by Rector Jim Murphy
I’d like to begin by making a confession: pastors and ministers in the institutional church have, historically and generally, done an inadequate job in regards to explaining Pentecost and the Holy Spirit. It’s a sensitive subject that many do not understand and are at least a little bit afraid of speaking about in a definitive sense. I admit to avoiding discussions on the Spirit from time to time so as to steer clear of reactionary angst. No more. The world is crumbling around us. It’s time for Christians to rise up and activate the Spirit within us. Like an untapped and limitless artesian well, there is an infinite supply of power and grace within the life of all who believe to bring salvation, healing and peace to the world.
On the night before Jesus gave his life for us, he prayed for all those who would eventually receive him as Lord and Savior, for people who desire real, eternal life. In part the Son of God prayed, “I do not pray for these (the disciples) alone, but also for those who will believe in Me through their word; that all may be one, as You, Father, are in Me and I in You; that that they also may be one in Us, that the world may believe that You sent me. And the glory which You gave Me I have given them, that they may be one just as We are one: I in them, and You in Me; that they may be made perfect in one, and that the world may know that You have sent Me, and have loved them as You have loved Me.” (John 17:20-23, NKJV)
Prior to that portion of his prayer but on the same evening, Jesus told his followers that he was preparing to leave them and go to the Father. However, God would not leave them (us) as helpless orphans. His heavenly Father would send his Holy Spirit, who was with them in Jesus, to then be in them by the Spirit of Truth. (cf. John 14) Almighty God fulfilled that promise on Pentecost as he poured out his Spirit, baptizing and anointing his disciples, outside in and inside out. The limitless supply of power and grace, of God’s power and grace, was now in Christian believers. Salvation, healing and peace was now a reality, born into the world by the Holy Spirit.
The cry of Jesus’ heart, to which he gave voice on the night before his death, was made available to every believer. God’s presence in the world had, if you will, morphed from Emmanuel, God with us, to the Holy Spirit, God in us. We can now be one—Christ in us and we in him and all in the Father. This, my friends, is the core Truth of Pentecost. God in us to effect his plan of salvation, healing and peace to all who would receive him.
That’s the reality of Pentecost. It’s also the potential of Pentecost. The visceral and spiritual unity for which Jesus prayed is within the souls of all Christian believers. God’s infinite power is available 24/7. Yet too often, he remains just that, within and available. The power and gifts of the Holy Spirit remain unactuated, like that proverbial untapped artesian well. Consequently, the world crumbles around us as the Church of Jesus Christ, the Body of believers, hold the Spirit within. May that not be so any longer!
Our Savior’s prayer was not only for the unity of believers in his day but more for “…those who will believe in me through their word.” The Spirit has the power to engender belief and he is within us. Through our word (the Word) and his presence in us, unity along with salvation, healing and peace in the world is a true possibility. Church, let us unleash that potential for the sake of his kingdom.
originally published in The Highlander, May 2016.