Todays gospel speaks of receiving the Holy Spirit, but the story is really in Acts 2:1-21. And a strange story it is – with the powerful images of wind and fire; we know how much energy they have. But what are we to make of it?
Strange things happening around religious people and events are not new. When (I think it was John Wesley, the Methodist) preached, crowds came, and strange behaviour was sometimes seen – people fainted, shook, cried, even made strange noises. Wesley was asked about this, and wisely replied that if it led on to a changed and Godly life, good. If not, it was of no value.
So what does the Holy Spirit do? Is it about making us good? NO, not “good”. Good can be boring. So is the Holy Spirit about character change? Maybe partly, but this still sounds a bit negative. I would prefer to say the Holy Spirit is about making us GOD’S AGENTS.
There’s nothing automatic about this. The Spirit can change us, but you have to want it, and keep allowing a transformation that can be uncomfortable. Do that, and HS will both give gifts, for benefit of other Christians (see the list in 1 Corinthians 12, and other New Testament lists), and produce the fruit of good character – not a boring “goodness”, but a sometimes provocative joy, a peace despite stress, and a self-control when others are losing it.
The Holy Spirit leads us into exciting service for God – secret agents without the secret! We are not all leaders, but all have an important, and individual, part to play. (1 Cor 12:7 “To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good”)
See how it works in Acts. A group of frightened, puzzled, insecure disciples (hiding behind locked doors) burst out, and become a force that takes the world for God. They are still themselves, making mistakes, getting it wrong sometimes. But Peter’s sermon converts 3,000, and the gospel travels the known world (and beyond!).
So, are you signing up as an agent, or becoming an obstacle?