Indwelling Holy Spirit
In the classic film “Monty Python and the Holy Grail” there is a point where King Arthur and his knights approach Camelot and one after the other they wistfully exclaim, “Camelot! Camelot. Camelot.” Then a squire ruins the mood by telling them they are looking at a backdrop by saying, “It’s only a model.” Then they decide that it is a silly place and they go on their way, until God gives them a task to complete.
As silly as that story is, sometimes I think that describes the way some of us think about the church at Pentecost. We like to think of it as an ideal time that we would love to recapture. And even when we realize that it is silly to think that we could recreate it, the Pentecost event remains an ideal for what it means to be the church. All you need is a really good, young preacher and you’ll have thousands sign up for the building committee, right?
Not exactly. Fortunately for us, Pentecost was not a workshop on church growth and development. I tell you what else it was not. No matter how much we want it to be one, Pentecost was not an isolated event. I say that we want it to be because talking about the outpouring of the Holy Spirit in any way other than the past tense can be a little unsettling for most Presbyterians. In fact, I would say that the scriptures today have demonstrated that one of the first Presbyterians ever mentioned in the Bible might just be Joshua, Son of Nun.
Moses had come down from the mountain. They had that horrible incident with the golden cow, you know. There was a called meeting of the Session, the Elders, and each one got just a little share of the Spirit – just enough to do a little truth telling while were together. Then, lo and behold, Eldad and Medad are laying down truth after truth and they just will not stop!
And what does Moses do? “Stop them?” he says, “Stop them? Would that all the Lord’s people were prophets, and that the Lord would put his spirit on them!”
Without going too far or too deep here, I think it’s important to see here that Pentecost is not the first time that scripture tells us that the Spirit of the Lord has rested upon someone. So, it stands to reason that Pentecost is not the last time, either. In fact, that’s the whole point of the Pentecost experience – that the Holy Spirit of God has been made available for everyone, so that all might be prophets.
Now, Paul does write that not everyone will be a prophet – and that there are different spiritual gifts – but let’s stick with Moses for a minute. First off, prophecy, as I have said before and will again, is not about fortune telling. It’s about truth telling. Sometimes it means speaking truth to power.
Sometimes truth telling means reading the writing on the wall, and sometimes that leads to uncomfortable truths that most of us just don’t want to hear. Sometimes that may look like fortune telling, but often it is more like watching your child play when you know balance is tipping between fun and danger.
In the BBC show, Sherlock, everyone’s favorite detective suggests that with – access to enough information – you can plot the most probably course of action for anyone. Personally, I like to think of that as a way to describe the work of the Holy Spirit, and the opportunity for all of us to be prophets.
Truly, at the heart of all of this Pentecostal mumbo jumbo is that fact that there is a God who is the ground of all being. And this God – the one true God – is already at work in and through you and me, and everything that has life. The thing is, most of you know this already, in fact some of you answered the question about God pouring out God’s spirit so beautifully when I asked on Facebook that I want to share some of the answers that I got:
• Pouring represents abundance.
• God speaks every human language, from Phrygian to 6th grader.
• Christ with us.
• Unity in diversity, and power to witness.
• God's love for humanity was overflowing to a point that it poured out on all people. The faithful and the [jerk faces] alike--and the faithful [jerk faces].
• The conscious awareness of the presence of God both around and within is a sign of discipleship, and a universally available human experience.
• The power of God lives in me! [The same] power that could restore sight and life, drive out demons, raise the dead and more lives in us as believers. We aren't alone or helpless, but always in the presence of an Advocate that pleads for us, equips us, empowers us, and most of all loves us.
• The pouring out of the Holy Spirit is when Jesus filled our hearts with His love. We are to share with others just how awesome Jesus is.
• Access granted! Universally! Wherever we fall on the Saint/sinner spectrum, we all have a little bit of God in us. But, y'know, with great power comes great responsibility, and all that. The hard part is seeing that little bit of God in everyone else.
Now we could debate the finer points of theology in all of these, but what I want to lift up out of them is the Pentecostal opportunity that they represent. You see, Pentecost was not an isolated event. It wasn’t a special show where the Holy Spirit is handed out like cars on Oprah.
Likewise, the opportunity of Pentecost is not just a special Sunday to wear red and collect an offering for youth and young adults. The opportunity of Pentecost is one in which we come to see that we are like little bits of creation resting within God, and once we see that truth, we have no choice but to see all of creation in the same light.
For we are both thirst and fountain. We are the product of generations before and we are the hope of those to come. We are the hope through which God shines like a candle in a darkened window.
We are the old who dream dreams about the ideals of the past and future.
We are the young who have visions of what is good and true.
We are bread being baked and broken.
We are the wine poured out for sin.
We are the blessed creation that is broken and being reformed We are all that humanity has been and the seed of what it will grow.
Who among us will prophecy?
Who among us already have?
And who will listen if we are only speaking to hear ourselves talk?
David LaMotte is a folk singer and an activist who answered these questions in a song:
The glass of water you were sipping
As you watched the morning come
Has quenched the thirst of seven others
Underneath a younger sun
We are memories and moments
We are born and born again
Rushing stream and breathing steam
The water's going to win
The water's going to win
Ascending and falling and rising up again
The water's going to win
Ride the tide and ride the wind
The water's going to win
Jesus said to those at the festival who were living in booths and running short on supplies, “Come to me all who thirst and I will give you living water!”
The living water will win every time. It is the water that flows through our veins and pours out in the smallest act of kindness. But more than that, I can’t help but think of our sisters and brothers in the church in Cuba and the Living Waters for the World projects that are down there.
The thing is, giving the water out isn’t just an act of kindness. It comes from a recognition that what matters to my neighbor matters to me. I’m not quite sure what it will take to get us all to that point, but I know that the water can take us there.
(officers Sally Zheng and Ralph Torres)
(Rev Jim Weldon)
As for our congregation, we must continue the hard work of discerning God’s call. There is still a lot to do with flood recovery, but there is a greater calling of hospitality that we are still moving toward.
Along the way, let us remember that the word “Pentecostal” isn’t just for religious extremists. Instead, it reminds us that God is present, both within and around, and it describes all who live in response to God’s grace – no matter how imperfectly. Amen.