It was the last place I would think the Holy Spirit might show up: a church conference. A church business meeting.
As a child, I associated the Holy Spirit with loud songs and the sounds of tambourines coming through the walls of the small Pentecostal Church on the edge of town.
Here we were, in a large church near Fort Wayne, gathering to vote in a Church Conference about whether or not to raise the debt total on a building project by some $50,000. Some came determined to defeat the entire building project, thinking it unnecessary and too costly. Others, generally younger, came with dreams of a new and more vital church reaching a new generation.
The vote threshold to approve the funding of the project was not reached. The air seemed to go out of the room. Hopeful, younger leaders sagged.
Then, a retired United Methodist pastor named Don LaSuer, who was presiding, read the room. He encouraged us to hold steady, not to jump to conclusions, and listen…see where we were.
In a moment, with a word or two, the room suddenly filled with oxygen and hope. People sat up straight. Despair was chased out the door as the Holy Spirit came roaring in.
I remember sitting in the back of the room and marveling: “Who would think that one of the most powerful experiences of the Holy Spirit would happen in a meeting about church debt and a building project?” I thought to myself. It was a wonder. No tambourines could be heard, no one threw their hands straight up in the air, but the Holy Spirit seemed to be touching each one of us like tongues of fire.
This story came to mind today as I think about the United Methodist Annual Conference taking place in Marion Thursday through Saturday morning. A part of me sags at the thought of Annual Conference because church conferences or meetings aren’t one of my favorite things. I also know that this year there will be heightened stress because of the launch of the Global Methodist Church. I expect there to be tension and anxiety generated by some of the (barely) half-truths being told about what the GMC will be and what life will be like for those congregations remaining in the United Methodist Church. I have been disappointed by those doing all they can to panic people and congregations into making a quick decision.
What we need is an appearance of the Holy Spirit: I am praying for this. I am praying for the Creator to move over the face of our divisions and fear and hopes and faith and doubts the way the Breath of God once moved over the face of the chaotic, watery darkness in creation’s first moments. I am praying that the Holy Spirit will move in a powerful way and help those in the room speak so others understand what is being said. I am praying that the Holy Spirit will touch the ears of those who listen, and that out of our many perspectives God will mold a people united around a common love for Jesus Christ.
I’m never surprised when the Holy Spirit shows up in a moment of powerful worship, but it stuns me when God shows up in a church business meeting. I marvel when people may be talking about building debt or a paragraph in the UMC Book of Discipline, and the room is suddenly filled with hope, new oxygen, restored unity, and with renewed love.
“When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place. And suddenly from heaven there came a sound like the rush of a violent wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. Divided tongues, as of fire, appeared among them, and a tongue rested on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit…” (Acts 2:1-4a)
Maybe we’ll be surprised…and blessed into something new and better.
Join us this Sunday at 8:45 (Sanctuary) or 10:45 (Chapter 2) as we continue our series There is a Season. We’ll be looking at the story in John 3 of the visit Nicodemus made to Jesus at night. During a time of change, one of the keys may be not having all the answers but asking the right questions.
Remember our Town Hall meetings this Sunday at 10 am in the Sanctuary and on Wednesday evening at 6 pm in the Fellowship Hall. (Please RSVP here ASAP for the Wednesday meal if you will be eating.)
I am blessed to serve Christ with you.
In Christ and for Christ,
First United Methodist Church1203 E. Seventh Street | Auburn, IN firstname.lastname@example.org | 260.925.0885