Ordinations Questions, Part 4: The Holy Spirit
Please see the introduction to Part 1 for the context of these questions…
e) What is your conception of the activity of the Holy Spirit in personal faith, in the community of believers, and in responsible living in the world?
On the day of Pentecost, the promised Spirit descended on Jesus’ disciples (Acts 2:1-13). Different streams of Christianity tend to take different nuances from this story of the Holy Spirit’s activity. For our Pentecostal brothers and sisters, the focus tends to be on speaking in tongues and the empowerment of the individual that the Holy Spirit brings.
For our Evangelical brothers and sisters, they tend to focus on the 3,000 people who join their ranks when the Holy Spirit arrives. The Spirit also brings unity to the community of believers.
Additionally, in Peter’s sermon (Acts 2:14-40), he quotes the prophet Joel who predicted that when the Holy Spirit is poured out, “Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your young men will see visions, your old men will dream dreams.” (Acts 2:17)
When people are in captivity or oppressed, the first thing they lose is their ability to dream. People in captivity have a hard time dreaming that their lives will be better tomorrow than it is today, that their children will have a better life than they have. They also lose the capacity to dream for others: that everyone will have food, clean water, and shelter, that people’s bodies will not be violated by slavery or violence, that, in the words of Martin Luther King, one day we will be judged not by the color of our skin but by the content of our character. But Peter says that when the Holy Spirit comes, “…your young men will see visions, your old men will dream dreams” (Acts 2:17b). The Holy Spirit enables us to dream of a world that is better tomorrow than it is today.
Likewise, Peter says that when the Holy Spirit comes, “…Your sons and daughters will prophesy…” I don’t think Peter was thinking of a “foretelling” the future kind of prophecy. Rather, in the tradition of the Hebrew prophets, I think Joel was referring to “forthtelling” -- a passionate concern with a life consistent with covenant faithfulness. Prophecy, in this sense, is concerned with justice, holiness, and righteousness. In other words, when the Holy Spirit comes, the Spirit empowers us to speak truth to power, to point out injustice, and to speak for the marginalized. Therefore, the Holy Spirit not only empowers us for holy living and unites communities of believers, but also points us to what it means to be salt and light to the world.