Well, I’m “in the Spirit” today. What spirit I am in.. that’s another matter. I’m thinking about Isaiah chapter 61. “…to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair...” Isaiah 61:3. I could use a bit of that spirit, because the fact is, I am having a very bad day. Indeed, I am tired and a little worn out. The verse paints a picture of a better place that is not here and now, but if God had his way, WOULD be here and now. That’s what promises are about. They are a nice picture that has not happened yet.
How to square the “what might be” with the “what is”, the problem. The early church in the book of Thessalonians was buoyed by early expectations that Jesus would simply come back, all earthly headaches would vanish and everything would be better. But they had the opposite kind of advice from Paul. Hey church, you just have to WAIT. Yep, that’s right, the answer nobody really likes because how you square the wait is your own problem. Of course, some people CAN wait things out. They find some kind of sustenance to keep them going, good or bad. Others simply fall off or lose interest. This might be one of the central problems of the Church throughout history… stuck between the now and the not yet.
Having grown up Pentecostal my ears prick up whenever someone talks about being “in the Spirit”. I want to parse the claim against the reality. There’s a lot to cherry-pick in the Bible about moments when people were “in the Spirit”. The book of Revelation starts out this way. We are to understand that when John the Evangelist wrote this arcane and hard-to-fathom little tome, he was in a sense, out of his head. “I was in the Spirit on the Lord’s day… ” and so he begins. I guess doing church put him in a particular frame of mind.
Pentecostals have their own day, Pentecost which arrives fifty days after Passover. It’s the wait after Jesus’ death whereby the apostles were promised that the Spirit would come to them and give them special powers. As we know from the second chapter of Acts, tongues of fire seemed to anoint the heads of those present, and despite the spread of ethnicities, everyone heard the gospel in his own language. It seems to have been a miracle of hearing, but a miracle nonetheless And those present were taken to be drunks when they were “in the Spirit”. It’s something to think about.
It’s that portion of the Bible which bridges the natural and the supernatural. In my youth, coming from the exact wording of the King James Bible, the Spirit was referred to in old English as the “Holy Ghost”, a reference that can make your hair stand on end as if expecting something unusual and perhaps not of your own choosing. You never really know what “the Spirit” is going to dish up.
Long before Pentecost, the Old Testament paints a picture of those who were sometimes “in the Spirit”. Saul, the apostate king who preceded King David, prophesied for example. Those present were convinced he was nuts, but in a good way. That is, he was spouting stuff God wanted people to hear, and regular communication lines were perhaps busy.
Jesus also talked in the third chapter of John, about the Spirit. He was having a sit-down with Nicodemus, one of the leaders from the Synagogue. Jesus was talking about being born again. Like the wind, the Spirit goes where it may, and no man can truly fathom it. The “born again” aspect is huge for some people who want an alternate reality to the one they are living. To some it looks like a “proceed directly to GO and collect two hundred dollars” card. Some days you really DO want to be “born again”, without your current batch of troubles. Hey God, would NOW be okay?
And yet, here I am sitting down an unwelcome headache, doing the necessary leg work toward a better day than I am currently having. Romans 8:23 might best express how I am feeling, because I am groaning inwardly like all of creation wishing things would get better.
Religious belief is a strange elixir. The Bible seems to point out that it is a gift… when we exercise faith it’s because it is given to us to do so and not merely a matter of human choice. It is beyond our power to “bring it” on our own which I suppose is the good news. We must look to God for that grease on the wheels that makes life go - someday, if not today.
On thing for certain; nothing will whet your hope for a better day than having a bad one. The only thing is you will have to learn how to be patient meanwhile.