Thee, Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, let all our hearts receive; present with thy celestial host the peaceful answer give; to each covenant the blood apply which takes our sins away, and register our names on high and keep us to that day! Come, Let Us Use the Grace Divine by Charles Wesley
This Sunday we celebrate Pentecost. It's the Sunday of the church year dedicated to telling the story of the events of the upper room as the disciples were filled with the Holy Spirit. Scripture describes an event that has perplexed and amazed believers and non-believers alike for generations.
The Spirit is active in the beginning.
I think sometimes we get confused about the Holy Spirit. I've heard many great preachers say the Holy Spirit showed up that day and filled the disciples with fire and power! The Spirit is present always. He doesn't show up, take off or leave the building. The Spirit is mentioned from the beginning of the Bible to the end, from Genesis to Revelation. He's active as breath is to life, fruit to the vine and order in the midst of chaos.
The Spirit is strengthening us for the journey.
The Spirit's role is defined as 'comforting.' That translation can be a bit confusing. We certainly need cheering up when we're sad. N.T. Wright describes the presence of the Spirit as strengthening by coming-alongside to give courage. Like a trusted friend brings courage as he comes with us on the journey. I love this insight. It describes an active spiritual life that engages the pantheon of human experience that includes the range of human emotions and encounters. We aren't extracted from the complete range of life but equipped to live in its fullness by the Spirit's presence.
Surrender is the key to fully know and experience God.
Maybe you've heard the 'bootstrap' theology. It sounds like this: 'God helps those who help themselves.' Honestly ask the question: why would we need God if we can handle it? Human reason can attempt to define the holy mystery of God. We can strive to apprehend the complexity of life and attach religious jargon to supernatural instance. But, all the rhetoric seems skeletal. Ezekiel called it 'dry bones.' Simple surrender can be painfully difficult or profoundly freeing. But, surrender is ultimately necessary to know and experience the supernatural blood and guts work of the Spirit.
We can lose it.
Here's where the controversy sets in. The hymn I quoted above was written by Charles Wesley. Wesleyans are identified with the Arminian belief that salvation is secured by Jesus. But, we must make the choice to remain committed to Christ throughout our lives. Wesleyans believe we choose to live out each day in faith as our human experience challenges what our faith defines as real. Sanctifying and perfecting grace is our life-long companion via the Spirit. We work on becoming more and more like Jesus and less and less like the world. Indeed, we need the Spirit for this reason alone.
I pray you can join us for worship Sunday. Imagine a cup that is near empty being filled to over-flowing. We cannot construct an experience that only God can provide. But, we will ask God to provide the filling and trust he is able to do far more than we dream or imagine. I hope to see you Sunday.
They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles. Acts 2:42-43 NIV