Thursday, May 24, 2012

Power Without and Within

What does it mean to be a "Spirit-filled church?"  What does a church that "has the Spirit" look like?

There are lots of churches that boast of being Spirit-filled; for us, that usually conjures up images of a certain boisterousness, a particular kind of exuberance, hand-waving and amen-ing and jumping around and all the rest of it.  There are churches in certain corners of the Christian world where the Spirit is expected to be plainly evidenced.  You may have been to a church like this; perhaps you may have also felt a little out of place, like someone who enjoys genteel ballroom dancing who winds up on the dance-floor of a hip, 20-something nightclub. Culture shock extreme!

But the Spirit is something more than that which animates worship.  Looking back to the story of Pentecost, in the 2nd chapter of Acts, the Holy Spirit's arrival does indeed create a visible stir among the disciples who were waiting for its promise.  But the real key to Pentecost is not so much its visible signs, as powerful as they may be; the real key is the power of God, within and without, precisely for the mission of God in the world.  Power to witness to Jesus, to be agents of God's love.

The corner of Christendom that we inhabit is a little uncomfortable with outward displays.  (Only occasionally will a good tune elicit hand-clapping.)  But that does not mean we are not "Spirit-filled."  The Holy Spirit is promised to us, indeed, given to us in our baptism.  We cannot even think about claiming Jesus as Lord without it.  Even beneath our typically restrained demeanor, the Spirit is at work upon us, subduing (or rather killing) the sinner in us, allowing the Resurrection power of Jesus to make something new out of us.  The Spirit's work is not for show; it is for life change, for transformation.  It is for us, and also through us, for others, for the world.

Without the Holy Spirit, this whole thing would have fallen apart long ago.  And so we not only acknowledge the Holy Spirit's existence, but claim the Spirit's power, and welcome him.  We also ready ourselves for the surprises that will come our way, because with great power comes great turbulence!

As the program year winds down, we give pause for gratitude for the Holy Spirit's work among us this past year: for musicians and singers and ringers, for Sunday School leaders and Confirmation guides, for ministry leaders and staff, and for all the many people who do Spirit-led work.  To you, a Spirit-filled thank you!