People today talk about being “Spiritual but not Religious” but for me the two go hand in hand. The story of Pentecost is about how the Holy Spirit moved the gathered people into action, thus giving definition or structure to what was a bunch of followers. They changed in their action. They transformed from followers into a team.
How did this happen? How could a bunch of “Spiritual but not Religious” people today become transformed? Jesus had led his followers out of the Religion of their day and into something else that hadn’t yet been defined. Today, we have no shortage of people who have left behind the Religious containers that no longer work for them. But what is the new container? Is there a new container waiting? How would we get there if there is such a new Religion waiting to emerge?
The story in Acts 2 gives us a few clues.
1. The followers were giving thanks to God – already open to the idea that all they have is not simply a product of their own hard work and good fortune.
2. The followers had gathered together. And when people get together they start sharing. They share food, stories, worries, gossip, germs etc.
3. The followers were patient. This wasn’t the first time they had got together. They had been gathering in large and small groups for some time before the Spirit started moving.
None of these 3 factors were unique. Their old Religion provided for these. What was new were the teachings and miracles of Jesus. He’d shown how the love of god overflowed the riverbanks of the old laws, rituals, hierarchies and fear-driven priestly power - in favour of compassion and peace.
This new flipping of priorities - of Spirit trumping Religion – still required some form, some container, some “norms” now that the leader was dead (or at least didn’t show up for meetings on a regular basis).
And, so the story goes, the Spirit moved. In rushing wind and tongues of flame, they suddenly “got it”. What did they “get”? It appears that what they got was a Mission.
No one had to tell them what to do anymore. Each of them got the “power to express themselves”. They moved as one and overflowed into the streets with their Mission.
Was it just to tell everyone about Jesus and convert them quick? Or was it about doing what Jesus did? Before the end of the chapter, after all the excitement of getting out there with their story, they end up as a tightknit group living “it” out.
What is Religion without the Spirit?
it’s like making love without passion
it’s like dancing without feeling the beat
it’s like soup without the salt
it’s like water that hasn’t run but become stagnant
it’s like a handshake when you need a hug
it’s like a garden without rain
it’s like being alone in a crowd of people
it’s like a house that’s not a home
it’s like learning without understanding
it’s like talk without action
it’s like power without compassion
What is Spirit without Religion?
it’s like wind without a sail
it’s like a river flooding
it’s like a mob without a purpose
it’s like soup without a bowl
it’s like a song without an audience
it’s like poetry without paper
it’s like sex without a partner
it’s like hope without a goal
it’s like a forest fire without boundaries
it’s like a game without rules
it’s like a feast for one alone
it’s like knowing without understanding
it’s like a journey without a destination
What is Church?
You can know every inch of the building without ever knowing God
You can know every story in the Bible without ever meeting Jesus
You can love the music without feeling the Spirit
You can attend Sunday services every week without ever Belonging
You can give and give and give without ever feeling like being truly known
So, to be known, to belong, to feel the Spirit moving, to meet Jesus again for the first time, and to know the unknowable God, are what Church is - wherever we find it.
What is the Holy Spirit?
It is the moving wind, river, flickering candle light, yeast in the dough,
It is that which connects the Soul part of us with the Other
All cultures have come up with the idea of Soul – it is that part of us that takes courage when we look out into the dark jungle of mysteries and face the fear of our vulnerabilities
It is knowable, comforting, guiding…
To experience it is to experience Unity
Jung gave us a word for it – Synchronicity
not just Chance, Luck, Random Coincidence,
Musicians call it being in the groove
Drummers call it being in the pocket
Dancers know its flow
Audiences are taken up into it…
It’s like a hundred thousand people finding common cause in the protest of an unjust law in Montreal last week.
It’s like the World Wide Web – where without Centre, communication happens among many individuals who are gathered up into a wave, a cause, an action…
…and that’s when the definition starts to happen.
All are Welcome – what do I mean by this invitation to the Jesus table? (How about you?)
All are Welcome - but don’t come if you aren’t seeking Peace
All are Welcome - but don’t come if you don’t want Unity
All are Welcome - but don’t come if you don’t hope for Transformation
All are Welcome - but don’t come if you’re seeking to Justify your Hate
All are Welcome - but don’t come if you want a stagnant Religion without the life-changing passion that is God’s
All are Welcome - but don’t come if you want God’s freedom without the Responsibilities of Religion’s social order
All are Welcome
Come if you are seeking Peace
Come if you are hungering for Unity
Come if you are thirsting for Transformation
Come if you are seeking Forgiveness and Release from Judgement
your own judgement, God’s judgement, the judgement of others…
Come if you know the difference between the changing human laws of Religion and the eternal divine love of God
Come if you desire a shared experience of the Living God; a container for what can never be fully contained.
Come if you seek to make the words of Scripture come alive in the Story we live today