During the discussion of a book on the Holy Spirit written by a 94-year-old German theologian named Jürgen Moltmann, an interviewer asked him: “How do you activate the Holy Spirit?” Moltmann, befuddled by the question, shifted, trying to understand it. With humor, the filmmaker tried again: “Can you take a pill? Do the pharmaceutical companies [deliver the Spirit]?” Moltmann’s bushy eyebrows shot up. Shaking his head, he grinned, answering in accented English. “What can I do? Don’t do anything. Wait on the Spirit, and the Spirit will come.”
Moltmann highlighted our wrongheaded belief that our energy and expertise make things happen. Acts reveals that God makes things happen. The book recounts the start of the church—and there’s nothing here about human strategy or impressive leadership. Rather, the Spirit arrived “like the blowing of a violent wind” into a room of frightened, helpless, and bewildered disciples (2:2). Next, the Spirit shattered all ethnic superiorities by gathering people who were at odds into one new community. The disciples were as shocked as anyone to see what God was doing within them. They didn’t make anything happen; the “Sprit enabled them” (v. 4).
The church—and our shared work in the world—isn’t defined by what we can do. We’re entirely dependent on what only the Spirit can do. This allows us to be both bold and restful. On this, the day we celebrate Pentecost, may we wait for the Spirit and respond.
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