Meanderings on Pentecost and the Holy Spirit

Today is Pentecost Sunday. Today we celebrate the Holy Spirit breaking into the apostles’ lives and the incredible events of that day. Our church has been encouraged to wear red because Pentecost is a celebration. And even though EA, Jim, and I will be leaving this morning to begin training our summer staff, we’ll be wearing red. But I confess I feel like I’m celebrating the party of a friend I only kind of know.

Growing up in a Baptist church, we didn’t talk about the Holy Spirit much save for a shout out right before we submerged a new Christian. It kind of seems like we don’t give much thought to the Spirit in our Western churches outside of Pentecostalism.

I sort of understand that. God the Creator and Jesus we get. They have a well-defined place. The Spirit is a little bit harder to nail down. It is very esoteric and we don’t like esoteric. It’s not empirical. The Spirit can seem a bit New Age-y. Then we hear about speaking in tongues and it sort of scares us at times.

I sometimes think of the Spirit as this distant relative that walks the line between unbelievably brilliant and crazy. I interact with the Spirit, but it’s like it is on a wavelength that I can’t quite grasp. It’s running around the house like Doc Brown with crazy hair and screaming, “You’re not thinking fourth dimensionally, Marty!”

But I sometimes think I trip over myself when it comes to the Spirit. Because it is not supposed to be some distant, crazy relative. It’s part of the Trinity. The Spirit is God just as much as the other two. But I get so distracted by the other stuff that I keep things at arms length.

Jesus called the Spirit the Paraclete, the Comforter, the Spirit of Truth. It is a guide. Many scholars liken the Holy Spirit to Wisdom in the Hebrew Bible. The Spirit is supposed to be God guiding us. But I have to be careful that I don’t turn the Spirit into Jiminy Cricket. It is not “Let your conscience be your guide.” It’s something outside of me. Yet it is also inside of me. But it is of God, not me. I can see how this confuses people.

But when has God ever been something that any of us could completely wrap our heads around? We are talking about the Almighty and the Infinite. The truth of the matter is we could have just as many questions about Jesus or God the Father.

See? I’m dodging it still. The Spirit is something real and it is something powerful. On Pentecost, the Holy Spirit propelled the disciples out into the world like a shot. They had been living in fear, but they were suddenly preaching in the town square. Everyone heard the message in their own language.

I’ve always found the language part interesting but not in the obvious Rosetta Stone kind of way. The Spirit brought the message to the people in a way that they could understand it. You didn’t have to learn some sort of secret code or Christianese to grasp what was going on. In church, we often reserve the saving gospel message for those that come inside the church doors. The Spirit propels that message outward. On that day, the Spirit made the Christian faith spread like a wildfire.

Paul writes about the fruits of the Spirit being love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. That often becomes a checklist for being a proper Christian a.k.a. a nice person. But if that is the fruit of the Spirit then it means it is the outgrowth of the Spirit. If the Spirit propels us into the world then it should mean that our interactions with world produce love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. It’s not personal attributes but actions; signs of the Reign of God breaking into the earth.

So I should probably pay more attention to the Spirit. Not necessarily in the speaking in tongues kind of way, but in really and truly sensing God’s presence in how I live, in how interact with others. What exactly does that mean? I’m not totally sure. Perhaps I’m still not thinking fourth dimensionally. But I’m glad that it’s Pentecost Sunday. I’m glad that God has given us the Spirit and that is reason enough to celebrate.

Why I am a Christian Still

To Jim on His 2nd Birthday