Make church strange again

The Prince George Citizen - - Religion - REV. AN­DREW AUKEMA CHRIS­TIAN RE­FORMED CHURCH

When the day of Pen­te­cost came, they were all to­gether in one place. Sud­denly a sound like the blow­ing of a vi­o­lent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sit­ting. They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that sep­a­rated and came to rest on each of them. (Acts 2:1-3)

This is the time of year that many peo­ple in Prince Ge­orge have been wait­ing for to cel­e­brate, to gather with friends and fam­ily, and per­haps to fo­cus on some fire in the midst of a group of peo­ple. I am speak­ing, of course, about Pen­te­cost.

Forty days af­ter Je­sus’ res­ur­rec­tion

he promised his dis­ci­ples right be­fore he as­cended into heaven that they would re­ceive ‘power’ to be his wit­nesses (Acts 1:8). And it was 10 days af­ter that (Pente means “fifty”) that the power of the Holy Spirit was given to the dis­ci­ples and to all be­liev­ers.

Last Sun­day was the 50th day af­ter Easter, which means that many churches specif­i­cally rec­og­nize the ful­fill­ment of Je­sus’ prom­ise, and cel­e­brat­ing the gift of the Holy Spirit – the third per­son of the trin­ity. Pen­te­cost has been a ‘feast day’ for many church tra­di­tions, and so it has a lot of sig­nif­i­cance for Chris­tians. But it also car­ries a lot of sig­nif­i­cance for the many peo­ple who claim to be spir­i­tual but not re­li­gious.

Re­li­gion, as it has been tra­di­tion­ally prac­ticed, has been on the de­cline in North Amer­ica and Europe for a while now. But de­spite polls show­ing how fewer peo­ple go to church or iden­tify them­selves with a par­tic­u­lar re­li­gion, the per­cent­age of peo­ple who call them­selves athe­ists or ag­nos­tics has not risen very much. Where we are see­ing a ma­jor rise is in the re­li­giously non-af­fil­i­ated, or those com­monly called the spir­i­tual nones.

In her ar­ti­cle in Jour­nal for Preach­ers in 2013, Ch­eryl Johns de­scribes the nones in our cul­ture as those who have re­sponded and re­acted to our mod­ern world’s case of en­chant­ment deficit dis­or­der (EDD). The symp­toms of EDD in­clude a loss of a sense of won­der and a skep­ti­cism of any­thing that smacks of the su­per­nat­u­ral or the mirac­u­lous. On the other hand, EDD has left many young peo­ple search­ing for the won­der­ful, the holy and the au­then­ti­cally spir­i­tual.

It used to be that the re­li­giously non-af­fil­i­ated would show up at churches on Christ­mas and Easter. Even that trend has sharply de­clined. But per­haps Pen­te­cost will be the new day for the nones to make their an­nual ap­pear­ance at their former or lo­cal church.

Pen­te­cost is the day when the church cel­e­brates that the pres­ence of God is very real, very au­then­tic and very mys­te­ri­ous and strange. God in­hab­its peo­ple through Holy Spirit in such a way that crosses eth­nic and gen­der bound­aries. If a mod­ern world and mod­ern apolo­get­ics em­pha­sized know­ing that God was real, Pen­te­cost em­pha­sizes ex­pe­ri­enc­ing God is real. Pen­te­cost is the day that is clos­est to what the nones in our cul­ture are look­ing for, be­cause the Holy Spirit is the one that is clos­est to what they de­sire.

Has Christ­mas and Easter lost its lure to go to church? Try Pen­te­cost.

What hap­pened on that first Pen­te­cost was a strange event of dis­ci­ples of Je­sus be­ing filled with the pres­ence of God that moved peo­ple be­yond bound­aries with the truth of the Gospel of Je­sus Christ. And may the Holy Spirit do such a strange thing once again.

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