Monday, May 5, 2008

God gives away the Spirit Acts 2:1-21 John 20:19-23

Jesus is up to something big by passing the Holy Spirit on to us; but there's more to this gift than might be first expected. God's Spirit isn't given in a neatly wrapped package (with gift receipt) at one point or time in history.

Our readings this Sunday tell us two distinct occasions when the Spirit came into believers' lives.

  • The risen Jesus breathed out and told his friends receive the Holy Spirit. They gathered in a locked room fearing the same people who had killed Jesus. They'd heard the first reports of the resurrection and still feared for their lives. Jesus came and stood among them breathing out and telling them "peace be with you" and "receive the holy spirit (John 20).
  • The Spirit was seen as fire in tongues on the Apostles' heads in Jerusalem. The believers gathered together in Jerusalem praying and praising God together. Beyond human explanation they began to speak, each one in their own native tongue, and understand one another regardless of where they came from or what language they spoke (Acts 2).
God's on the loose. We can impose no limits on where the Spirit moves in flame, breath, wind, or whatever other form God might choose. In Religion After 2000 Andrew Greeley offers a helpful challenge to the church asking two questions that are great for Pentecost.

Why, I wonder, are we so afraid of mystery?

Or to put it another way why are so eager to budget the Holy Spirit's time for Her when on the record She is determined to blow whither she will?

The gift of the Spirit is a promise of future relationship with Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. God comes to this relationship freely and unfettered by our judgments and ideas about what God can or can't do. Jesus' gift of the Spirit is a mystery that we don't solve or resolve; instead the Spirit is the very real presence of God meeting us together with God's Word over and over. The Holy Spirit meets us not as we humans would choose; but as God would choose. The Spirit comes freely to comfort, chastise, enliven, and move us.

A comment from Nancy, in response to last week's post about Jesus' prayer in John 17, has really gotten me thinking about God's gift of the Spirit. What Nancy wrestled with so beautifully is the idea of Jesus giving away a part of the divine in Pentecost. What happens at Pentecost isn't the grand finale; God's promises to be with us from here on into the future; and as we go into whatever future might be in store we know that we don't go alone.

1 comment:

Ivy said...

Excellent post--a good reminder for all of us. By the way how are you doing? You've been in my prayers.