Pentecost is the red headed stepchild of the Christian holy days. That is why the official color of Pentecost is red. (ba dum tish!) We are still recovering from the huge celebration for Easter. It often gets buried in Memorial Day weekend. And we are all collectively in “wrapping-things-up” mode. May is for graduations and packing for vacations.
Pentecost also comes with some guilt and confusion because I am celebrating the gift of the indwelling Spirit while I am not sure if the Spirit is dwelling in me or if I am really Spirit-filled. True confessions: privileged, western Evangelicals, like myself, do not believe the Holy Spirit is critical to the Church’s mission. We want to be Spirit-led but we also want to know how to make Spirit come, how to make Spirit work, and how to make Spirit stay. In other words, we want to be Spirit-led as long as we get to lead the Spirit. When that doesn’t work, we turn to techniques, leadership principles, and programs.
In the words of that fledgling church planter/bi-vocational smuggler, Han Solo:
Hokey religions and ancient weapons [read: Holy Spirit] are no match for a good blaster [read: Strategy] at your side, kid.
To be Spirit-led requires putting your life in the hands of the Spirit no matter what comes. If only we had an example of someone who modeled how to completely depend on the Holy Spirit for everything! Oh wait, we do. Jesus. Do you think Jesus did those miracles and spoke with such power and authority because he was the Son of God and had divine super powers? No way! Jesus was fully human. He lived with the same limitations and resources that we experience. Jesus could not be Jesus without the Holy Spirit’s help. Don’t believe me? Take it from Jesus:
- “I tell you the truth, the Son can do nothing by himself. I do only what I see the Father doing.” John 5:19
- “I do nothing on my own, but I speak only what the Father has instructed me.” John 8:28
- “What I speak, I speak, I speak just as the Father has told me.” John 12:49
- “The words that I say to you I do not speak on my own; but the Father who dwells in me does his works.” John 14:10
While the Holy Spirit is not directly referenced here, it is through the Spirit that Jesus was seeing and hearing the Father’s activity.
“… how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power; how he went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with him.” Acts 10:38
Jesus needed the Holy Spirit to be Jesus. The disciples also needed the Holy Spirit to be Jesus in the world. On Pentecost, we celebrate the tongues of fire that rested on the disciples, transforming them into bold evangelists. We forget that before that happened, the resurrected Jesus ordered his disciples to not leave Jerusalem until the coming of the Holy Spirit (Acts 1:4). It was not enough that these disciples have just witnessed their teacher and Lord raised from the dead. It was not enought that these disciples had spent years with Jesus, listening to his teachings and witnessing his miracles firsthand. It was not even enought that these disciples were sent out by the authority of Jesus and performed miracles themselves. If any humans were capable of building God's Kingdom, it would have been these disciples. But Jesus said, “Nope. You don't have a chance without the Spirit.” [paraphrase mine]
Jesus needed the Holy Spirit.
The disciples needed the Holy Spirit.
So do we. Desperately.
The word ‘desperate’ was prominent at the Missio Alliance gathering earlier this month. We gave voice to our desperation for God. We faced our weaknesses and brokenness. The challenges are beyond us and we know it. If we are going to be with the poor, we need Holy Spirit. If we are going to repent from racism, we need Holy Spirit. If we are going to engage unjust systems and structures, we need the Holy Spirit. If we are going to persevere through discouragement, conflict, and apathy, we need the Holy Spirit. The good news is that God never expected or intended us to carry on the ministry of Jesus Christ on our own. God gives God’s own self with God’s own power to the Church toward the building of God’s Kingdom.
In a pre-Missio Alliance gathering, Greg Boyd spoke about the Church’s need for a sanctified imagination that can entertain an image of the Spirit at work in us, with us, and among us even if it not obviously apparent to our eyes trained by a dominating naturalistic worldview. We need an imagination that allows us to listen for the Spirit’s voice as if the Spirit speaking to us was normal. We need an imagination that makes room for us to be interrupted and directed as if the Spirit were the one interrupting and directing us. When we talk about our responsiveness toward the Spirit with others, we might sound a little nutty.
But as we live and yield ourselves to the Spirit as if, we might learn to celebrate the Gift of the Spirit on Pentecost!
[Image: Waiting For The Word]