Today is Pentecost Sunday and I was asked to cover the adult Sunday School class since our normal teacher was gone. I, of course, knew what the content would cover and did not really prepare as I usually do. Instead, we discussed the passages from the lesson (Acts 8, 10-11, 19) and what it means for the Spirit to be poured out on the Samaritans who had professed faith in Christ, the Gentiles who were “God-fearers” and were only afterward baptized into the name of Christ, and the Ephesian disciples of John the baptizer who received the baptism of the Spirit at the hands of the apostle Paul.
As we discussed these passages, I was struck by the presence and work of the Spirit throughout the world among all people. We discussed that it was God’s Spirit no longer remaining with the antediluvians in the days of Noah, and God’s indwelling Spirit which sanctified David. It was also God’s Spirit in the unborn John son of Zacharias and Elizabeth that gave testimony to Mary the mother of our Lord. That same Spirit was present and at work even as the teachers of the Law accused Jesus of casting out unclean spirits by the power of the evil one.
Through this conversation, I confessed to my congregation that indeed we are simply partners with the Spirit who is present and always has been. It is about our relationship (read: yielded, obedient, etc.) with the Spirit that affects in what manner we speak of the Spirit being present. We join the Spirit’s already ongoing work. This is why I can affirm that any of us are ever drawn to salvation, because the Spirit is at work even while and where the Church is not. However, at the feast of Pentecost, the Church discovers this new-found relationship to the Spirit that drives them to live as the Spirit lives…as those who carry the good news of Christ Jesus come into the world by the Father, crucified, died, buried…raised to life and ascended to the right hand of God. It is a new day for the disciples of Jesus who have now discovered in the Spirit another “advocate” (a term notably difficult to translate from the Greek) who is like Jesus and reveals Jesus in and through them to a waiting world…a world where the Spirit is already at work to redeem and restore. This is the Spirit in the world (to be fair…I probably should check out Karl Rahner’s book by the same name).
So I was wondering what your thoughts on the presence and activity of the Spirit in the world might be? Or is the Spirit only present in the Church in your way of reading the Scripture?