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Blow Holy Spirit, Renew Us Again

May 14, 2016

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Upon this rock… upon this rock a confused and scared college junior sat and wondered just how he was going to recover from the shambles that was his Accounting major at the University of Wisconsin at Eau Claire. Have you ever prayed from a perspective of darkness and confusion? Have you ever prayed from a place where words fail and all seems to be lost in a fog? That was where I was in October of 1980. This blog discusses this time further: https://scotsirishpadreblog.wordpress.com/2015/04/14/hes-real-alive/ Out of that chaos came a clear calling to ministry as the winds of the Holy Spirit blew away the fog and the fear, replacing both with a calmness and a calling.

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Fast forward from 1980 to 2010 and a much older and weather-beaten Padre found himself on the beach a lot as he sorted through the fog and the confusion of life at the end of the chapter of life to which he had been called on that October evening in Eau Claire, Wisconsin in 1980. Disillusioned with the Air Force Chaplain Corps, in the midst of a wreckage of my own making, I desperately sought the Spirit once again. Even though I wasn’t in a good place to utter such a prayer (sort of like back in 1980… Is there a pattern here? Likely so…), I walked along the beach, took pictures of the sunsets, and listened to the crashing of the waves against the beach. Once more, out of the darkness and the chaos that was my life, the Spirit blew through these dry bones of mine. Her gentle whisper re-called me to ministry, this time out of uniform and in the church.

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And now it is 2016. Denise and I took our house guest up Trail Ridge Road as far as the road was open. When we stopped at Rainbow Curve, the view was stunning. In a brief reflective moment, I thought about how life’s journey had brought me (and Denise) to this place in our lives. The wind was cold and crisp. It wasn’t gentle, but then again it wasn’t a gale force storm. Chilled and yet strangely refreshed I could sense the Spirit’s gentle presence. In almost a celebratory mood, she was reminding me that I/we had been called to this place and this time for a purpose. Refreshed and renewed, we are serving the Lord in amazing ways, some of which are yet to be revealed, and there is much happiness in that.

And so, this sentimental journey with the Padre leads us up to Pentecost Sunday. Were the words of Jesus as John records them in John 14:15-17 still ringing in the Apostles’ ears? “If you love me, you will keep my commandments. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, to be with you forever. This is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees her nor knows her. You know her, because she abides with you, and she will be in you.” (side note, Πνεῦμα (Pneuma) or Spirit is gender neutral and αὐτό (auto) or what is typically translated as “him” is also a gender neutral personal pronoun, so I have taken the approach of calling the Spirit, She/Her. After all, God cannot be limited by our mere language and I believe is described in such a way throughout Scripture.)

Were they still contemplating just how this promised Spirit would be given to them? I believe that I can relate to that contemplation as I look back on my own spiritual journey. So it was, according to tradition, fifty days after Jesus’ resurrection and ten days after his ascension, the promised Holy Spirit was given to the Apostles. “When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place. And suddenly from heaven there came a sound like the rush of a violent wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. Divided tongues, as of fire, appeared among them, and a tongue rested on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages, as the Spirit gave them ability.” (Acts 2:1-4)

Can you imagine the transformation? Fifty days ago, they were twelve shattered and broken disciples. Even brash and bold Peter was reduced to hiding indoors for fear of what would happen next. Then the risen Lord appeared and jolted them back into a new reality whether they realized it or not. Fifty days later, he leaves them again, and I can imagine a significant part of their spirits cringed. Now what! Jesus, you’ve left us again! How are we to cope?

Not to worry though, as Jesus promised, the Spirit came upon them in a powerful way! For a bunch of local guys (and gals who were in the wings, but just as much a part of the ministry despite the silence by the male writers of Scripture) to even think about going global must have been frightening. In a magnificent way, the Spirit descended upon the group and they began to speak in other languages!

With that development, Peter rose up to speak to all those who had gathered in Jerusalem for the festival of Shavuot, the Festival of Weeks. It was a prominent celebration in the Jewish calendar celebrating the giving of the Law to Moses at Sinai. What better time for the Spirit to equip the new Apostles to share the Good News of the One who came to Fulfill the Law and the Prophets than during the festival commemorating the giving of the very Law Jesus came to fulfill!

Jews from all around the known world had gathered in Jerusalem for this festival. Even though they had a common faith heritage, the diaspora had scattered them and they would have had trouble speaking to one another in anything other than the “religious language” of their day. Can you imagine how amazing it would have been to hear a non-scholarly fisherman speak and everyone understood exactly what he was saying (along with the words of the other Apostles)? That is exactly what happened!

From that moment on, God equipped this ragtag bunch of Christ followers to take Jesus’ message of radical love, acceptance, forgiveness, and grace throughout the world. Some say that Pentecost is the birthday of the church, but I think it is much more than that. It was the first step in a movement that would rock history and the known world. It sparked a movement that would continue long after the original twelve were in their graves. It sparked a movement that would make its way to Scotland and Ireland where the ancestors of this old Padre would hear the good news of the Gospel and change their hearts and lives. It sparked a movement that continued to challenge and guide believers throughout the centuries until, for me personally, the Spirit spoke to my heart and my life, calling me to serve.

Listen, dear reader, can you hear the gentle whisper of the Spirit in your own life? I encourage you to not only listen, but to respond… you will be refreshed, renewed, strengthened, encouraged, and equipped to share the radical and life giving love of Christ with others.

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