There is a line I have been repeating since my election as General Minister and President of the United Church of Christ. Here is the line: “The Holy Spirit envisions a future in which we matter.”
I intend to make two very important claims when saying that.
The first is that we have to shift the narrative about faith from one of decline and diminishment to one of hope and mission. We are experiencing decline and diminishment. All our statistical data suggest that. But that is about a shift in paradigm to which faith must, and will, adapt. We are not dying, we are shifting. More discussion about that is for another day.
It is the second point I want to speak more of – and that is this: the mission for which the Church was birthed in the first place still matters. And the Holy Spirit, who feeds the faithful every day, remains fully invested in that mission. To put it simply, it is a mission that calls us to love one another.
If you look around, it isn’t hard to see the challenge we face. Love can be found; but so can whatever we call its antithesis – hate, judgment, condemnation, fear of the other, bigotry, racism, homophobia, Islamaphobia, sexism – well, you get the picture.
Earlier this week, Christians celebrated Pentcost. It is what we call the birthday of the Church. It tells the story of the Holy Spirit descending upon the disciples of Jesus. She inspired them to go to the ends of the Earth preaching and teaching the good news of God’s redeeming and transformative love.
Everything that God intended in that moment – the call to love neighbor, to accept all God’s beautiful children into the arms of love and faith, the capacity to endure persecution and imprisonment and martyrdom in order to demonstrate God’s desire to see humankind live in peace, in harmony, in Shalom: all of that in more was at stake in the Spirit’s brooding.
She continues to call to us today. She touches the hearts of leaders everywhere and invites them into a life of mission: go and be a blessing.
She inspires humble leaders to take up the mantle of servant leadership, preaching and teaching the good news.
She desires nothing short of all that Jesus preached about: love of neighbor, acceptance of difference, forgiveness of sin, the blessing of children, feeding the hungry, visiting the sick and imprisoned, liberating the captive, care for creation – in short, the perpetuation of faith, hope, and love.
The Church as we know it, and the articulation of faith into relevant tropes and memes, might be changing. The changing is rapid and may feel like a death – it isn’t.
The same Spirit present at creation and hovering over the waters of chaos and the darkness into which light would be cast; the same Spirit present at the birth, baptism, and death of Jesus; the same Spirit who emboldened disciples on Pentecost moves among us and calls us into the mission to spread the word of God’s love to everyone.
Take time today to commune with the Spirit. She is as close to you as your next breath. She moves where She will – and speaks to us in whispers and sighs too deep for words. Know that She will partner with you as you engage in the call to love deeply, to live boldly, and to practice the art of hopeful engagement on this, our journey Into the Mystic.