Sunday, May 28, 2023

Under and over estimating. . .

As we celebrate another Pentecost, it certainly seems true that we have thoroughly underestimated the grace of God, the promises of God, and the Spirit of God.  It is true on all fronts.  When it comes to doctrine, we think the Scriptures too hard to be believed and so underestimate the power of the Spirit to bring us to faith and confidence in that Word of God.  When it comes to piety, we think the liturgy too hard to understand or follow or judge it irrelevant and so underestimate the power of the Spirit to work through the liturgy (really nothing less than Scripture said and sung) to bring us to faith and confidence in the prayers we pray and the praises we sing.   When it comes to sacraments, we think the baptism, the Holy Eucharist, and absolution too hard to be believed and too ordinary to convey what they sign so underestimate the power of the Spirit to bring us to faith and confidence that the water with the Word does what the Lord says, that the bread and wine is what He says it is, and that the voice of the absolution through an ordinary pastor effects anything.  When it comes to sexuality and gender, we think the God given order in creation too hard on desire and too distant from what we feel to be true and so underestimate the power of the Spirit to bring our lives into God's order through repentance and faith.   I could go on but you get my drift.

We have tried to gimmick people into faith and going to Church and giving because we are either too impatient to wait upon God's time and power or because we have completely lost confidence in that power to effect in time what He desires.  We guilt people into the good works of love that are supposed to be the fruit of the Spirit.  We cater to the whims of those who are more sure than creed and confession that they know what God wants us to know and believe about Him.  We surrender the objective truth built upon the concrete of fact and history to the imagined truth of feeling or whim.  It is because we think God's way too hard, too slow, too weak, and too out of step with the times -- we have and continue to underestimate the power of the Spirit -- even in the light of what happened on Pentecost to bring courage, boldness, and power to a group of disciples who weeks before hid behind locked doors afraid of their own shadows.

If we underestimate the Spirit, we overestimate everything else but especially science, observation, experience, feelings, desire, and reason.  All of these are good and salutary gifts of God but in the wrong hands, they become instruments of tyranny imposing upon us a prison in life that will become our prison in death.  We create our own dead end by elevating these above the Scriptures and by devaluing the power and work of the Spirit working in those Scriptures to work faith in our reluctant hearts.  We do not allow God to transform anything in us -- not our mind to appreciate and celebrate what He has accomplished for our salvation and not our desires that we refuse to see as sinful and insist are the most trustworthy things this side of glory.  We overestimate what we do or think we can do or think we should be able to do to knock God down to size so that He is no bigger than our imagination and almost our equal in every way.

As we celebrate Pentecost this year, let us remember to trust more the work and power of the Spirit and trust less our works and powers.  The Church will certainly be better off trying to be faithful than to be successful and each of us will have cause to rejoice as well.  

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