I’d like to meet the creative committee that organized the Holy Spirit’s debut. For hundreds of years, God is portrayed as a James Earl Jones figure behind clouds, burning bushes, Balaam’s memorable donkey, a carved treasure box, and a curtained-off inner closet stuffed with symbolic freight. For thirty years plus three recorded ones, Jesus is present in skin and bones. But fifty days prior to this Acts event, Jesus has Passover with his team, is crucified shortly thereafter, then is resurrected. Folks talk, touch, and eat with the resurrected Jesus for a little over a month. Then Jesus is gone again. And, the Holy Spirit is all, “Wait for it. Tornado Sounds! Tongues of Fire! Foreign Languages!” Where did the idea for that triumphal entry come from?
It’s a little too much noise for me, a little too much spectacle.
I don’t want to be present in this scene. When I go to the sanctuary on a high holy day like Pentecost, I expect church to be, you know, quiet. Ordered. Routine. Strangers are fine; introverts preferred, but well-mannered extroverts can be tolerated a few pews away. Hymns are good; familiar ones are better; new ones that aren’t simply a chord, a chorus, and a coda are acceptable occasionally. Being moved to tears over the world’s brokenness, or stories of mighty impact from minuscule means is cathartic, but tying our emotions to church business, local politics, and national issues should be rigorously avoided. Sermons on repentance should sound like a doctor ordering exercise, fiber, and hydration; we can nod in agreement and move on, chastised but unchanged.
The Holy Spirit at Pentecost is scary. I don’t want God to show up sounding like thunder, looking like fire. I don’t want God to make me talk with strangers in a language they find familiar. Not at church.
The Holy Spirit never shows up this way again. What’s the lasting impact of this scene in your church and in your life?
God, help us receive the Spirit, untamed and flamboyant. Amen.