When the Spirit Comes

Innovative Leadership

Sometimes what’s best for us isn’t really apparent in the middle of our journey. It’s only later we discover that an event, though difficult at the time, actually turned out to be the best thing for us. As the old country song says “They hindsight 20/20…”

This coming Sunday is the Feast of Pentecost, the Descent of the Holy Spirit onto His Church. Today, we still live in the afterglow of the Feast of the Ascension, and we live in that tension between the Promise and the Fulfillment. And this tension is necessary if we are to mature into faithful believers and followers of Christ. There IS NO SHORTCUT! So, stop looking for one!

In our Gospel Lesson today, our Lord Jesus is revealing to His disciples, and to us, the power of passing through rather than the eternally debilitating desire to always be rescued! In John 16:2-13 the Lord tells His disciples that there will come a time when those who persecute and even kill His disciples will think they are doing God’s will! Hold on a second, is this what I signed up for?

But Jesus goes on to reveal to His disciples that there is a Counselor Who is coming to accomplish three specific ministries through His Church and these necessary ministries make the Lord’s going “away” an advantage to His disciples and to us who are also called to be His disciples.

Our Gospel Lesson comes from John 16:2-13:

The Lord said to his disciples, “The hour is coming when whoever kills you will think he is offering service to God. And they will do this because they have not known the Father, nor me. But I have said these things to you, that when their hour comes you may remember that I told you of them.

“I did not say these things to you from the beginning, because I was with you. But now I am going to him who sent me; yet none of you asks me, ‘Where are you going?’ But because I have said these things to you, sorrow has filled your hearts. Nevertheless I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Counselor will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you. And when he comes, he will convince the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment: concerning sin, because they do not believe in me; concerning righteousness, because I go to the Father, and you will see me no more; concerning judgment, because the ruler of this world is judged.

“I have yet many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth.”

Look at the three ministries the Holy Spirit will accomplish in and through His Church:

The Counselor (ὁ παράκλητος, the One called along side to help) “will convince the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment…” (John 16:8) And these three ministries of the Holy Spirit in His Church are for three specific reasons.

The Holy Spirit will convince the world of sin (not rule-breaking but impoverished spiritual illness) because no connection with the Incarnate Christ leads to death and the Holy Spirit will, through His Church, cause people to realize that their disconnection from God is causing their spiritual sickness AND they don’t have to stay sick!

Concerning righteousness because the one Incarnate Christ is now ascending to His Father’s side and He is, through the coming of the Holy Spirit, multiply His Presence throughout the world in the people of His Church!

And finally concerning judgement because the Holy Spirit will make it crystal clear through His Church that the kingdom of darkness can’t hold a candle to the Kingdom of Christ! The defeat of death is total and irreversible! And this victory is extended to everyone everywhere! And it is the consistent and faithful witness of His Church to His victory over death that proves the Lord’s victory to every generation.

The Church, empowered and led by the Holy Spirit, will be Christ all over the world. Advantage, Body of Christ!

Today, you were given the Holy Spirit at your Chrismation after your baptism by the Church, and through the authority that Christ gives His Body because of the coming of the Holy Spirit. You possess the potential to participate in this three-fold ministry of the Holy Spirit in the world, and you, in fact, are called to do so. To not participate with the Holy Spirit in this three-fold ministry is to say “no thank you” to the advantage Christ has given His Church at Pentecost! But, if you are willing to see all the temporary hardships you face filled with the sure knowledge that they can and will all work to make you more like Christ, then you are empowered to be such a witness for the victory of the Kingdom of God that your life will shine Light on everyone around you! You can and should be Orthodox on Purpose!

P.S. Have you heard about the video project we are working on here at Faith Encouraged Ministries? Our goal is to create a series of short videos, professionally produced, to create an outreach tool for parishes to use to introduce the average American to the Orthodox Faith. We have a funding goal and need your help. Just go to www.faithencouraged.org and click the donate button and we’ll be on our way. All gifts are tax deductible! Thank you!


  1. The institutional church cannot continue to be virtually cessationist and claim to represent, let alone be, the Body of Christ.

    1. Dallas, that assumes the Church is cessationist. It also assumes the understanding of the Gifts is agreed upon by those who are discussing this. One of the main reasons I was drawn to the Orthodox Church is precisely because it isn’t cessationist with miracles and charismatic events all the time. It reminds me of a sign I saw on Mt. Athos “Attention, Miracles happen here daily. Do not be alarmed.”

      The mistake we make is expecting the manifestation of these normal events of the Spirit to conform to our expectations rather than allowing the wisdom of the Faith to inform, disciple, sober, and temper our expectations. This has been the main gift of Orthodoxy to me personally; a sober and disciplined life in the Spirit.

      1. Father Barnabas,

        I certainly would agree that the Orthodox faith teaches discipline and sobriety in the face of emotional, superficial religion. And yet, I really struggle with Orthodoxy’s lack of practical teaching on the manifestations of the Holy Spirit. It’s not that these manifestations are not affirmed, but that they are not really encouraged, and are often marginalized.

        In the wake of the incarnation, the early Church was obviously a spiritual powerhouse. Scripture never indicates that these manifestations were to diminish, and yet the average Orthodox layperson seems to be left to Protestant (and some Catholic) resources, on matters of walking in the gifts of the Spirit. Sadly, as the renewal movement has swept through the church worldwide, the Orthodox have been among the most resistant to the charismata in this generation. Unfortunately, so often Christian institutions are far more concerned with their own boundaries than the third person of the Trinity ever seems to be.

        Of course, all of this may be a misunderstanding. As a former Pentecostal pastor yourself, I would think you’d have some rock solid, balanced answers to these issues. Any input you may have would be greatly appreciated.

        1. Joe,

          I appreciate your frustration, but (and I don’t expect this to be free of misunderstanding) I’m glad you’re frustrated.

          You see, the Church is primarily a “teaching” community as much as She is a “Eucharistic” community built on the model of apprenticeship rather than an accumulation of information or “specialization.” All of this poverty comes to us by way of our deep formation in notions of personal autonomy rather than radical communion, which, in itself is a robust Charismatic experience.

          I am gratified that the Orthodox Church is reluctant to encourage what I see as a “too small” expression of the Pentecostal reality and She continues to insist that it is Eucharistic Communion that must be the hallmark of our faith so that all other experiences are strongly grounded in the love of God and neighbor.

          Let us abandon all our expectations of this or that manifestation to the central work of entering into the mystery of the Eucharist, and watch as that healthy focus creates a space for “signs and wonders” that are true signs and wonders and not the shallow and ego based psychological salve that passes for the presence of the Holy Spirit in our lives. As Pentecost approaches, let us dare to join Christ in ascending to the mid-most mystery of the Holy Trinity.

          Thanks for the question.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

%d bloggers like this: