Yesterday was Pentecost Sunday, which is the anniversary of the date when the Holy Spirit first fell upon Jesus' disciples, just as he had promised it would. It seems like as good a time as any to talk about the Holy Spirit.
Awhile back I was talking with someone about this blog. He said that if I wanted to try to connect with people who think in modern, secular terms, I shouldn't talk about the Holy Spirit. It's good advice, but I just can't follow it. I can't explain what Christianity is, what Christianity is all about, without talking about the Holy Spirit.
So since then I've been wondering, "How do I talk about the Holy Spirit with a modernist?" So far I haven't had much luck. The Holy Spirit doesn't fit easily or comfortably into such a world-view. If you're committed to thinking about the world in scientific terms, then the Holy Spirit is always going to seem absurd and a little silly.
Still, it's not just modernists who have this problem. This has been an issue since the beginning. You see, as I was thinking about the day of Pentecost, the day when the Holy Spirit made its grand entrance, I was reminded that those first witnesses had a hard time understanding what was going on as well.
In Acts 2, we read about how the Holy Spirit fell on that first group of Christians and enabled them to speak in many different languages from all over the ancient world. Most people are, understandably, amazed and confused by what is going on, but some people have a different response.
They think that these Christians are drunk.
But the real kicker is what happens next. When Peter hears people in the crowd claiming that he and his friends are drunk his response is, (paraphrasing) "We're not drunk; it's only nine AM."
Actually, I think I've just found a way to explain to non-Christians what it's like to be filled with the Holy Spirit. It's like being drunk, except it's only nine o'clock in the morning, and you haven't had anything to drink yet.
That's a joke of course, but the thing is, I don't know that I can give a better explanation than that. I could talk about all the wonderful things that the Holy Spirit has done in my life, but most people would just be confused and a lot of people would probably assume I'm a little bit kooky.
In the future I plan to talk about the role the Holy Spirit plays in God's Kingdom. I will try to lay the groundwork for a theological understanding of what the Holy Spirit is. But the simple truth is that the Holy Spirit is strange and, often times, people who are filled with the Spirit are a little strange themselves.