the week for you to hear me reminding you that you are indeed marked with the Holy Spirit, whether you like it or not. Peace out.