This Sunday (June 9) is Pentecost Sunday — the day the church (since about the 4th century) observes the gift of the Spirit on the 120 believers and the birth of the church (Acts 2:1ff), liturgically symbolized by the color red, the imagery of fire, and the mystery of the Holy Spirit, whom Francis Chan rightly referred to as “the Forgotten God.”
If your church observes Pentecost, you know that we’re about to dip our toes into Pneumatology (study of the Pneuma/Spirit) which is always a good idea, given that we’re a people who are to be filled with the Spirit (Ephesians 5:18). We are empty containers, all of us, filling the void with who knows what. Only Spirit can satisfy, mysterious as all of this is.
The Old Testament helps us understand God the Father, the New Testament reveals Christ, who shows us the Father and promises the coming of the Spirit. We cannot know Father and Son without the Spirit, and we cannot know the Spirit without the Father and Son. Surely both testaments reveal the Trinity in glimpses, but it was the early church that wrestled with the theology of the Three. These three are inseparable, yet the Spirit is the most misunderstood of the Trinity. We like hierarchy, function, and predictability. Our curiosity pushes us to discovery. The Holy Spirit is a mysterious person who knows us better than we will ever know Him. He knows Father and Son, too, and somehow makes a connection that brings us into community with the Trinity and with each other. How peculiar. This whole thing is so bizarre, yet beautifully accessible by grace.
“Many books have been written by scholarly and spiritual men on the Father and the Son… the Holy Spirit has, on the other hand, not yet been studied with as much care and by so many great and learned commentators on the scriptures that it is easy to understand his special character and know why we cannot call him either Son or Father, but only Holy Spirit.” – Augustine (De fide et symbolo)
The Apostles creed declares “I believe in the Holy Spirit…” which is a bold accusation of ourselves. I don’t fully understand, I will never fully know, I cannot simplify the Spirit. But I believe in the Spirit, which has something to do with knowing but a LOT to do with relationship.
God isn’t a subject to be mastered. He’s not like the Periodic table — memorize this and you’ll be able to cook up anything. He’s a distantly complex creator who, for some absurd reason, wants to be so involved with our lives that He pours out as fire, counsel, wisdom, joy, and love. That should change the way I live.
Enjoy the mystery as we keep writing the book on how the Holy Spirit inhabits and enables the church to do the Kingdom building work of God. Can you believe that? He wants us to do this with Him, by His Spirit, broken and cleansed vessels as we are.
Pentecost Sunday is a day where, if you think about it, most of us should be looking at each other, saying “what right do we have to be doing this…?”