Thursday, June 1, 2017

Spirit Things

I remember a few things about the day I arrived at college.  My parents drove me down, and I met my roommate and her parents, and our parents talked to each other.  My dad told some silly jokes, which is something he often did.  I found out that both of her parents were pastors, which sort of blew my mind.  I don't remember exactly how the conversation went, but at some point her mom replied to a comment by saying, "That's a spirit thing."

That seemed like a cool, sunglasses-wearing thing to say.  I didn't understand it.  My parents would never say it.

My new roommate turned to me and said, "My mom's into the Holy Spirit."

I had no idea what it meant at that time to be "into" the Holy Spirit.  I was "into" doubt and religious angst, myself.  I really wanted to believe in God, but I found that I had a lot of questions that I didn't know what to do with.  What should I do?  Stuff them in my pockets?  Bury them in the backyard?

I didn't know that later that year, I would also be "into" the Holy Spirit.  I am not sure, but I suspect that my experience might have been somewhat different than my friend's mother's experience.  I took a January-term class (one month long) in the neo-pentecostal movement.  We read books and heard speakers and (on the side) went to some prayer meetings.  Those prayer meetings weren't on the syllabus, but they happened.

At one of those prayer meetings, I happened to speak in tongues.  Afterwards, I stayed up into the middle of the night reading the letters of Paul.  I felt like I understood something about those letters, or at least started to understand.  The Holy Spirit was in them.

I was "into" the Holy Spirit.  In a Big Way.   Me and God were just "like this" (imagine me crossing my fingers together).  For awhile there I was ready to sweep every doubt and every question under the carpet.  The only thing that mattered was that I knew that God was real.

Of course later on the doubts and questions returned.  The experiences dimmed.  Yet I am still "into" the Holy Spirit.  And I love Pentecost.

I have mixed feelings about our yearly celebrations.  I want them to be like Christmas and Easter.  I want everyone to come.  Wearing red is great, but it's not enough for me.  I want everyone in my congregation to experience the Holy Spirit, to know (even with doubts and even with questions) that God is real, even if the realization is ephemeral.

Don't get me wrong:  I love the liturgy, and for me, now, the Holy Spirit dances in those words.  But sometimes I also wish for something unscripted to happen -- a unexpected note, a stranger who testifies, a child who will get up an dance.

On Sunday at least some of us will gather, and it will be Pentecost.  And one more time, the Holy Spirit will make us into the Body of Christ, for the world.  And one more time, we will be sent out, with invisible tongues of fire dancing on our heads.

It's a spirit thing.

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