Predictably Wild: A Reflection on Acts 2:1-21
#PredictablyWild is the Podcast for May 15, 2016. Pentecost and the movement of the Holy Spirit can cause us to have a ecclesiastical (Church) food fight. A line is drawn and it is used to blame others for being wrong: Lady Gaga v. Church People. Maybe both sides are right. Listen here in this reflection: Download it into your phone. #MSAWordfortheDay # MySpiritualAdvisor #Sermon #Homily #LadyGaga #Alcoholic #AlAnon #HolySpirit #Pentecost
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For listener supported My Spiritual Advisor, this is Mark Kurowski with a reflection for Sunday, 5/15/2016 Pentecost Sunday.
Please pause this audio and read Acts 2:1-21.
I was reading a piece of literature on Alcoholics some time ago. It said that there were two ways that Alcoholics control lives: making things confusing or making people angry. If you think about it, if someone is confused or angry then those around them have the upper hand. If an addict can convince you that what you saw, what you felt, and what you experienced, really wasn’t what you saw, felt and experienced, then their version of reality can hold sway. If they make you angry, then you getting angry becomes the issue, not the reason you became angry.
When we speak about the Holy Spirit and how the Holy Spirit speaks to us, there are usually two camps and they are often at odds. There is one camp that wants us to understand the Holy Spirit as wild and free, doing the unpredictable. For example, this past week, Lady Gaga got into a spat with someone calling her and “her kind of media star that wear their brand of Christianity on her sleeve” hypocrites because they don’t live the kind of life that a Christian would live. Her response was awesome to my ear. She wrote in reply, “We are not just “celebrities” we are humans and sinners, children, and our lives are not void of values because we struggle. We are as equally forgiven as our neighbor.
God is never a trend no matter who the believer.”
The answer was evident of one who had practiced faith and knew life as a fallen person. It is a radical notion that God would speak to the sinner! Whoa! Yes, God speaks to a person the “holy people” would consider a “sinner” because Jesus came for the lost sheep of Israel and for the Gentile sinners.
In the Acts of the Apostles for Pentecost, there is this same notion. The Holy Spirit came with a noise that was wild and loud. There was a rush of the Spirit that felt like a mighty wind. Out of nowhere, wild, untamable, with flames of fire that rested on people. Then, they were able to hear the Galileans, the hillbillies of the Holy Land, speak in their own dignified language. The Father send the Son who sent the Holy Spirit to the Church so that they would not be abandoned. The Holy Spirit moves all people and reveals the Truth about God’s forgiveness to all people.
What I love about Stefani Germanotta’s response to those who would put her down for being Lady Gaga is that she doesn’t deny that there is sin. She doesn’t deny that people are flawed and failing. She lays claim that for prostitutes, liars, adulterers, fornicators, the Holy Spirit can move them to desire forgiveness from God. This represents the first camp that shows the Holy Spirit is not bound by routine and observance. The sinner desiring forgiveness is a movement of the soul that only comes from the Holy Spirit, which points to the second thing about the Holy Spirit.
The apostles were meeting on Pentecost. It is the Feast of Weeks, Shavuot, the festival of the offering of the first fruits of the wheat harvest in Jerusalem. It is also recognized later as the time when God gave the 10 commandments to the people on Mt. Sinai. It is a regular festival of the people of God. It is planned. People gather to make offerings. They came and met to have a religious gathering. In the middle of the observance of these Jews, the Holy Spirit swept in and inspired Peter to declare the basic pattern of truth in the Gospel about Jesus Christ. His preaching caused about 3,000 to be converted in one day. This group is the second camp: the Holy Spirit works through the Church and her Sacraments. The Holy Spirit here is predictable, reliable.
These two camps: the Holy Spirit is a wild fire and the Holy Spirit is an ordering force out of chaos argue all the time about whether something is ‘of God’ or not. May I suggest that the truth is both? The Holy Spirit does bring order, but when order refuses to see David among the more able looking brothers because human wisdom cannot comprehend it, then order must give way to an unpredictably wild God who does what he needs to do to bring salvation to many. The Holy Spirit is wild, but when that wildness turns into media seeking grandstanding with not inherent reason but to shock people into paying attention to Jesus, then wildness must give way to testing of that spirit by the ways we know the Holy Spirit moves.
St. Ignatius pointed out that sometimes we sit down, look at our meal and all at once, we just know what God’s will is. We have a “Conversion Experience.” We have a “God moment.” We have a union experience with the Father and all other distractions have been removed so that we can hear God clearly. Other times, we must spend days, weeks, months, discerning whether an idea moves us toward an action that is holy, good, and true.
Elijah experienced the Lord in the sheer sound of silence and monks have been listening for him that way for millennia. Paul experienced the Lord as a bright light that shone after knocking him off his high horse on the way to Damascus to kill Christians. There are some things that we can learn from this passage in Acts about the Holy Spirit.
First, the Holy Spirit moves in ways that allows us to hear one another. It is amazing that I can speak with people all over the world through the web portion of our ministry at MySpiritualAdvisor.com and when they talk to me, I can see the Holy Spirit doing his work of making them more loving, more patient, kind, generous, and devoted to the Lord through spiritual practices that open them up to listening and serving. Just as the people from all over with all kinds of different languages heard one another, we speak the same language of the Lord.
Second, when the Holy Spirit came upon Peter, it wasn’t just to make Peter feel like he was more of a complete person, enlightened. The movement of the Holy Spirit was sent so that Peter would finally fulfill his role in advancing the Kingdom of God. The Holy Spirit moved him to talk about Jesus so that everyone would be drawn closer to the Father. We are never given a gift of the Holy Spirit just to serve our own confidence or emotions. We are given the gifts of the Holy Spirit to lift up the body of Christ, the Church, through our service to God and neighbor. Sometimes, that means that the Spirit calls us to leave everything we are doing and begin a new life, like Paul. Other times, it means to stay where we are and begin to live a better life, like the ‘brood of vipers’ John the Baptist called to repentance at the beginning of the Gospel of Luke. Whatever it is that is being said to us through a whisper in our hearts, through other people coming to us, or through a rush and sound of a mighty wind, we know it is of the Holy Spirit if it is a change in us that brings about a change in the current situation to a more Kingdom of God like situation.
What I can tell you without a doubt is that the Holy Spirit is not a Spirit of Confusion. We all know who the spirit of confusion is. The Holy Spirit is not a spirit of discord and anger, although he usually gets those kind of spirit riled up because of his goodness. Yet, Stefani Germanotta is right on one thing, the Spirit will not be tamed and reserved only for the righteous and holy. The Holy Spirit is for all. When we see the Holy Spirit at work in someone very different from us, or a kindred spirit with us, we ought to rejoice.
This leaves us with the question we all must ask ourselves and ask the Lord, “Holy Spirit, what are you calling me to do in my life? Still my disquieted life so that I may hear you. Grant me a mission that will glorify you. Give me a life that makes others know you. Amen.”
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Mark Kurowski, M.Div.
Spiritual Director, Author, Blogger, Podcaster, Theologian