In two Sunday’s we’ll arrive at Pentecost, the time when we celebrate God’s Spirit empowering believers. As a prequel to Pentecost, let’s introduce ourselves to one of the most beautiful and yet mysterious and controversial aspects of the Christianity: the Holy Spirit (John 14:23-29).
Today’s lesson from John’s gospel focuses on Jesus’ promise to send his followers the Advocate, another name for the Holy Spirit. Jesus reassured his followers that God’s comforting, spiritual presence would give them the power and encouragement to live a victorious life. The Christian church was still in it its infancy, and it isn’t a surprise that the early believers needed an extra boost to get things going. In response to his follower’s needs, Jesus gave them special powers, thereby calming troubled hearts and worried, anxious souls. The Holy Spirit would come, Jesus said, so he instructed his friends to set their expectations. We know that fantastic things happened when God’s Spirit came, so much so that miracles happened that still attract interest.
Fast-forward two thousand years and Jesus’ followers still yearn for divine power. We like to think and feel that our faith is alive, and that God is willing and able to do great things to us and through us. In no sense are we alone. We aren’t just supposed to accept a list of acceptable theological beliefs and then go away and forget about God’s power. Also, people in all sorts of religions seek evidence of their god or gods. Our Christian brothers and sisters seek God’s empowerment amid the frustrations and complexities of life. There’s so much to distract us from our spiritual roots that God’s Spirit can remind believers of what really matters. Moreover, God’s essence via the Holy Spirit may help people overcome a sense of isolation and disconnectedness. Seen in this way, even the more skeptical and reserved among us can cultivate a more vital and lively spirituality. Are you willing to embrace this vision?
Want a growing, living faith? Ramp-up your expectations and boldly claim a new way for a new day. You can receive the same Holy Spirit that Jesus promised his followers long ago. Sure, there is lingering debate over specific miracles and whether many of these fantastic events are as helpful or as necessary today. Christians will likely continue to debate if God wants us to cure illnesses on demand, speak a hitherto unstudied foreign language (speaking in tongues), raise people from the dead, etc.
Some people argue that the age of miracles is over, that we should not even think about performing miracles because we’ll be disappointed and distracted from life’s daily demands. The reasoning here is that if we strain for showy miracles we will either deceive ourselves or become disappointed. Other Christians claim that the same miracles that you find in the New Testament are alive and well but that we lack the faith to make them happen. There’s no quick and easy way to decide which if either of these extreme interpretations is the way to go. At the very least it seems that we can expect peace of mind and assurance, and we might even explore other powers as we open our hearts and minds.
Next Sunday is Pentecost, and we should claim God’s promises of victory over challenges. Prepare yourself and set aside any controversies as you discover what might work for you. Even if we can’t demand the same miracles as the early Christians, we can certainly share God’s love and truth. No matter how fantastic are the miracles you expect, the greatest one hasn’t changed in over two-thousand years: God redeeming your life through your spiritual awakening. We must also celebrate how God restores broken lives. Even if we are seasoned Christians who grew up in the church, God can bring us something fresh—if we allow it. The key is to hunger and thirst for God’s presence and cultivate a renewal of personal faith. After all, spiritual health is the goal for all of us and it doesn’t hurt to renew our connection with God. Are you ready? Your ability to move forward is limited only by your decision to move forward. Choose wisely!
–Reverend Larry Hoxey