What would happen if God’s Spirit broke out today? Which walls of division would crumble to the ground? If Parthians, Medes, Elamites, Egyptians, Libyans, Romans, Greeks and Arabs started to understand one another back in the day, who would start understanding one another now? If St. Paul’s radical encounter with the Spirit led him to say that in a world marked by Christ there is no longer Jew or Greek, slave or free, male or female, what does our radical encounter with the Spirit lead us to say today? Would we say there is no longer Jew or Greek, slave or free, male or female? Would we say there is no longer Arizonan or Mexican, socialist or capitalist, progressive or conservative? Would we say there is no longer believer or doubter, theist or atheist, denominational or emergent? Or has the Spirit lost its edge?
Does the Spirit help us find safety in the commonplace? Rest in the expected? Does the Spirit make sure everything stays the same?
Or does the Spirit push us out of our comfort zones? Challenge us to expect the unexpected? Does the Spirit make sure we are never the same again?
Has the Spirit lost its edge?
Does the Spirit lead to abstract doctrines? Perfectly constructed creeds? Does the Spirit keep our faith safely locked in our minds?
Or does the Spirit lead to transformation? To action? Does the Spirit make sure our faith is lived out in blood, sweat, and tears?
Has the Spirit lost its edge?
As we celebrate the coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, we think of wild geese that can’t be tamed and holy ghosts that won’t leave us alone. So why do we seek a tame faith? Why do we cultivate tame churches? Why do we keep the door closed on the holy ghosts that disturb, challenge, and haunt us? Are we afraid of what might happen if we open the door? Will we (or our congregations) be labeled as too controversial, too idealistic, too passionate? Has the Spirit lost its edge?
Is it possible to open ourselves to the radical call of the Spirit? Can our sons and daughters dream dreams and have visions too? Can God’s future unhinge, subvert, and disrupt us, leaving us in its wake as we try to catch up to its lead? Or are we content with what is, perfectly happy with the mediocre run-of-the-mill world we find ourselves in day after day, week after week, year after year: Robert’s Rules of Order, the Daily 10, preferential treatment for those who are ‘in’ and condemnation for those who are ‘out’?
There are those who want to be Christian or go to church because they have the illusion such things will make them feel safe, but following the Holy Spirit is the most risky of all ventures, and if any of us (or our churches) want to hold onto life as we currently know it then we should run from the Spirit as fast as we can. When God’s Spirit broke out at Pentecost, everything changed. It’s no wonder that those who responded to the Spirit were accused of being drunk, for who in their right mind would dare to have anything to do with it?
by Phil Snider
Phil Snider is a pastor at Brentwood Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in Springfield, Missouri and the coauthor of Toward a Hopeful Future: Why the Emergent Church is Good News for Mainline Congregations. He is a graduate of Missouri State University (B.S.), Phillips Theological Seminary (M.Div.) and Chicago Theological Seminary (D.Min.).
Phil blogs at www.philsnider.net.