Message Supplement for 15 May 2016–“Spiritual Embrace” PENTECOST SUNDAY!

Known as Pentecost, today is therefore a very special Sunday. We’re celebrating the core of spirit, God’s very essence. This is crucial because God is spirit. We are created in God’s image, so we are spiritual beings and as such we are connected to God, spirit-to-spirit.

Jesus promised that shortly after his departure he would send the energetic, marvelous Spirit. Jesus did this because he didn’t want his followers to be powerless. A basic biblical message about God’s Spirit is that this essential force comforts and guides us. The Holy Spirit is God’s truest and most basic form. All of this introduces the day of Pentecost, recorded in Acts 2:1-21. Strange things happened on Pentecost: Flames of fire appeared above the assembled disciples; people spoke foreign languages without prior knowledge, and the astonished believers were gathered together in a wonderful awakening. Peter, Jesus’ closest friend, stood up and explained that even greater things would happen, such as prophecies and diverse signs and wonders. What a scene!

Are you confused and perplexed about all the spirit talk and miraculous claims? If so, then you’re not alone. There is much controversy about the nature, role and presence of the Holy Spirit. Christians are divided more than ever about these issues. Some argue that we can and should expect the same miracles as described in Acts. In this perspective, God’s Spirit is ready and able to do the same types of miracles in today’s church. An opposing view suggest that the age of intense miracles is long over, and that God uses other, more subtle means to empower believers. The claim here is that conditions were “special” long ago and God doesn’t need an ongoing slate of parlor tricks to accomplish the mission. The danger in this latter position is that it ignores or diminishes the Holy Spirit. On the other side of things, placing too much emphasis on the literal, specific miracles in Acts can generate distractions and deception.

There is no known way to demonstrate which side of the spirit debate is absolutely, totally correct. As usual, there’s likely some value in each position. As with many debates, each side sees what they want; contrary evidence is either ignored or dismissed. Unfortunately, this situation is common for most of what Christians claim they believe. How does anyone emerge intact from this mess? There may be a balance between these unworkable extremes and it is worth it to discover a way to both take the spirit seriously without getting all spirit-crazy in the process.

God’s Spirit is within us. It’s worth exploring the wondrous things that can happen when we open ourselves to spirit fulfillment. We must widen the gaze of our understanding and consider that we run a risk of outright defiance of God if we dismiss spiritual power. True, a lively experience of spiritual power is not aligned with some folks’ style of worship or personality. In this case, God may be inviting hold-outs to change their perceptions. We can’t allow how we were raised and indoctrinated into Christianity to function as the final word about who we are and what we’re willing to become. God is greater than familiarity, comfort or tradition. To realize our full potential, we are challenged to grow and stretch ourselves in new directions.

As awakened Christians, we must choose to let God do great things in us and through us. The challenge for us is to advance and keep our faith alive by claiming God’s promises (rather than relegating them to ancient fiction). Our spirits can progress if and when we embrace the promise that God’s Holy Spirit will empower us. We should never give-up on moving-up. We must set goals that promote God’s kingdom and that challenge us to become stronger and more loving. Otherwise, what’s the point of living a dry, withering religion that goes nowhere? The world is watching us, and so is God. Better that we do whatever we can to demonstrate that God is alive in us and through us, even if we need a spiritual makeover to help us become more receptive. Celebrate Pentecost by yearning for and embracing God’s Holy Spirit. Great power and joy await your positive decision.