Chester and the Holy Spirit

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For those of you who  read my last post, you know that Rick and I have parked our camping trailer for the season at a campground, hoping to “get away” on my days off.  Campgrounds have lots of rules to help people get along as neighbors.  We try very hard to make sure that our dogs, Chester and Winnie, obey the rules.  But Chester has a mind of his own and doesn’t care a hoot about campground rules.

We tied the dogs outside on a run between two trees in front of our camper. For the first time they were seeing strange vehicles, as in golf-carts, drive by our campsite.  (Golf-carts are the vehicle of choice to get around the large campground; no, we don’t have a golf-cart.)

I was in our camper reading when I heard Chester barking outside for all he’s worth.  Too much barking breaks campground dog rule #1.  As I ran out to quiet him, a neighbor called out, “Your dog’s chasing a golf-cart.”  Sure enough, there he was down the camp road, circling a golf-cart and barking with vigor.  I was sure more dog rules were being broken at that moment.

I should have expected this.  Chester is part Australian cattle-dog and was truly in his element in the chase.  Chester’s instincts had ignored any rules because his unique (and frustrated) job in life is to herd animals.  Golf-carts sort of look like cows don’t they? In this case the golf-cart he was attempting to round up contained a grandmother with a cowering black dog on her lap and her two grandchildren in the back of the cart.  Of course, Chester thought that they shouldn’t  leave his territory.  He was, instead, insisting on gathering and establishing his community.

The golf-cart people didn’t know that!  Admittedly, Chester can be a fearsome creature when his herding instincts take over, so the grandchildren kept telling their grandmother to drive on and get away. Meanwhile I kept yelling for the golf-cart to stop so I could catch up.  Finally they stopped, and I grabbed Chester’s trailing leash, apologized profusely to an obviously shaken-up woman, and for the next 24 hours I expected some kind of summons from the campground office.  We gratefully received no warnings, but we did move Chester’s run to behind our camper as a precaution, away from any golf-cart “cattle.”

God forgive me for doing this, but I am going to compare the Holy Spirit to Chester.

You see, in the event in the Bible known as Pentecost ( Acts 2 ), God’s Spirit doesn’t pay attention to human rules, protocol and expectations any more than Chester cared about campground rules expectations.  The Holy Spirit does what the Holy Spirit knows to be important whether or not it is convenient for us people.   If I’m comparing the Holy Spirit to Chester, I remember Jesus compared the Holy Spirit to the wind: it arises unexpectedly, moves with force, can topple things in its path, eludes our grasp, shifts directions, and where it goes is uncertain.

The Holy Spirit is passionate about people hearing the good news of Jesus and about gathering them into community together. Whatever happened with the sound of wind and tongues of fire that Pentecost day, the commotion got the followers of Jesus moving—moving out into the crowds, telling people on the streets about how God raised Jesus from the dead. The Spirit enabled them to communicate in languages that they had not spoken before to the many foreign visitors.  Before this Pentecost happening, the group in the upper room consisted of about 120 people, so we are told.  After the powerful Holy Spirit happening, there were suddenly 3000 more people added to their community of faith in Jesus.

But what was the Holy Spirit of God thinking?  How were all these people going to be cared for spiritually and taught more about Jesus?  Who was going to baptize them all?   And exactly how much bread and wine would they have to order for the next communion meal?  Did the Holy Spirit think of such things when she rather wildly and noisily burst into a room with fire and wind and moved  believers out into the streets to tell good news?  What’s the plan here??

This is a power that bursts through comfortable expectations and ignores the convenient routine in order to gather community around Jesus.  Here’s where the  Holy Spirit is somewhat like Chester turned loose—noisy, unexpected, persistent and disturbing. Surely there was some level of disturbance as the disciples ran out into the streets calling in Arabic, Coptic, Amharic, Turkish, Greek, whatever, “God has done something wonderful!  God has raised Jesus, the one who saves us, from the dead….”

A mischievous thought is emerging: imagine  Chester turned loose into our congregation’s worship place, running around the pews?   Some of us would be uncomfortable, some would be excited.  Some of us would move away and try to ignore him, hoping he goes somewhere else; a few would try to pet and play. Some  would enjoy the hilarity of him gathering up his community. Others would stare at him, which I guarantee would be Chester’s cue to start a barking fit.  Some would try to catch him and get him out of there.  Some might run out the door calling, “There’s a dog in church, there’s a dog in church!”  Things would be stirred up, that’s for sure!

Would I be ready  for such a stirred up outpouring of the Spirit like that in my own faith community?   Would it be a wild and noisy happening?  Could it be a quiet outpouring that swells up with strength?  Would we have to change the way we do things? Would it be a bit frightening at first?   Would there be some scoffing at what may seem ridiculous or crazy? Could we get so distracted that we miss the Spirit’s invitation, or is the Holy Spirit just too compelling for us not to notice?

Not to worry, because here’s something else  to notice about this first Pentecost.  There was a happening before the happening.  Before any of this dramatic stuff had happened, the small community of believers was gathered to pray and wait for the power that Jesus said would be sent to them.  For several weeks this group’s praying and waiting was the happening before the happening.  They by no means caused the outpouring of the Spirit, (remember the Spirit can’t be tamed and doesn’t abide by our comfortable rules), but their waiting and praying allowed them to recognize the Spirit’s activity when it finally happened—and they ran with it, not away from it.

That’s what I want to do:  run with the Spirit, not run away from where the Spirit leads…or worse,simply be apathetic.   Am I and our congregation ready for the Holy Spirit’s awakening in our lives?  My guess is almost, but not quite.  (Not that anyone can ever be ready for what God’s  Spirit will do!)  I believe we are still in the happening before the happening stage. We are still like the small group in Acts—learning, waiting, praying for the Spirit to awaken us, noticing the needs in the community around us, allowing ideas to simmer, and praying some more.  We are also getting use to the idea that, when the Holy Spirit does break through and send us out to gather and serve in new ways, it may cause as much commotion, noise and energy as Chester could if he were turned loose in our worshiping midst!

Comments

  1. For fun, check out this video that my brother included in a comment to this blog post on FB: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K16fG1sDagU&feature=kp