Fall Afresh on Us

The Church proclaims the greatest love story ever told.  God pursued God’s people throughout the ages.  God sent God’s own son into the world out of indescribable, incomprehensible love.  Jesus lived, loved, suffered, and died…but He rose again.  And after appearing to many, He ascended into heaven where He sits at God’s right hand and intercedes on our behalf.  The end.  Nope!  That is not the end of the story!  The Church was born because the love and the power of God was poured out.  The Holy Spirit was sent and is on the move.

Someone once described the Holy Spirit to me as the shy One of the Trinity.  But the Holy Spirit is God and God has never seemed shy to me.  I wonder if the Holy Spirit is often just the ignored One.  Or at least the One we don’t really know what to do with.  And so, we approach the Spirit a bit like we use salt – trying to add just enough to make things palatable according to our taste.

I’ve been in churches where the Holy Spirit was to be feared…lurking, listening, waiting for us to mess up.  I’ve been in churches where people desperately wanted to be “slain in the Spirit” as proof they were accepted (like others strewn on the floor.)  And I’ve been in churches where the only mention of the Holy Spirit was slipped in via a recited creed.

In Jesus’ so called Farewell Discourse in John, Jesus is trying to tell His disciples what is going to happen to Him and teaching them what is of utmost importance before it comes to pass.  And His followers just don’t get it.  He speaks of His death, He foretells His betrayal, He predicts Peter’s denial, He gives them a new commandment…  And yet they are still surprised and confused by the events of Holy Week and don’t know what to do.  In chapter 14, Jesus also promises and describes the coming of the Holy Spirit.  And I worry that we just don’t get it – that we too are still surprised and confused and don’t know what to do.

Let me encourage you today with a reminder:  Jesus did not say, “I taught you well.  You know it all.  So just go and do it – you’ve got this!”  Instead, He promised that the Advocate, the Spirit of Truth, the Holy Spirit, God, will be with us – and in us – teaching and reminding us of who we are and who God is.

During a Ministry Collaborative meeting this week, the person leading the conversation opened by asking, “Where are you seeing the Holy Spirit at work?  How is the Spirit changing some of your theological questions or thoughts?”  It was convicting.  Nothing to do with strategy or metrics or grievances – as so many “church-world” questions are.  It was instead essentially asking:  Are you paying attention?  Are your eyes open?  Are you humble and open to transformation?  Do you remember and/or believe who really runs this thing?!

Several of our recent blog posts and podcasts have highlighted a common thread of believing/claiming/trusting over adding/strategizing/doing.  From Jennifer Maxell warning against default busy programming Don’t Misinterpret the Moment, to Adam Borneman reminding us that Easter doesn’t need our help Resurrection without Window Dressing, to our series of conversations around faith formation – including one with Andy Root about churches needing to do less not more Surrendering to Something Beyond – and others.  These writings and conversations are not (only) an invitation to hardworking and exhausted ministry leaders into rest and renewal.  Rather, they are a call to remember that this work and life of ministry must be discerned, guided, powered, relying on, and pointing to something much bigger than ourselves.

Friends, the glorious resurrection was not the end of the story.  The narrative continues to unfold in and through us.  As Eastertide gives way to “ordinary time” we would do well to remember that the Holy Spirit is not a meek second-class placeholder until Jesus returns.  The Holy Spirit is God.  And we have the power and presence of the living God, with us and within us.  Let’s not miss or dismiss that – in all that we are and all that we do.

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