May the Spirit disturb us
by Geoffrey Hall
We move now into the Season of the Spirit. Each year about this time I'm reminded how we’ve too often not allowed the person of the Holy Spirit of God to informs us, shape us and influence us as church. Frederick Dale Bruner of Fuller Theological Seminary called the Holy Spirit the “shy member” of the Trinity. If Anglicans are in fact the “frozen chosen” we should make ourselves all the more aware of the warmth of the Spirit and his power to bring a thaw to even the stiffest among us.
One of the most valuable qualities of the Anglican way is how its able to keep all things in balance. Some Christians over the past century have felt particularly called to form even new pentecostal denominations to allow for a different emphasis to the work of the Holy Spirit in their lives and the life of the Church. With that realization, our Anglican sensibilities might find themselves kicking in as we find it irresistibly necessary to counter that which challenges the blessed balance. Unfortunately, resisting the challenge can also bring about a defensiveness toward the Spirit of God which leads to an even further settling in of sorts. Settling in to a status quo mind set is not unheard of among Anglican Christians. We know we’re in trouble when we find ourselves blinded by a confusion between balance and the status quo. When growth is but a distant memory and boredom seems to most rule the day, it seems to me its time to earnestly invite a visit from the Holy Spirit of God.
I once heard a church meeting begin with what was referred to as the “opening prayer.” It went like this: “As it was in the beginning, is now and for ever shall be. Amen.” Needless to say very little, if anything, was accomplished. It was an illustration of a sad yet all too common misunderstanding of what we are about.
Regarding the balance in our spirituality, one of the most helpful paradigms I’ve seen is the Trinitarian Compass and the colours of spirituality theory used in Natural Church Development 1 originating with Christian Schwarz. Rather than setting one emphasis over against another, there is recognition of the need for that all important balance in a healthy spirituality and the ways in which we experience God both personally and corporately. All of us tend to lean in one direction or another. With the exploration of the blue, red and green “colours” comes opportunity for insight about the self, the Church and the world that surrounds us.
Preacher William Willimon says we mainline denomination Christians too often “splash around in a shallow pool.” Seldom do we adequately recognize or actively explore the depth and richness of our own spiritual heritage. Part of that heritage is a solid theology of and regard for the Holy Spirit and the action of the Spirit in and among the people of God. The first Pentecost ignited a spark that became nothing less than a wildfire motivating and driving the Church in the centuries to follow. The fire burns on today, we pray.
May that same Holy Spirit, who descended on the early Church at Pentecost, descend powerfully on us and light that which God would have burn. That fire is desperately needed now in, around and through each of our faith communities. May the Spirit disrupt the status quo and disturb the investment we have in the settled in approach to being Church. Come, Holy Spirit, come!
1. See the Natural Church Development (NCD) Canadian web site