The Movement of the Spirit
How was your day at annual conference yesterday? Cause I had quite a rollercoaster of a day. Which makes an odd sort of sense to me because there was a lot of talk about the movement of the Spirit… and I’m not convinced we always truly understand what we mean when we talk about the Spirit moving. It’s easy to imagine the moving of the Spirit as something exciting and revolutionary and joyful. We just celebrated Pentecost recently after all, where the movement of the Spirit was dramatic and fiery and obvious. Well, perhaps not obvious to onlookers who assumed Jesus’ disciples were drunk at 9am, but it feels obvious to us now. Often when we think of the movement of the Spirt, we think of those moments of religious ecstasy or unexplainable miracles that show up periodically in our lives, filling us with an overwhelming joy or peace. And those certainly are movements of the Spirit.
But this morning I found myself sitting in my car in the Berglund Center parking lot and sobbing hot tears before the morning sessions had even begun. A movie-like montage of painful memories connected to my relationship to the Church over the years streamed through my mind. I don’t know where it came from and I’m thankful that a dear friend and pastor was soon by my side to help me process and walk with me into the center. It was all very confusing.
As we opened our time of worship together, we heard the painful stories from Chief Emeritus Kenneth Adams about the long history of abuse, theft, and loss of dignity amongst Native People in the U.S. The tears were right behind my eyes, ready to burst again. I wanted to scream out to those around me, “DO YOU FEEL THIS?!” We were then powerfully reminded by Bishop Weaver that Jesus is with us always, to the very end and that we must continue moving forward. I found myself asking, “Where has Jesus been over the past decades as this church I was raised by has continued to cause so much hurt and pain to so many beloved children?”
And then we got to voting, and I fought against waves of cold chills of anxiety and fear until finally… we did it. We got the entire slate voted in (minus one lay delegate alternate) and there was dancing and joy in the faces of so many folks outside of the center.
There was the Spirit!
But here’s the thing that I’ve realized, and it’s so incredibly important not to forget this:
The Holy Spirit was in ALL of that. She always has been. The Spirit was in my tears. The Spirit was in the incredibly painful stories from Chief Adams. The Spirit was in the voting. The Spirit was moving in the dancing and smiles and laughter.
And the Holy Spirit was and continues to be moving in the lives of our spiritual siblings who call themselves Traditionalists or Conservatives or Fundamentalists.
Friends, I pray that we can continue to organize and strategically see through a vision of mending God’s creation together. I pray we can throw the doors of our church wide open (maybe just take the stupid things off their hinges entirely) to everyone that God calls beloved. I hope the day comes soon when everyone will be able to marry the person they love in a United Methodist Church with a UMC pastor blessing the union without fear and without it having to be an act of holy defiance. I pray for the day when we finally face our racist past and present so that full equity and reconciliation becomes possible one day. I pray that our work leads to freedom for all those who find themselves consistently on the margins of society and of our church.
But I also pray that our hearts learn to find the Spirit’s movements in unexpected places. In the large AND the small. In the joyful AND the painful. In the comforting AND the scary. In our foolproof plans AND when we feel completely uncertain of our future. In our friends AND in our foes. The Spirit is there and moving in amazing ways. Can you see it? Can you feel it? Are you willing to find her in the least likely of places? I’m convinced if we can do that, we might begin to see that the Kingdom of God is here.
Amen, and Amen.
S. A. King (he/him/his) is the son of a VAUMC pastor, the brother of a VAUMC pastor, and a self-styles “ImPastor” in the VAUMC at RISE Faith Community in Harrisonburg as the Minister of Formation and College Life. He is a recent graduate of Eastern Mennonite Seminary (MDiv ’18). He has struggled with the Spirit over his call to ministry since high school and has attempted to flee the UMC on multiple occasions, but continues to find himself circling back. It’s likely God has a reason for that. If you have stories to share or you want to connect, you can reach me at firstname.lastname@example.org