A Pentecostal Challenge

Yesterday I attended a Eucharist for the Day of Pentecost. The hymns and prayers as also the sermon were all focussed on the coming of the Spirit, but unfortunately they made little impact upon me; to my shame, even eating bread and drinking wine were somewhat mechanical acts. As we had entered for worship, we each had been given a candle, and in the post-communion hymn these candles were all lit – but still my heart felt cold. But then all of a sudden, in a final act of commissioning, my spirit came to life. For with the lit candles in our hands, the presiding minister presented us with a challenge:

For fifty days we have celebrated the victory of our Lord Jesus Christ over the powers of sin and death. We have proclaimed God’s mighty acts and we have prayed that the power that was at work when God raised Jesus from the dead might be at work in us. As part of God’s Church here in Chelmsford, I call upon you to live out what you proclaim.

Empowered by the Holy Spirit, will you dare to walk into God’s future, trusting him to be your guide?

All: BY THE SPIRIT’S POWER, WE WILL

Will you dare to embrace each other and grow together in love

All: WE WILL

Will you dare to share your riches in common and minister to each other in need

All: WE WILL

Will you dare to pray for each other until your hearts beat with the longings of God

All: WE WILL

Will you dare to carry the light of Christ into the world’s darkest places

All: WE WILL

The bold print was not in the order of service – rather they were the words which God used to shake me out of my spiritual lethargy. “I call upon you to live out what you proclaim” -what a challenge! Suddenly I felt as if I had been given an electric shock. The sense of shock was then reinforced by five-‘dares’.

  • A dare to walk into God’s future, trusting him to be my guide. That’s a challenge: I felt like saying, but God, I have done my ‘bit’ for you. But no, now is not yet time for a rocking chair!
  • A dare to embrace others and grow together in love. That’s a challenge: it is so much more comfortable just to exchange a few polite words over the post-service cup of coffee. But God still wants me to be into meaningful relationships!
  • A dare to share my ‘riches’ with others. That’s a challenge: even for pensioners the days of giving are not over.
  • A dare to pray for others ‘with the longings of God’. That really is a challenge – it kicks into touch so much of my conventional praying.
  • A dare to carry Christ’s into ‘the world’s darkest places’. That’s a challenge. My days of ‘light-bearing’ are not over.

On returning home I looked up the dictionary definition of a ‘dare’ and found to my interest that the English word ‘dare’ has connotations of boldness and courage. To dare is ‘to have the courage to do something’; a dare is ‘a challenge to prove courage’. If I am honest, at times I feel I could do with a quieter life. But yesterday I was challenged to dare: in the words of the 18th French revolutionary, “We must dare, and dare again, and go on daring!”

Or to put this thought in more spiritual terms, yesterday I was challenged to continue to live out what I have proclaimed over the years; to allow the Spirit to fill my life afresh, to rekindle the fire in my heart, and be bold and passionate in the service of God.

2 comments

  1. I can certainly identify with your time of non-responsiveness, as also with your change of heart to a deep response. It is puzzling that one should be touched so profoundly and feel so different in such a short space of time, though I guess we should not be too concerned about it and simply see it as a normal part of being human. I seem to remember George Herbert (or one of the metaphysicals) reporting huge swings of feeling in relation to God …so we are not on our own.
    The other point you make with which I concur is that we are never let off the hook! We have to keep at it all our days, but we also have God behind us all our days!

  2. Thank you Paul for your vulnerability in writing of your recent experience during the Eucharist celebrating the Day of Pentecost. Your words, “but still my heart felt cold”, “if I am honest, at times I feel I could do with a quieter life.” and ending with, “I was challenged to continue to live out what I’ve proclaimed over the years, to allow the Spirit to fill my life afresh, to rekindle the fire in my heart and be bold and passionate in the service of God.” – all revealed a very human response to the unrelenting demands of faithful service.
    It’s encouraging to know that someone who is normally so passionate and bold about life in general, but especially about God’s Kingdom purposes, does occasionally become a little “numb” with weariness from well-doing.
    Your words, “to allow the Spirit to fill my life afresh” reveal the secret to remaining “fruitful and flourishing” (Ps. 92). Taking time aside to be still, to wait, to be restored body, soul, mind and spirit is the key to keep on keeping on. Jesus often took time aside from the clamouring demands of the crowds and it’s His example that gives me permission to stop and choose either luxurious solitude or the company of those whose friendship fills my tank.
    Thanks again Paul for sharing your heart. I always enjoy your thoughtful posts. Blessings from chilly New Zealand!

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