May the God of endurance and encouragement give you the same attitude toward each other, similar to Christ Jesus’ attitude. That way you can glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ together with one voice. – Romans 15:5-6
Authenticity is always the test:
My ramblings this morning are coming – tangentially – out of the conversation we had Wednesday evening in my mid-week men’s group. Our topic was emotion in worship, and the Holy Spirit.
In some traditions, external displays of emotion (crying, shouting, hand-raising, dancing) are seen as necessary evidences that God’s spirit is present. Whereas our experience here at WFPC tends to be rich and deeply moving but less demonstrative, and what really counts is our honest engagement with God along with our willingness to respond in meaningful ways.
So the question, “Do Presbyterians have the Spirit?” is another element of faith that – from my view – is better understood when we see our relationship to God as transformational rather than transactional. Because we continue to respond to God’s great love for us by making the decision to follow Jesus, God’s Spirit inhabits and animates every aspect of our life together (as a church) and also our lives as individuals.
Because we continue to respond to God’s great love for us by making the decision to follow Jesus, God’s Spirit inhabits and animates every aspect of our life together (as a church) and also our lives as individuals.
You can’t make this stuff up!
I told my group the following story about some friends from England, who visited when we lived in Brandon. They attend a church where people wave their hands, shout “Praise God!” and “Alleluia!”, dance in the aisles, laugh and weep without restraint, make a lot of noise they attribute to being “taken over” by the Holy Spirit, and more. Their numbers are fairly small and they don’t do much if anything to engage with or serve the community around them.
These friends attended our traditional worship service Sunday morning. First Presbyterian Church of Brandon was vibrant, growing, and full with young families, and we had two worship services, both very well attended. People went out of their way to greet my friends, there was a “buzz” of excitement and electricity in the air, the singing was enthusiastic, a big crowd of small children came down for kids’ time, the prayers were moving, the message was engaging. After church hundreds of people went out into the community encouraged, inspired, and filled up with God, ready to serve with the offering of their lives.
At lunch my friends said, “Why don’t the people at your church love Jesus? It’s so sad that people here aren’t filled with the Spirit.”
I can’t think of a better example of confusing external emotion with God’s spirit! How God’s Spirit moves us as people of faith varies from person to person and from moment to moment.
I am often reduced to tears by the presence of God. My soul is frequently flooded with joy. There are times when I just have to sing out loud (but I always wait for the next hymn). Sometimes God moves me to share what I am experiencing with my small group, or maybe just a friend. Mostly, though, and this is true for pretty much every person I know at our church, being filled with God causes me to love more eloquently, to shine the light of God’s grace more genuinely, to serve others in the name of Jesus, to reach out with compassion and mercy, and to participate in God’s saving acts with more conviction.
Rebekah and I have always served in churches where God’s Holy Spirit has been alive and moving in deep and meaningful ways. There is growth, there is life, there is passion, there is love, and there are hundreds of people serving the community and sharing the Gospel of love and light.
You bet Presbyterians have the Spirit! And, just as importantly, the Spirit has us.