I have read many wonderful reflections during this first week of Lent. Unfortunately, I grew up in a faith tradition that largely ignored the Christian calendar, even Lent. The good news is that I have seen that changing in recent years. As for me, it has been nice to read the Lenten prayers, reflections and meditations of others. It is as if they are filling in the gaps for me left by my upbringing. And so, encouraged by these examples, I thought I would chip in my two cents worth. Here is my first ever Lenten reflection.
I grew up in a Pentecostal tradition that places a fairly strong emphasis on the belief that speaking in tongues is the initial evidence of being baptized in the Holy Spirit. Out of that emphasis has come many powerful testimonies, some head-scratching situations, and more than a few comical stories. Many of us who grew up in the tradition came to expect that when a young person was seeking the baptism of the Holy Spirit in the altar s/he was assured a high probability of encountering more than one apparent Holy Spirit experts.
The first time that the word language shows up in Scripture is Genesis 10, where we are told that the sons and grandsons of Noah “were separated into their lands, every one according to his language, according to their families, into their nations” (v. 5). Then in Genesis 11 we encounter this verse, “Now the whole earth used the same language and the same words” (v. 1). This is a striking statement, as it seems that we were just told a few verses earlier that the descendants of Noah were divided up according to their different languages. How can it be that now everyone speaks the same language?
My spiritual life use to look a lot like Woodstock. You know, lots of peace, love, and good music. Eventually I figured out that I have an enemy. My enemy seeks to steal, kill, and destroy (John 10:10) as he roams about seeking who he can devour (1 Peter 5:8). It was like a woke up out of some sort of drug induced euphoria to realize that I was laying down in the middle of a firefight. In a panic I thought to myself, We are at war! And I am going to die!
I have a confession to make. I have always struggled with the concept of the Holy Spirit. That might not sound like a big deal, but it seems pretty significant to me. Don’t get me wrong, I have always believed in the Holy Spirit. However, I have a hard time conceptualizing the Holy Spirit. God as a Father? No problem. God as a Son? I get it. But God as a Spirit? Hmmm.
Someone once observed that church had become so focused on the performance of the preacher and worship leaders that the people attending had actually begun to believe that they were the audience in a worship service. Could that describe some church services that you have attended? Does it describe almost all of them? Well, that observation was made by Soren Kierkegaard in the 1850′s. I guess not much has changed in 150 years. Kierkegarrd believed that in corporate worship God was the audience, the congregation were the performers, and the service leaders were merely the prompters.I wrote last week about the need to prepare ourselves for corporate worship, but what about the actual performance of it?