Imagine the Life of the Spirit

Paul welcomed all who came to him, proclaiming the kingdom of God and teaching about the Lord Jesus Christ with all boldness and without hindrance. – Acts 28:30-31

This Sunday is Pentecost, the celebration of the Holy Spirit coming down on all people and the fulfillment of the promises of Jesus to provide a companion, comforter, helper, and gift to his disciples after he ascended into heaven.

I love Pentecost, the Feast of the Holy Spirit. It is one of the most amazing stories in the whole Bible and is one of the trinity of feast days and celebrations (along with Christmas, the Feast of the Incarnation, and Easter, the Feast of the Resurrection) which offers us so much as we conclude the year’s theme of Faith Matters.

The Women’s Bible Study just concluded their year-long study of the Book of Acts. The verse above is the last verse in the whole book, about Paul welcoming allproclaiming the kingdom of God, teaching about the Lord Jesus, and having all boldness and no hindrances. This verse seems to summarize for us what Faith Matters is all about—sharing the good news with everyone, with boldness and grace, and focusing on what matters—Jesus Christ is Lord of all and ushers in the new reign of God.

We really need to know this for ourselves right now: the good news won’t be hindered by any of the terrible things humans do to one another or the structures of evil that injure the children of God.

We’re in a liminal space like Paul’s, struggling for justice and peace, wondering what the future will bring, overwhelmed by hearing about more gun violence and continued loss and wars and the everyday anxiety and depression of trying to explain all of this to our children, grandchildren—and ourselves. Paul is really an example for us; he was under house arrest and caught in the middle of religious wars and the control of a pagan empire and yet continued to live with hope and grace, sharing with all that Jesus Christ is Lord and the kingdom of God is among us.

In our women’s Bible study, we read from Willie James Jennings’ Acts commentary. His insights brought new life to Acts for us, especially how the Book of Acts continues to have relevance to our faith today. His postscript is worth quoting in full, but I’ll just quote a few lines. Jennings wrote about a few of the insights he himself learned in writing the commentary: that he came to sympathize and understand the diaspora (or scattered) Jewish people, who were just trying to survive in hostile and foreign lands; that the Spirit of God is directing, speaking, and guiding people in ways that they aren’t expecting—or at times even wanting; and finally, that the Spirit is calling us into something new. Jennings writes,

“I see with much greater urgency the need for imagining and enacting forms of life together that transgress the boundaries we all know so well—racial, ethnic, economic, social, gendered, and nationalist. Acts clarifies for me the depth of change necessary for enacting the life of the common in the Spirit. … If Acts announces a new beginning with God, then I am convinced that we have not fully entered into that newness. That newness requires a new space in which to take hold of our freedom in the Spirit.”

What does this look like in our own moment? Join me in pondering this together.

For my own life, I’m pondering how to be more intentional in my welcome to those who are not in the majority in our churches—older adults who are divorced, widowed, or never married; LGBTQ Christians; people who are neuroatypical or who have intellectual disabilities or differences; individuals and couples who do not have children. I wonder how to better enact life together for those who have been on the margins of our churches.

I was brought some of these insights from people’s experiences I recently heard. I was a part of a continuing education seminar last week at University of Aberdeen in Scotland. I heard presentations from many of my fellow doctoral colleagues about disability and theology and rethinking how welcoming we are in churches and the way we talk about faith with those with mild, moderate, and severe intellectual differences. I was very moved to hear one pastor’s presentation about investigating how preaching could better address our parishioners who are neuroatypical or have intellectual disabilities. Another presentation was about experiences of anxiety and prayer for those with autism. I was moved to hear about how the Holy Spirit is at work in some ways I had not previously thought about.

The Holy Spirit touched all the people at the first Pentecost and continues to move in all of us today. Come with me this Pentecost on this Christian journey of discipleship to seek how the Spirit is calling each one of us to imagine and enact the life in the Spirit, empowered to live out the transforming love of God.

The Rev. Emily Zimbrick-Rogers
Associate Rector

We are a church on a mission to know God in Jesus Christ and make Christ known to others.