O Holy Spirit, descend into my heart. Enlighten the dark corners of this neglected dwelling and scatter there Thy cheerful beams.
-St. Augustine, 4th & 5th centuries
I believe in the surprises of the Holy Spirit.
-L. J. Suenens, 20th century
President Trump announced this week that he was pulling the United States out of the Paris Climate Agreement negotiated and signed during President Obama’s administration. This strikes me as a very interesting action to take as the Church prepares to celebrate the second major Feast Day on the Christian Calendar. (What, you thought it was either Christmas or Easter?) But historically the Church has always understood that Pentecost was second in importance to our life as followers of Jesus to the day of the Resurrection, Easter.
Pentecost celebrates the gift of God’s Spirit upon, not just prophets, priests, and kings, but on ALL PEOPLE! The outpouring of God’s Spirit upon ALL PEOPLE is a bestowing of POWER, ENERGY, on people to make possible the impossible; to provide an opportunity for growth, capability, and enthusiasm.
What does Pentecost have to do with the Paris Climate Agreement? While much of the conversation about the US participation or not is about the impact on the earth’s climate and the concern about climate change, at the root of all this discussion is the issue of the source of the energy that drives our economy. The question the Paris Climate Agreement addresses is whether the world will continue to rely primarily on carbon-based, fossil-fuel sources for energy production or will shift to non-carbon based, cleaner, renewable sources for energy production. The root question: What is the source of our Energy?
On a personal, communal, and spiritual level, we face the same question every day: What is the source of our Energy? This is not about coal and oil versus solar and wind, but about the Spirit of God or our own strength of will, determination, and gumption.
This is the real question of a God-focused spiritual life and it is not easy to maintain. Thomas R. Kelly, an early 20th century Quaker educator, and mystic, in his essay A Simplification of Life, goes right to the heart of our struggle, cutting past all our rationalizations, and raising pointed, yet necessary questions, if we desire to take God, Jesus, and our own spiritual life seriously. Here is a thoughtful, provocative excerpt:
Our real problem, in failing to center down, is not a lack of time; it is, I fear, in too many of us, lack of joyful, enthusiastic delight in [God], lack of deep, deep-drawing love directed toward [God] at every hour of the day and night. I think it is clear that I am talking about a revolutionary way of living. Religion isn’t something to be added to our other duties and thus make our lives yet more complex. The life with God is the center of life, and all else is remodeled and integrated by it. …
It is because from this holy Center we re-love people, re-love our neighbors as ourselves, that we are bestirred to be means of their awakening … This love of people is well-nigh as amazing as the love of God. Do we want to help people because we feel sorry for them, or because we genuinely love them? The world needs something deeper than pity; it needs love. (How trite that sounds, how real it is!) But in our love of people are we to be excitedly hurried, sweeping all men and tasks into our loving concern? No, that is God’s function. But [God], working within us, portions out [God] vast concern into bundles, and lays on each of us our portion. These become our tasks. Life from the Center is a heaven-directed life.
Life from the Center [Holy Spirit leading] is a life of unhurried peace and power. It is simple. It is serene. It is amazing. It is triumphant. It is radiant. It takes no time, but it occupies all our time, and it makes our life programs new and overcoming. We need not get frantic. [God] is at the helm. And when our little day is done we lie down quietly in peace, for all is well.
This is not an easy life. Trust me, I know! Even as a pastor, the daily demands of managing a church, both the property and the people, can overwhelm a person and drive God from the Center of life. But I know from experience it is the ONLY way to really live life and that the only true source of energy for a fruitful living is the Holy Spirit of God. The prayer of St. Augustine above is one tool to help daily, hourly, minute by minute if necessary, return focus to God. And I fully trust that the Holy Spirit is constantly working to direct my life, even if I am not acknowledging the Spirit’s presence.
R. Steven Hudder
Pastor, Christ Congregational United Church of Christ
Palmetto Bay, Florida