What should your Spirit cost us ?
The government are considering a minimum cost for alcohol as a way of trying to curb binge drinking and the increasing rate of alcohol abuse amongst all ages. It sounds simple enough.. and now that one of the largest supermarkets has said that they would support such a stand, it seems likely to go ahead. But not until after the world cup of course. Most supermarkets will use alcohol for the world cup as a loss-leader again to try and draw the customers in.
Beer and football..
I confess its not a culture I'm familiar with, but I can't help but notice the similarity between the supermarket's use of alcohol and the Church's use of your Spirit to try and draw people in..
Especially this weekend.
This is the last great main event until Harvest (Whew - say all the ministers)
After Pentecost the Church calendar moves into 'Ordinary Time' - and many churches sleep their way through June July and August. (Well.. people start going on their holidays etc etc)
So if the Church is going to capture anyone's attention - this weekend is IT until late September..
And, let's be honest about this, the Church hopes to use the outpouring of your Spirit as the loss-leader needed to draw people in. This is a time of joyous celebration - party time!
This weekend most Churches will unwittingly try and binge worship on your Spirit - they will look to recreate or re-enact the events of that First Pentecost - in many there will be an outpouring of languages (not quite glossolalia - and very stage managed, but people will get the point won't they?). There will be a celebration of the Church's birthday and (most important of all) we will all be happy and high. We will get drunk on your Spirit and be happy and joyous in your presence..
Until next Sunday - when we return to ordinary time.
Pentecost binge worship runs the risk of cheapening the gift of your Spirit, the outpouring of your power and the gifts of your grace. It can sell the truth short - and make a lie of the real gifts still being given every day to those on whom your Spirit rests - the gifts of evangelism, of healing, of teaching and of preaching - the gifts of healing, of discernment and of peacemaking. These are essential gifts which the Church and the world needs but which the Church as a whole, doesn't really seem to believe or think it needs anymore. They are also the gifts which demand sacrifice and commitment. According to Church tradition, only one of the original disciples on whom your Spirit rested died of old age! Then as now, these are gifts which cost lives.. and which should not be sold so cheaply.
I'm not sure what saddens me the most - the presumption that the high that happens in binge worship is any substitute at all for an outpouring of your Spirit, or the way in which we sell your Spirit and your presence with us so short.
This Pentecost, the challenge must surely be to try and open ourselves to receive from you the gifts that the Church needs to proclaim your gospel, rather than rejoice in the fact that you did that once already!
Rather than just celebrate the birthday of the Church, the Church need to be 'born again' (a trite phrase, but you know what I mean) The world and the Church needs good preachers, teachers and evangelists who will speak the truth regardless of the cost, who will be open to your Spirit and willing to be led wherever you send them, to risk scorn, persecution, ridicule, and perhaps imprisonment - for the sake of your gospel.
Pentecost should remind us that there has always been a minimum cost to your Spirit: life. Nothing less will do.