Wave Of Mutulation

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Now when the apostles at Jerusalem heard that Samaria had accepted the word of God, they sent Peter and John to them. The two went down and prayed for them that they might receive the Holy Spirit (for as yet the Spirit had not come upon any of them; they had only been baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus). Then Peter and John laid their hands on them, and they received the Holy Spirit.

Acts 8:14-17

I used to be a part of a charismatic church that was addicted to the Holy Spirit. It was commonplace during worship and other gatherings for speaking of tongues and passionate pleas called out to God in personal prayer languages. The first time I went to church as an adult was to a Christmas Eve service. About half way in to the service a woman right behind me started to speak, loudly in tongues. It freaked me out and I slinked towards the floor, trying to hide from her.

She continued on in this manner for sometime. Repeated rambles. Then a man stood up across the hall and interpreted to all what she was saying. I seemed to be the only one present that was unnerved by all of this. This was just another day in the life of this charismatic church.

I hungered to be a part of this community. I loved them deeply. I wanted to speak in tongues, for this was the ultimate symbol of belonging. The one true sign that you were indeed saved.

I tried to learn by observation. I attended every prayer meeting and worship service I could but I did not learn to speak in tongues. I joined the softball team and one afternoon at a party following a game I asked for help.

One of the older guys at the church I hung out with agreed to teach me. He gathered everyone’s attention and turns to me and says, “I am going to teach you how to speak in tongues.” So he grabs my hands and starts praying out loud. “El Shaddai! Sabba da da dei. Sabba da da dei. Sabba da da dei. Come Holy Spirit Come! We welcome you Holy Spirit. Bless us Lord. Sabba dabba dabba. Sabba dabba dabba. Sabba dabba dabba. Sabba dabba dabba.” He starts to say this pray faster and faster. Now he seems to be hyperventilating. He says, “You pray now Ryan.” So I start to do the prayer. “El Shaddai! Sabba da da dei. Sabba da da dei. Sabba da da dei. Come Holy Spirit Come! We welcome you Holy Spirit. Bless us Lord. Sabba dabba dabba. Sabba dabba dabba. Sabba dabba dabba. Sabba dabba dabba.” Deep inside I knew I was faking it. I felt rediculous. Then a few other peope started to do it. “El Shaddai! Sabba da da dei. Sabba da da dei. Sabba da da dei. Come Holy Spirit Come! We welcome you Holy Spirit. Bless us Lord. Sabba dabba dabba. Sabba dabba dabba. Sabba dabba dabba. Sabba dabba dabba.” Now people are excited. People are cheering us on. The original guy hugs me and says, “The Spirit has anointed you.” I left there feeling weird and anointed. I just faked the Spirit.

What does it mean to have the Spirit be upon you? What does this look like?

For that faith community I was a part of so many years ago speaking in tongues was THE marker of the Spirit resting upon you. If the Spirit was with you, then salvation, eternal life, and the favor of God was with you. You were chosen.

Today, it is not so important to me that I speak in tongues or that the favor of the Lord rests upon me. I am more concerned with clothing the naked and feeding the hungry. But the Spirit is still very important to me.

I often struggle with God, the father. I am not fan of his totalitarian authority and role as judge and jury. I delight in the swaddled infant Christ Jesus and the wandering sage like hippie Jesus. Most of all I adore the mysterious, present Holy Spirit.

You never quite know what you’re going to get with that sweet, mysterious Spirit. She dances wildly in our hearts and minds. She brings us to great heights and sustains us in the midst of great tragedy. She blesses, confesses, and obsesses over the material well being of our lives as she silently cradles our soul in her loving arms.

The Spirit is the water in our life. She fits all circumstances and vessels she finds herself in. The Spirit is powerful and relentless, able to break mountains and give life to deserts. The Spirit is profoundly transformative.

The Holy Spirit of God is much like love. You are hard pressed to define it. It may be difficult to find. But you know when you are in it and you can plainly see it in others. The Spirit is not magic but is magical. The Spirit is powerful as much as it is weak. The Spirit is visible and invisible. The Spirit is a generous lover: kind, compassionate, peaceful, excited, eager, and truthful. She is everything we aspire to be.

How do we know when the Spirit is upon us? Just like love, we know when we know. Our lives take dramatic turns engulfed in the passionate embrace of the Holy Spirit or a long slow meander, lovingly holding hands with the Spirit. You are never the same when the Spirit is upon you. The Spirit infiltrates our life, to leave us better able to see the divine in our ways and in the ways of others.

The greatest beauty of the Spirit is in the diversity, complexity, and expanse to which the Spirit is and is not. The Spirit is more than the glue that holds the godhead together. The Spirit is more than a reflection or remnant of Jesus or an afterthought of God, the Father. The Spirit is the playful, charming, creating Divine presence that takes pleasure in silently guiding us to places unknown within. Those places that we have not visited since we walked in the garden with God.

What does it mean to have the Spirit be upon you? What does this look like?

We will awaken to what it looks like to have the Spirit upon us as this year unfolds, trusting and knowing that God wants the best of us, even when we can’t dream that best ourselves.

There is no shortage of answers these questions. Speaking in tongues is one answer. It is not necessarily the answer for us here. What ever it looks like to have the Spirit upon you, upon us…we will do it together. Rest assured that this community of faith is a mixed bag of spiritual journeys and walks of faith and we are right where God wants us to be.

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