(originally appeared in the Rector’s Message the week before Pentecost, 2010)
What does Pentecost mean?
- A mighty rushing wind?
- Tongues of flame as fire?
- The moment of prophetic ecstasy?
- The miracle of hearing the Gospel preached in a variety of languages?
- All of the above?
Or is it that Pentecost is something far, far removed– something that happened long ago, but seems to have little to do with life as we know it here and now?
Time was, once, when the hallmark of the Church might have been the presence of the Holy Spirit, but that was then, and this is now.
Yes, this is “now,” and we still live in the age of the presence of the Holy Spirit, as is the plan of God’s salvation.
The thing is that human nature being such as it is, we have the tendency to subvert the third person of the Holy Trinity to give a stamp of approval to most anything that might come down the pike. We forget that the real work of the Holy Spirit is unitive—to bring the people of God together. Instead we claim that “it is the work of the Holy Spirit” when quite the opposite happens.
We forget that the work of the Holy Spirit is to bind up that which is wounded, and to heal. We forget that the presence of the Holy Spirit reveals that which is Christ-like—rather than being God’s endorsement of our obstinate delusions of grandeur.
Megalomania is not the hallmark of the Holy Spirit; humble service is. Condemnation is not the work of the Holy Spirit. Compassion is.
So why is it that when someone is busily claiming that they are doing the work of the Holy Spirit, that most generally it may be that they are indeed far, far from the real work of the Holy Spirit?
I suspect that the answer lies in knowing our Lord Jesus in prayer and sacrament. How dare we presume to speak for the Spirit of God without first placing ourselves, our souls and bodies in that place where we might be nourished and fed with the life giving presence of God?