"Come, O Spirit, dwell among us, come with Pentecostal power; give the church a stronger vision, help us face each crucial hour. Built upon a firm foundation, Jesus Christ, the Cornerstone, still the church is called to mission that God's love shall be made known."
This week we are sandwiched between two holy and liturgical celebrations, Pentecost and Trinity Sunday. The former, a celebration of the coming of the Spirit upon the faithful mosaic called the church; the latter, an annual reminder we worship a God who is mysteriously revealed as a self-giving, other-regarding, community forming love.*
While the temptation for many may be to use these holy-days as platform to exposit theological convictions and proclaim interpretations of perceived biblical truths, for me, Pentecost and Trinity Sunday raise more questions than answers.* They dare us to listen to the voices of the other and open our ears to musings from the margins. Pentecost and Trinity Sunday provoke each of us towards risky yet humble discipleship whereby we ask faithful and intentional questions about where and how the Spirit may be leading us next.
These questions, much like the like the lyrics of the familiar hymn that echoes throughout sanctuaries during this time of years, nudge us as individuals and a collective body to face the crucial hour that is our time and place nearly two millennia after the Spirit was first breathed upon the disciples. And like the church throughout history, which faced hours just as crucial as our own, our authentic embrace of these critical inquiries will only strengthen our vision as we live into our call to mission and make the love of God known throughout the world.
As we linger in the weeks that follow Pentecost and Trinity Sunday, here are a few questions I am asking as I long for the Spirit to dwell among us during the crucial hours of our day:
- Who are the voices of innovation and creativity we have yet to give places of influence and leadership in our congregations?
- Where are the faithful embodying the mission of the church but not being celebrated because their congregation may not have the lustrous numbers so frequently craved by the public?
- What would it look like to equip pastoral leadership not only for exegeting biblical texts, but also exegeting the uniqueness of their neighborhoods and cultural demographics surrounding the local church?
- How can our theological institutions reform their educational paradigms in efforts not only to equip leadership with the language of our confessional traditions, but also an entrepreneurial competence able to birth new ideas, collaborative initiatives, and formative communities of influence and sustainability?
- How will the church mirror to the world unified diversity in the midst of an antagonistic culture all to familiar with polarization and demonization of intellectual, religious, and political opponents?
- How will the church live, love, and serve within a religiously plural social reality, embracing our neighbors of other faiths without compromising what we believe to be true about who God is in Jesus Christ?
- What would it look like to disagree collegially in theological discourse versus alienating those whose convictions differ from our own?
- How will the church engage, encourage, empower, and equip younger generations whose participation in church life is said to be in steady decline?
- Will the church be willing to let old paradigms and certain institutional elements die as a means to resurrect new methods for mission and ministry?
- What will we be willing to birth within old church buildings on the verge of closing their doors, potentially redefining what connotes a congregation and chartered church?
- Will the prophetic voices of grassroots movements be willing to journey alongside priestly ecclesial institutions, and vice versa, in efforts to sustain these very creative and imaginative incarnations of the gospel?
- How will the gospel speak into real issues of poverty, lack of access to adequate healthcare and quality education, violations of human rights, climate change, and an increasingly militant society whose primary means to solve conflict is to return evil for evil and wage in endless wars?
- What are the other pertinent issues of our local and global community the church is called to engage and reform?
- How will the church continue to engage the arts for prophetic witness, thoughtful worship, community development, and affirmation of the God-given creative potential with each of us?
- How will ecumenical ministry shape the hearts and minds of the church as we reduce what is necessary to hold in common for the sake of creative collaboration and the embodiment of God’s dreams for the world?
- How will a theology of the cross and resurrection frame how we do all of the above?
There are infinitely more questions I am asking, especially this time of year when the mainline church is willing to talk Holy Spirit. My prayer is for growing lists of questions from both individuals and corporate bodies to spur renewed visions and faithful dreams for being the church in the crucial hour that is today. May the Holy Spirit meet us all along the way. After all, as Osacra Romero one wrote, “It will always be Pentecost in the church, provided the church lets the beauty of the Holy Spirit shine forth from her countenance” (The Violence of Love 48).
*See Dr. Daniel Migliore, Faith Seeking Understanding, p. 73
**As Barth writes, “The Gospel is not a truth among other truths. Rather, it sets a question-mark against all truths. The Gospel is not the door but the hinge.” (The Epistle to the Romans, 35).
***A related post, "God as Unified and Missional Community": http://gregklimovitz.blogspot.com/2010/08/god-as-unified-and-missional-community.html