By Edna M. Thompson
Siloam Youth Sunday School Teacher
We often face experiences that produce dramatic changes in our lives. The Holy Spirit provides life-transforming power as we study our lesson (Acts 2:1-36) this week. The book of Acts is a dissertation on life in the Spirit of God – the telling of the stories of the early urban Christians who faced both the threats of the Empire and threats against the internal unity needed to be effective witnesses for God.
We live in a world governed by a pervasive network of unfaithfulness and rejection of God’s Word that has become worse throughout the centuries. Being filled with the Spirit means seeing the world as God sees it. To see the world as God sees it means that we see the world and ourselves through the lens of Jesus’ life, death and resurrection. In Jesus, the Spirit helps us see what we are meant to be and what we are not meant to be. Jesus taught His disciples that all of creation is to reflect life in God’s kingdom.
Being filled with the Spirit can be a disturbing, disorienting presence in our lives, because when the Spirit changes us to live the cruciform life of Jesus, we become alternatives in a world that resists the newness of God. We want to believe that sin and evil as we know it belong to the world and do not have a foothold on us. But the reality is that we are drawn to embrace a world that seeks to live outside the reality of God. Being filled with the Spirit “opens our eyes” to the reality of God.
The study of this lesson will challenge us to reexamine what it means to be filled with and have “life in the Spirit.” The church’s spiritual renewal is a vital issue for contemporary Christianity. If we want church renewal in the Spirit, we will have to renew our thinking about the meaning of Christianity as we have come to know and practice it. Spiritual renewal can only occur when the churches huddled together in similar fashion ask themselves, “What is the evil in which we participate that is damning ourselves, our neighbors and the earth itself to destruction?” When times are hard and political adversity and conflict in the world confront us with decisions about justice and injustice, communities with divine energy and spiritual wisdom are needed in order to face critical theological questions and determine how to channel their faith and actions for change. The concentration of poverty, joblessness, the mass incarceration of black males, poor educational systems, gang violence and drug cartels are theological matters that call for Spirit-filled responses for liberation. Our tasks, according to Jesus, is to transform the present by being His witnesses and by opening up ourselves to the Spirit to make and shape us into living demonstrations of what the kingdom of God looks like in the world.
It is important that we remain open to the Spirit’s change in us and in society. As the Pentecost event teaches, we must, while we wait, live the change we are waiting for every day. When President Obama was elected to the presidency of the United States, many African Americans celebrated the change that we thought would never happen in America. Many are convinced that his election was the work of the Spirit of God against a legacy of racism that has stood for decades against the flourishing of black and poor people in American. In reference to that unprecedented moment, the lyrics of the song by Sam Cooke, “A Change is Gonna Come” spoke to our collective joy.