“Christians have no business thinking that the good life consists mainly in not doing bad things. We have no business thinking that to do evil in this world you have to be a Bengal tiger, when, in fact, it is enough to be a tame tabby—a nice person but not a good one. In short, Pentecost makes it clear that nothing is so fatal to Christianity as indifference.” — William Sloane Coffin
“The people who hanged Christ never, to do them justice, accused him of being a bore – on the contrary, they thought him too dynamic to be safe. It has been left for later generations to muffle up that shattering personality and surround him with an atmosphere of tedium. We have efficiently pared the claws of the Lion of Judah, certified him “meek and mild” and recommended him as a fitting household pet for pale curates and pious old ladies.” ― Dorothy L. Sayers, Letters to a Diminished Church: Passionate Arguments for the Relevance of Christian Doctrine
As we celebrated Pentecost yesterday, stopping to consider the outpouring of the Holy Spirit and the birth of the Church, I couldn’t help but think about the above quotes. I confess, I am a certified “control freak.” I like to have things under control and manageable. I like to, as the saying goes, “plan my work and work my plan.” Routine and clear expectations do not equate profanity in my book. And yet…
It seems that the Spirit of God has a habit of looking at our best laid plans and muttering something along the lines of, “Well, isn’t that cute?” God doesn’t seem too impressed by our flow charts and neat strategic spreadsheets. God doesn’t seem to be all that nervous when financial reports don’t line up the way we think they should. God doesn’t seem too bothered when the worship service “goes off script” and people start taking off their “religious” masks to be authentic in his presence.
When I read the book of Acts, I see a church struggling to keep up with a wild Spirit unleashed on the world. I see a church trying to wrap its head around this expansive and inclusive love of a passionate God who is crazy about his children. I see a group of people, not just sitting quietly reading the text of God, but running in a flat out sprint to keep up with the movement of the Spirit. I see a people willing to exchange their neat systems and institutions for a little holy chaos, if that means that God just might be found present in the midst of it. I see a people who aren’t trying to enter the kingdom of God looking back over their shoulder, revering the past, but looking ahead, breaking down walls, removing every barrier that prevents them from taking the message of Christ to a world hungry to receive it.
Maybe the biggest danger that the Church faces today isn’t so much about theological disagreements, waning attendance, or declining budgets. Maybe the real danger is the indifference that makes us willing slaves to the status quo. Pentecost calls us to something different. Pentecost calls us to action. Pentecost calls for a radical upheaval of the apathy in our own lives in order that we make room for the life-changing power of the Spirit. Pentecost calls for our plans to be upended that we make room for the radical, life-changing, awesome, expansive, wonderful, terrifying love of God.
Let it begin with me.