I will pour out my spirit on all flesh;
your sons and your daughters shall prophesy,
your old men shall dream dreams,
and your young men shall see visions.
29 Even on the male and female slaves,
in those days, I will pour out my spirit. (Joel 2: 28-29 NRSV)
I love Pentecost. It would be a total understatement to say that I appreciate the Holy Spirit more and more with each step I take along the path of my journey. I remember one of the first times I honestly felt the power of the Spirit. I was a cantor at the big Catholic church here in Ogden, Utah. Yeah I know, funny job for a Protestant, but I loved every minute of it. But I digress. I believe I’ve posted about this before on some Christmas entries, but it’s still just a powerful memory in my mind.
It was toward the end of Midnight Mass. The Priest, Father Colin, whom I grew to admire a lot, was dressed in his hooded vestments and was processing around the church with the Baby Jesus figure from the nativity scene. When he reached the side altar where the manger was, he knelt, placed the figure in the manger, and as all the lights went out he used a censer over it to release the sweet smell of holiness into the chilly, spacious sanctuary. We then sang “Silent Night,” a cappella.
I felt a rush. I don’t know how to describe it really. It was not adrenaline. I’ve ridden many roller coasters in my time. This was something more than adrenaline. I would say that for the first time in my life my body and spirit both felt fully awake and totally in sync. I felt like all five of my senses were turned up to maximum, and I felt the real, palpable presence of the Living God right there, in that moment.
When the song was over, silence and darkness took hold, and it was like that power, that Spirit, that Presence filled the entire church. I was in awe.
And you may choose to dismiss that. You may choose to think that it was all just an emotional, nostalgic reaction to the moment and the music. But I don’t care, really. I know what I felt, and no one can take that experience from me.
And why would you want to take that experience from someone? I would give anything to have that energy spread out into the world and fill every human being for 1 minute. I have to believe that the world would be a different place afterwards.
I felt it again earlier this year while I was preaching a sermon. I felt that same power, that same awakening, that same presence. I’ve preached more than a handful of times in my life, but I never felt like that. I would not be so bold to suggest that God was speaking through me, my vessel is not worthy of that, but I would say that I could feel that I was saying what he wanted me to say. It just flowed out.
And it wasn’t just me. As I looked through the crowd, there were people crying. When I finished, people erupted into applause and there were even a couple of A-Mens! Now maybe that happens every Sunday at your Church, but trust me, it doesn’t happen very often at all in the older, traditional Methodist Church that I attend!
And you know what? It would have been very easy for me to claim that as my own, as a result of my oh so powerful preaching! It was tempting for sure. Before I ever began to pursue this local pastor program, I confessed to Pastor Gary that I have an ego. He said that the awesome thing about that was that I already knew I did and was facing it head on.
Oh, I wanted to claim that, but I cannot. That was the pure power of the Holy Spirit.
I do not doubt that the Spirit works, but when I think of those moments, those big highs up on majestic mountaintops, I sit back and wonder…..
Where is that feeling right now?
Why I can’t I feel like that every second of every day?
I have a theory about that, and my theory says that I’m not always plugged in. Let’s take a look at the book of Acts.
“But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” Acts 1:8 NRSV
Before his ascension, Jesus promised that a power would come upon the disciples. In John’s gospel, he talked about it as well before he was taken away to be crucified. The book of Acts talks about how these disciples, joined by a new Apostle named Paul, made these words come to fruition.
And what did it look like when the disciples “plugged in” to this power? Acts tells us just a few verses later:
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 2-4 NRSV
That’s pretty impressive huh? Kind of makes my experiences sound tame by comparison. When the disciples received and plugged into the power of the Holy Spirit, the Church was born. The story says that 3,000 people believed on that one day (Acts 2:41).
That Spirit is still here, it is still available to us, but we have to plug in. A power source is of no use on it’s own, you have to plug something into it. Without plugging them in, the best equipped, most fancy appliances in the world do nothing. What can I do if I am not plugged in?
It’s hard to say plugged in, for me anyway. Lord knows I try, and I think I’m getting better at it for sure, but it’s hard. I wish I could I say that I was the type of Christian that gets up every morning, kneels at the side of his bed, and asks for the blessings of the Spirit upon his day.
But I’m not.
I wake up every morning, put the alarm on snooze, and then eventually get up like a zombie searching for coffee instead of brains.
I wish I could say that I get plugged in and have God on my mind the second I wake up.
But I don’t.
I try to stay connected to God and plugged in as I go throughout my day. Some days I do pretty well. A lot of days are so littered with distractions, pitfalls, and temptations that it’s really hard. I stumble into the house at the end of the day used up and weary.
But you know what I’m learning? I’m learning that even on those days Jesus is right there waiting. The Spirit is still available to me right where I am, and just how I am.
That’s part of the beauty of God. He’s still interested even when I’m at my worst, even when I haven’t been “plugged in.” And the great thing is, I can plug back in and recharge.
These and many others are ways that we can all seek to plug in to the Spirit and recharge. Spiritual disciplines can be an amazing thing. Even though they require training, we all have to start somewhere.
More and more as I walk the path I’m finding that these disciplines are doing a really good job of helping me out in between those big mountaintop experiences. Even though I need a lot of work, I’m still thankful for the ability to connect with the Spirit and the availability of the Spirit to me.
How will you “plug in” next?
As this Day of Pentecost ends, I leave you with a wonderful song about the nature of this power: