The Holy Spirit arrived early! Bishop Michael Curry, Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church, gave a stirring sermon at the wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle on Saturday at St. George’s Chapel in Windsor Castle. He said, “Dr. King was right: ‘We must discover the power of love, the redemptive power of love. And when we discover that, we will be able to make of this old world a new world. Love is the only way.’”
Bishop Curry also cited Mark chapter 12, where a scribe asks Jesus, “Which commandment is the first of all?” Jesus answers by saying that the first is to “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength. The second is this, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’” Curry reminded his listeners, “Love is the only way. There is power in love. Don’t underestimate it.”
At the end of his sermon, Curry referred to 20th Century French Jesuit, Roman Catholic priest and scholar, Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, who wrote that one of the greatest discoveries in human history was the harnessing of fire. De Chardin said that “If humanity ever harnesses the energy of fire again, and if humanity ever captures the energy of love, it would be the second time in history that we have discovered fire.” Curry’s remarks, which reflected the racial, cultural, and religious diversity of the wedding, were followed by a black gospel choir singing, “Stand by Me.”
When Pentecost Day arrived, they were all together in one place. Suddenly a sound from heaven like the howling of a fierce wind filled the entire house where they were sitting. They saw what seemed to be individual flames of fire alighting on each one of them. They were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages as the Spirit enabled them to speak.(Acts 2:1-4, CEB)
The fire of the Holy Spirit actually appeared even earlier last week when the appointive cabinet for 2018-19 gathered for an overnight retreat at Honey Creek State Park. Sitting around a bonfire on Wednesday evening, we were about to share our faith stories when the Holy Spirit blew in. A young woman in her early 20’s walked over to join us and asked, “Are you The United Methodist group?” “Yes,” we said. (This was a bit disconcerting. Can people really tell that we are United Methodists by our appearance?)
“I’m on the staff at Honey Creek for the summer, and I saw that a group of Methodists was here. I’m in need of some prayers and was hoping you could help me.” Jodi said that she is a student at Iowa State, where she became a Christian. She loves the way that some of the churches in Ames “cross borders” and work together for the good of their community and the world. “Most important to me is that we are all bound together in Christ,” she said.
Isn’t that the essence of Pentecost? Suddenly, the bonfire exploded with spiritual energy. Jodi said that she is living for the summer in a co-ed dorm where two of the young men are not Christians. Jodi has felt called to be a missionary to them, to share Christ’s love, and she was seeking advice on the best way to do that. Jodi wants to be invitational rather than confrontational, yet she doesn’t want to compromise her faith.
“We are all part of one human community,” someone said. “God loves each one.” Jodi explained said that she is attempting to clarify her call, part of which is to go back to her home town of Council Bluffs. She is committed to cross-generational ministries and believes that it is possible to do ministry together, regardless of denomination. For, in the end, as happened at Pentecost, we all speak the same language of love.
Jodi was delighted to hear that one of our new cabinet members, who is currently serving a dynamic church in Council Bluffs, will stay in contact with her. We circled around Jodi, laid hands on her head, and prayed for God to use her in a mighty way to witness to her dorm friends. We also asked the fire of the Holy Spirit to lead Jodi into the future as she continues to discern her call into professional ministry.
What fascinated me last week was the spiritual energy that was palpable around the bonfire as well as during the wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle. Yes, Pentecost Sunday was yesterday, but the breath of God that is the Holy Spirit is always deep inside each one of us and blows where it wills. The Greek word for Holy Spirit is pneuma, translated as “breath.” We breathe in the love of God and breathe out the wind of the Holy Spirit. And wind produces energy, especially in Iowa! The state of Iowa has 3,957 wind turbines and is third in the nation, behind Texas and Oklahoma, in wind energy generation. We know all about wind!
Convinced that energy is a key to vital living, I am constantly aware of my own energy level. Whether we are parenting children, preparing a sermon, participating in athletic events, completing a major project at work, or rehearsing with a choir, success usually demands the careful cultivation and dispersal of energy.
Energy can be variously defined as “the capacity of acting or being active,” “a usually positive spiritual force,” and “a vigorous exertion of power.” Do you sense it when others display an incredible amount of energy? It’s palpable and almost magical, isn’t it? Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers had it. The University of Iowa and Iowa State football teams have it. The Downtown Farmers’ Market in Des Moines has it. The violinist Joshua Bell has it. Tiger Woods and LeBron James have it. Martin Luther King Jr. had it. The farewell concerts of Elton John, Paul Simon, and Neil Diamond have it. Bishop Michael Curry has it. Harry and Meghan have it.
I have this theory that Holy Spirit energy has four dimensions, which, not coincidentally, are described in Mark chapter 12, to which Bishop Curry referred on Saturday. A scribe asks Jesus, “Which commandment is the first of all?” Jesus responds, “The first is, ‘Hear, O Israel: the Lord our God, the Lord is one; you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ The second is this, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.”
When you and I capture the energy of love, we engage in healthy practices in all four areas. On the other hand, when our energy is sapped in any of these areas through misuse, disuse, or overuse, if affects our overall ability to faithfully and fruitfully model Christ’s love.
- When our heart is healthy, we are emotionally mature, and our relationships are mutually life-giving. (emotional)
- When our soul is healthy, we are spiritually formed and connected with God and others through Jesus Christ. (spiritual)
- When our mind is healthy, we thrive on dynamic and creative intellectual activity. (mental)
- When our strength is healthy, we take care of our bodies through exercise, sleep, and good eating habits. (physical)
How is this energy supplied to human beings? Through the fuel of the Holy Spirit! The Holy Spirit is the manifestation of God’s energy in our world: God in action. I wonder what might happen in our local churches if we were intentional about tapping into Holy Spirit energy. What if our pastors and lay leaders became Chief Energy Officers who are on fire with the Holy Spirit? What if we made it a priority in both our programming and outreach to minister to the four core needs of humans, all demonstrated through the power of love: heart, soul, mind and strength?
How might our churches look different if every child, youth, and adult were inspired to discover the untapped energy of his/her spiritual gifts and use them to inspire the energy of others? What power to love might be unleashed if we could access hidden sources of collective energy in our churches and communities?
Don’t miss out on the fire and power of Pentecost! Can you capture the energy of love? Can you see it and feel it? One thing I do know: Bishop Michael Curry has it and has shared it. Jody has it and is sharing it. What about you?