The pentecost experiences for me is always a bit surreal. I struggle to apply the events of the resurrection, and the stories of the early church in Acts to my every day life. This week, I have had several conversations with friends and colleagues about the nature of worship and my experience has taught me repeatedly not to ignore these types of occurrences as just coincidence.
I believe that worship is an intrinsically personal experience normally, but not always, played out or presented in a community/public setting "in church". Believe me, I worship and can worship in other places, but the ritual of Sunday morning, along with friends and other Christians is the paradigm for me on how to best encounter and honor God in worship.
I have strong feelings on how corporate worship should be approached. Reverence, humility, elegance, innovation, energy, flow, sequencing, spontaneity, comfort, discomfort, ritual... These are all words that come to mind and all of them can be accomplished no matter the choice of music, no matter the dress or style of the worship leaders. That said, I think the worship must strive to emanate from the congregation to God, and not from the worship leader to the congregation and then "hopefully" to God as it is in so many congregations regularly. The congregation must be engaged as an active participant both intellectually and musically. If the presentation becomes a concert like setting, then the MTV generation has simply come and turned on yet another channel in the TV of life, expecting to be fed, rather than to offer themselves wholly in spirit to a God that is both personal and beyond understanding at the same time.
I teach a Sunday school, "life community" class weekly and the last few lessons have focused on the Holy Spirit as it empowered the apostles and early Christians. These people were amazing and were filled with the spirit. Peter stood up and led with the power of the spirit guiding him, and speaking through him. There is an interesting balance here in that they waited, were patient and humble and then contrasted that preparation time with action and energy. I don't think there worship was so different from mine sometimes. Other times my worship is empty and ritualistic. Perhaps that is okay in that I am recharging, simply waiting for the spirit to instruct me. It is clearly important that I not act on my own will.
How often do you stand up and proclaim, with the confidence of the Holy Spirit. Lead despite the cost of doing so? Trust before you step into the unknown. When is the last time you openly discussed your future plans with a group of Christian confidants? Looking to the Lord collectively for guidance and trusting the Holy Spirit to work uniquely in each of your lives, decisions and spirits.
I worship on Sunday mornings to honor God, to offer myself in service to my Lord. Not to get something out of the service, or to feel enlightened by the wisdom of the preacher. I go to give, not get. I pray that others do the same. I choose to participate and lead as the Holy Spirit guides me. I believe in the idea of concurrent diversity. God is working all around me, all the time, and that the same words, same service, same action can have millions of different impacts through the power of the Holy Spirit.
When the Spirit comes upon a group, they are empowered in worship, to act, and to evangelize from God, to their world. Think about what happens when that same group chooses to go forward on their own strength, without the power of the Spirit, using their own abilities and intellect. They can and often do good, but they do not have unimaginable power. They are limited.
No answers today. We are here to seek and yearn for the journey. Our goal is the opportunities presented by the journey rather than the destination.
Acts 2 (The Message)
A Sound Like a Strong Wind
1 -4 When the Feast of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place. Without warning there was a sound like a strong wind, gale force—no one could tell where it came from. It filled the whole building. Then, like a wildfire, the Holy Spirit spread through their ranks, and they started speaking in a number of different languages as the Spirit prompted them.
5 -11There were many Jews staying in Jerusalem just then, devout pilgrims from all over the world. When they heard the sound, they came on the run. Then when they heard, one after another, their own mother tongues being spoken, they were thunderstruck. They couldn't for the life of them figure out what was going on, and kept saying, "Aren't these all Galileans? How come we're hearing them talk in our various mother tongues?
Parthians, Medes, and Elamites;
Visitors from Mesopotamia, Judea, and Cappadocia,
Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia,
Egypt and the parts of Libya belonging to Cyrene;
Immigrants from Rome, both Jews and proselytes;
Even Cretans and Arabs! "They're speaking our languages, describing God's mighty works!"
12Their heads were spinning; they couldn't make head or tail of any of it. They talked back and forth, confused: "What's going on here?"
13Others joked, "They're drunk on cheap wine."
Peter Speaks Up
14 -21That's when Peter stood up and, backed by the other eleven, spoke out with bold urgency: "Fellow Jews, all of you who are visiting Jerusalem, listen carefully and get this story straight. These people aren't drunk as some of you suspect. They haven't had time to get drunk—it's only nine o'clock in the morning. This is what the prophet Joel announced would happen:
"In the Last Days," God says,
"I will pour out my Spirit
on every kind of people:
Your sons will prophesy,
also your daughters;
Your young men will see visions,
your old men dream dreams.
When the time comes,
I'll pour out my Spirit
On those who serve me, men and women both,
and they'll prophesy.
I'll set wonders in the sky above
and signs on the earth below,
Blood and fire and billowing smoke,
the sun turning black and the moon blood-red,
Before the Day of the Lord arrives,
the Day tremendous and marvelous;
And whoever calls out for help
to me, God, will be saved."