Thursday, July 06, 2006

we believe in the Holy Spirit

It is good that in the twentieth century there has been an emphasis in theology on the Trinity: God as Father, Son and Holy Spirit. That we are to understand God and his acts/words from that revelation of him. Likewise, I think it is good that for so many Christians during that century, beginning in the early part of it, there has come a renewal of the Holy Spirit. So that more and more Christians per capita see the Holy Spirit as an important part of their lives, not only part of their doctrine or theology.

In my faith journey of over 30 years I have been a part of a number of traditions. I would prefer that it had only been one, or at the most two, but that's the way it has fallen out. One of our encampments was in a "Third Wave" church. I had always believed in the "charismatic" gifts as being for today (I think, always). Now we were part of a church in which they were practiced. During our five years there, I had kind of a love/hate relationship to that practice of the charismatic phenomena side. On the one hand, through the counsel of a pastor, I was able to enter into something of that experience, which goes on even as we're now members of a church which may be open in theory to charismatic gifts, but not really in practice, it seems. On the other hand I was often frustrated by what I saw as an emphasis on those gifts in our smaller gatherings, so that other gifts, such as teaching, were considered less important. In fairness to them, I think a 1 Corinthians 14 model was more or less the goal.

There are many pitfalls in what I'm saying here. Some may be surprised to read that I absolutely do not claim any special baptism of the Spirit that others, such as those who are part of our church now, do not themselves have. I see the Spirit of God in the people of the church we attend now, if anything more clearly, many times, than I see the Spirit in my own life. Also I would want to distance myself from much of what is seen on "Christian" (sadly in quotes for certain reasons) television that is on the Pentecostal or charismatic side (not all, but many). Nor do I think that Christians who don't believe or practice "charismatic" gifts today, have less of the Spirit's dynamic at work in their lives. They may have more or less. But it is not dependent on that.

What I do believe is that the Spirit plays a major role in all we do. And that we should be open to all the gifts. I take the gift of tongues in 1 Corinthians 14 as primarily referring to a prayer language from God, since it can only be used in a gathering on a limited basis and with an interpreter. I believe this is just another way of many, to pray in the Spirit (Ephesians 6:18). That any Christian can enter into it, in answer to prayer. Like all spiritual gifts it requires our volition and action along with the work of the Spirit. I see no Scriptural reason why the gifts of 1 Corinthians 12-14 are not for today.

In reality every child of God is charismatic. We all have the same dynamic of the Holy Spirit at work in our lives. Too often those on the "charismatic" side look down on their brothers and sisters who just don't get it (or have it), in their eyes. Instead, we need to encourage one another in the dynamic of the Spirit in all of our lives. And thank God for the gift that each of us brings in a gathering, and outside of it.

The work of the Holy Spirit is to be unifying among all those who call on the name of the Lord Jesus. Any time it is not, we need to step back and ask ourselves why.

I'll remain mostly underground. And in reality, being a part of a church that doesn't practice such gifts, means my own practice, even in private, usually is minimal. Though whenever the Spirit is stirring in my heart, as he so powerfully did at the service this past Sunday at Pike Mennonite Church in Ohio where Pastor Philip Clemens (an older man, I could sit at his feet always) so ably by the Spirit serves (not a "charismatic" service or church), this can stir up my practice along that line. I went into that service down, but by the ministry of congregational singing and the Word, etc., I was lifted up, into the strengthening grace of our Lord.

Holy Spirit, Come. Minister your grace and power to and through us all. Let your river flow out of us into each others' lives and into this desert world. Through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

11 comments:

Allan R. Bevere said...

Every child of God is charismatic. Amen to that!

The late Albert Outler, perhaps the best known United Methodist theologian, wrote years ago that some Methodist churches should put lightning rods on their steeples because the Spirit struck two hundred years ago in John Wesley and it scared them so badly they wanted to make sure it never happened again. I think this could be said of many churches.

We must be open to the Spirit and allow the Spirit to work in the way the Spirit desires to work.

Makeesha said...

I can empathize with you a bit. Amen to your prayer.

Anonymous said...

Allan,
Thanks for your words.

I've heard (or read) it attributed to John Wesley that he said something like, "I'd rather have wild fire than no fire." His point is well taken.

Ted Gossard said...

That anonymous was me.
Ted

Ted Gossard said...

Makeesha,
Thanks for your empathy and for your commment here.

Allan R. Bevere said...

Wesley was asked one time why so many people came to hear him preach. He responded that he supposed the Holy Spirit set him on fire and people came to watch him burn.

Ted Gossard said...

Amen Allan.
To read about Wesley and from him is truly an edifying experience indeed.

Susan said...

Ted,
I'm really glad you're writing about this. I, like you, have been part of several traditions throughout my lifetime including some time with the "Third Wave" people. :) One of the reasons I love the church I'm part of now is that there is a healthy balance of Word and Spirit, though sometimes I think people do not realize that the latter is emphasized as much as the former!

Ted Gossard said...

Susan,
Thanks for your thoughts here. I think the heritage of the Covenant lends itself to a good balance between the Spirit and the Word. I have sensed what you have come to know, through our time there.
I think you're echoing what I said in the post when you say people don't realize that the Spirit is emphasized as much as the Word- right?
Thanks.

Desert Pilgrim said...

Ted,
I was blessed reading this post and the comments also.
In Christ,
~Desert Pilgrim.

Ted Gossard said...

Desert Pilgrim,
Thanks so much for your kind words. Yes, I think comments and visitors such as yourself are such a blessing on blogs. And finding out what others might be doing on their blogs.