I have a friend, a minister in Cape Breton. He recently posted an article on his blog about a church asking to die. They were tired, they were old, they figured they were done… and Nick asked, perhaps rightly, what is the church coming to if people no longer feel any passion towards their faith.
I did not grow up in the church. I started when I was around 15, and I went because my girlfriend at the time wanted me to. It was fun, but I was also critical. I used to meet with the minister after most of his sermons and argue.
I don’t know when it changed. I never considered being a minister when I was young. I never thought I would end up going to church every week. But somewhere along the way I became passionate about the ideas and teachings of Jesus.
I know it is different for some people. They grew up in the church and it has always been a part of their lives. At the same time, a lot of those people just come to church out of habit… or else they did at one point and somehow, things changed, and they became passionate about what they believe in.
After 12 years in University studying about religion and 16 years in the church preaching it; I can tell you, that passion, no matter how strongly you feel it, comes and goes.
Today I want to talk about another group of people who had a passion for Jesus’ message, and about how their passion came and went, and hopefully as we find ourselves in the middle of this story, we will feel our faith come alive once more.
With the Kids
Experiments with flames and not seeing… Either the super-heated paraffin candle trick, or the invisible ink trick…
So what is the Holy Spirit? In the story from Acts we are told that it is like a wind, or like tongues of fire; The Psalm suggests that it is the creative power God sends forth into the world to create. Then Romans makes it out to be some sort of comforting helper that empowers our prayers.
These stories all have one thing in common, some unseen force.
The Bible actually begins with this unseen force, as the spirit of God hovers above the formless void, waiting to create everything.
Last year I spent a week learning from a brilliant man named Michael Morwood, who wrote a controversial book called “God is Near.”
He made it seem really clear, this concept of Spirit, and in fact, he thought that the Spirit was the primary way we all know God. It is the power, the force, the energy that connects us all to one another, and connects us to something larger than ourselves.
Which doesn’t really help, does it.
Ok, you know when you are afraid to do something, say, call someone who is mad at you; and you say a little prayer and then all of a sudden you have the courage to do it. That little prayer is a way of putting you in touch with the spirit which then gives you strength.
When my first daughter was born she was born dead. All blue, no life signs whatsoever, the cord had been wrapped around her neck during delivery. She was revived and rushed to the neonatal intensive care unit.
Now, her mother had been in labour over 24 hours by this point. Add the waking up when the contractions started and rushing to the hospital and we had been awake forever. But there was no way I could fall asleep not knowing what was going on.
While I lay in a hospital room on an uncomfortable cot a voice came into my head, it said, “It will be all right.” And instantly I fell asleep.
Now, don’t get me wrong, it sounded an awful lot like me talking to myself. But I had no reason to trust my own judgement at this point. Still, that voice connected me to something larger than myself which gave me the ability to have hope.
For me, this is what the Spirit is… it is God. It is divine power. It makes us who we were born to be.
So, in the final days before his death Jesus made a promise, that he would send the spirit.
That was Jesus whole point, after all, to get us to connect to God.
He used ideas like making it personal. Jesus called God “daddy” to try and get us to think of it as a relationship. He wanted us to realize that we are all connected at a deeper level than we can possibly imagine.
The Movie Star Wars was perhaps the greatest science fiction series ever made. It might be debatable now, but at the time the first movie came out in 79 it was something no one had ever seen before. A Space Opera with heroes and villains, princesses and robots. It was also a movie about destiny.
Young Luke Skywalker is growing up an orphan, raised by his uncle and aunt in a backwater farming community. He is no one, until he meets up with a mentor, an old hermit, who claims to have known Luke’s real father. Luke, it seems, has royal blood flowing in his veins. He was destined to be a mighty warrior, he just needs to get in touch with who he really is.
That requires him to get in touch with “the force.”
In case you have not realized it yet, Star Wars is one of the most religious non-religious movies ever made. Luke is the equivalent of Jesus, a saviour who is unaware of his true destiny until he becomes mature… then he needs to go into the desert, or away to the planet Dagobah, in order to get in touch with God, er, the Force…
When I was asked to define God in a seminary interview, I used the terms from Star Wars… they are the ones that make the most sense to me.
God is the force. God is the creative power behind the universe. God is something that exists in the energy that flows from me into the world and vice versa. God is Spirit.
Jesus says that this Spirit will come and empower us and guide us, it will help us to fund truth, it will lead us in the paths where we are to go.
So… all of what I have said so far is preamble… I have just been setting the stage. You see, the point is not that Spirit exists, it does. The point is not how we define the spirit, it is real despite our definitions. The point is - what is your destiny?
The thing is simply this. God is at work in you as surely as the air you breathe. But you have to open yourself up to the spirit in order for it to do any good.
Make this Pentecost an opportunity to embrace your potential and be what God created you to be.