Although I am in the throes of qualifying exams the next two weeks, as a preacher and and an all around churchy kind of guy I try not to let my own schedule overwhelm the rhythms of the church year. Other than letting you know you can see my ethics exam essays over at The Writing of John Drury, I will keep my attention on this week's high festival: Pentecost.
On the fiftieth day after passover, and thus a few days after Christ's ascension, the Holy Spirit was poured out on a small gathering of Christ-followers in Jerusalem. Although the Spirit had done many might works before, this time the Spirit came to stay, establishing a new covenant with God's people. Jesus speaks of the Holy Spirit as the promised gift of the Father (Ac 1:4). The Holy Spirit is the promised gift of the Father. This is the promise spoken of in Isa 65, Jer 31, Joel 2, etc., where God says he will dwell in peace with his people. The Holy Spirit is the promised gift of the Father. The concrete content of this promised relation is participation in the sonship of Jesus Christ, for by the Spirit we are adopted as children of God the Father (cf. Gal 4:4-7). The Holy Spirit is the promised gift of the Father. The promised outpouring of this Spirit of adoption comes as a gift, and thus is not something we can control or earn or predict, but a gift which comes freely and graciously and surprisingly.
Since the Spirit comes as a gift, we cannot force or coerce the pentecostal outpouring necessary for the continued mission of the church in our time. But that does not necessarily mean we cannot prepare ourselves for when the Spirit comes. In view of the gift-character of the Spirit's coming at Pentecost, how can we best prepare ourselves?
First, we must wait. This is what Jesus commands his disciples to do (Ac 1:4). Waiting requires time. Waiting requires patience. Waiting requires attention. When we are waiting on God, we are not just passing time but keeping watch for him and his work.
Second, we must wait together. On the day of Pentecost, the disciples are gathered together in one place (Ac 2:1). Waiting for the outpouring of the Spirit is not primarily an individual endeavor, although it may be that as well. Waiting for the promised gift of the Father is the activity of the church, patiently opening itself up to what God will do through her. One need not find a community where the Spirit is "felt" or "seen," but one should at least find a community that waits together for the Spirit.
Finally, we must wait together poised for witness to the risen Christ. Before the Spirit came, the disciples knew what the Spirit was coming to do. It is not that the Spirit gives them the idea of being Christ's witnesses to the ends of the earth, but rather than the Spirit gives them the strength to be the witnesses Christ commanded them to be. The Father does not send the Spirit primarily for the purpose of displaying power or improving our lives, though he may very well do such things. The Father sends his Spirit to equip his people to bear witness to his Son whom he has raised from the dead. When the Spirit comes, we ought to be ready to bear witness to Christ. Thus we do not have to wait for signs and wonders to becoming acquainted with this Jesus by hearing his story. Perhaps we have previously overlooked the Spirit's outpouring because we were looking for something other than his primary work of equipping the church for witness to Christ.
So, the best way to prepare for the coming of the Spirit is to wait together poised.
What other implications can be drawn from the gift-character of the Spirit's coming?
What other aspects of our preparation could be added?
What other insights from the story of Pentecost to you have to share?