Times may change, but the Spirit is always with us

For those who follow the Christian calendar, this day stands between Ascension Sunday (Acts 1:1-11) and Pentecost (Acts 2:1-21).  It is a time of anticipation and change, a moment between the old life in Jerusalem and the new Commission to go to the ends of the earth.

It all reminds me of the worship wars that some churches experience.  Things are fine one day and in an upheaval the next.  Along comes a group of folks who get bored with the whole thing and want to change. One group wants to do away with the order of worship; another group wants to insure that the piano is still the main instrument leading music.

Some people want to stay in Jerusalem; others want to experience the adventure of getting out of Dodge.

We live in a sea of change–economic fluctuations, shifting sexual ethics, technology booms, and global conflicts–and church is the only predictable place to which we can return week after week.  It’s safe, so I understand not wanting to venture far away from home.

But even in the midst of tradition and ecclesiastical consistency (and, trust me, no one likes consistency in church more than I), we follow a Lord who was always on the move, always taking risks to further God’s kingdom.

I’m sure the days between Jesus’ ascension and Pentecost felt a lot like the tension of a worship war.  On the one hand, the disciples were stuck in Jerusalem.  “Wait,” Jesus told them, and it felt safe to be there.  Maybe Peter can finally build that stone altar (the one he wanted to build at Jesus’ transfiguration) after all.  But then and angel appears and asks, “Why are you still standing around?  Well, get on with it!”

We sing the doxology every week in our church service, but we sure don’t get stuck there.

In the movie, “The Notebook,” an elderly gentleman reads a journal to his wife every week.  Since she has Alzheimer’s, she never remembers that the love story (as told in the journal) is their story.  We find out that this weekly exercise jogs her memory every now and then.  The moments in which she remembers him and their relationship are priceless.

Unfortunately, the gentleman never knows when she will remember or how she will respond.  Sometimes when she remembers, they take a walk or play a game together.  Other times, they’ll dance as they had in years gone by.

There is uncertainty, and all he knows is that he has to tell her the story every week because it’s the story that counts in the end.

Why do we like that stubborn doxology?  Because doxology is a part of our story, and it helps us remember who we are and whose we are.  It helps us remember that we are in the world but not of the world, that we do not worship as the gentiles do, who are only it for themselves and their own self-gratification.

It’s during the time of remembrance, however, that the angels shake us and ask us, “Why are you standing here?  You have work to do!”

That’s when we hear the charge to “Go, and make disciples.”  That’s when we realize we follow a Christ who has nowhere to lay his head.

It’s between Jesus’ ascension and Pentecost that we linger and, at times, waffle because we are tempted to stand around until the Holy Spirit sends us on mission yet again.  We can wait, but we also have to take risks because even though the world in which we’re sent may change, Jesus promises to be with us “always, even unto the end of the age.”

We have to have the courage to get on with it and meet Christ-on-the-move in the world even today.

Published by Joe LaGuardia

I am a pastor and author in Vero Beach, Florida, and write on issues related to spirituality, faith, politics, and culture.

3 thoughts on “Times may change, but the Spirit is always with us

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