The love of God has been poured into our hearts by the Holy Spirit which has been given to us. ~ Romans 5:5
Many years ago, I was not attending church, and Jennifer started going to a charismatic store front church that rented a small space in an empty office in the rural town we lived in. Each week Jennifer invited me to worship, and I’d say, “I don’t want to go.” “Why not?” “Because I don’t want to dance in the aisles. I’m an introvert, and I think they’re weird.”
“You’re judgmental and the people are not weird. They are on-fire for God,” Jennifer said. “I guarantee, you won’t be sleepy when you leave church.” “I’m not a Holy Roller, and I’m not going,” I said emphatically. “Suit yourself,” Jennifer said.
Still, Jennifer persisted. “No.” “No.” “No,” I said. One week, she changed tactics. “Do you want to go to the Wednesday night prayer meeting?” “Huh… I like to pray,” I thought to myself. “How long is the prayer meeting?” “About an hour,” Jennifer said. “How can anyone pray for an hour?” I asked. “I don’t know. We’ll find out.”
That Wednesday I walked into the church which was sandwiched between a tax service firm and a parking lot. The walls were blank except for a hand made sign that said, “Jesus Lives.” Thirty or forty chairs filled the room and a small cross sat on a makeshift altar. That was it. I immediately regretted my decision, but there was only one door in and out and I could not disappear unnoticed.
The ten or twelve people gathered for prayer all came up and gave Jennifer a hug, introduced themselves to me, and thanked me for coming. Everyone was very sincere and welcoming. Jennifer and I sat down, and the “prayer warriors” had their hands clasped together, heads bowed, and their feet were restless. They had the nervous energy of players in a locker room before they run out to play a game.
The young pastor stood up and walked to the front of the room. “Thank you for being here tonight. I can feel the Holy Spirit moving in this very room. Let us pray. Holy Spirit come.” There was sheer silence. Nothing. I pulled my “laundry list” of prayers out of my back jean’s pocket, and then the room burst forth in a melody of sound like a hundred birds singing a collective sweet song. I could not understand anything they were saying. On and on they babbled.
I elbowed Jennifer who was sitting quietly. “What are they doing?” I whispered. “They’re praying in tongues,” she said matter-of-factly. “Why didn’t you tell me about this before I came?” “Because I wanted you to come. I just enjoy the sound.” “O.K.,” I said, and I tried praying for my mom and dad, the kids I taught at school, Jennifer, and our town; but, the noise, even though it was pleasant, was too much for me.
I wondered though. Was this like the first Pentecost? “All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages, as the Spirit gave them ability” (Acts 2:4). Some people were amazed and filled with wonder and others said, “They are filled with new wine,” (Acts 2:13).
What is our understanding of the Holy Spirit? Do we lean into it? Can we discern the love poured into out hearts by the Spirit and follow where it leads us?
Reverand Marv Vose, our former district superintendent, told me, “When we get through our current debate over human sexuality in the United Methodist Church, the real challenge will be for us to invite the Holy Spirit back into the church.”
The Spirit blows where she chooses, we hear her, but we do not know where the Spirit comes from or where it goes (see John 3:8). Father Richard Rohr writes, “We will never be able to control the Spirit or categorize her. We’re never going to be able to define her. We can’t put the Spirit in our denominational pocket and say, ‘We’ve captured the Spirit.’”
The Spirit cannot be controlled, but we can trust the movement of the Holy Spirit within us, our church, and even our society. “The Holy Spirit is like the glue, the goodness glue which connects everything,” says Rohr. An unnamed minister says, “The Holy Spirit is the energy of God.” The energy which binds us together.
To live in the Spirit is to stay connected, to live in a relationship “grounded in love” and reverence. Can we stay in a healthy relationship with flowers, with water, with good neighbors and difficult neighbors? Can we stay in relationship with those who have a different view than us? Including our enemies?
Rohr says, “Our job is not to be correct. Our job is to be connected.” No wonder the church and society discount the movement of the Holy Spirit. The Spirit says yes to equality, radical inclusion, and dignity. It says no to exclusion, the abuse of woman, crimes against immigrants, and the mistreatment of our planet. The Spirit of Love poured into our hearts is the glue which holds us together.
After about thirty minutes of prayer, the pastor in that little charismatic church stood up and said, “Amen.” And there was a long silence. “Does anyone have anything?” he asked. More silence. Then a few people shared ideas and thoughts that came up in their prayer. It was peace. It was not the way I pray, but I can value the unity that came from the Spirit moving through that room.
Who knows how the Spirit will move through our lives and our world, but we can trust that the Holy Spirit moves in love which leads us to oneness and equality for all. Amen.
Blessings and peace,