Life in the Spirit: “They must be drunk!”

Read Acts 2.

Do you remember the first time the Bible really made you think?

The first time you were sitting in church, following along, and then something in the reading really catches you off-guard, makes you say “huh, what’s that about?”, and you go home thinking about it, or looking it up, or texting your priest to say “what’s up with that reading today?” (and, seriously, I don’t know any priest who doesn’t get excited by that kind of call or text!).

I remember the first time that happened to me.

I was 10.  Me and my best friend from school, Adam, were the servers at communion, sitting up at the front of the church in our white robes, doing our best to sit still and look like we were paying attention so that our moms wouldn’t give us a hard time after church. 

And it was Pentecost, like it is today.  And the reading, like today, was from Acts 2.  I remember it so clearly: we were sitting there, following along with the lesson printed in the bulletin, since one of us had to get the cross ready for the procession at the Gospel before the lesson was over.  And then we got to those most remarkable Bible verses: Acts 2, verse 13: “And some people made fun of them and said, “they have had too much wine”. 

For us 10-year-old boys, that verse caught our attention.  Eyes open wide, glancing at each other like “did you hear that?”.  They’re talking about having too much wine – in church!  With that wonderfully immature humour that little boys have, it struck us as pretty funny.  Sure, you know, our parents drink wine on Friday night when they’re playing cards and we’re watching Star Wars and playing Lego downstairs… but that’s not something they talk about on Sunday morning! 

And then, with all of that racing through our minds, it was followed with that amazing (but rarely quoted) verse of scripture, Acts 2:15: St. Peter stands up and says, “these people aren’t drunk, it’s only nine in the morning!”.

That one struck Adam as funny as he let out a little “ha!” and the woman reading – one of the, let’s say, more experienced and more stern Sunday School teachers – swivelled around to look at him; and let’s just say that I was the sort of 10-year-old who might be described as giggly, as her spinning around like an owl made me burst out in laughter.

Needless to say, we both got a good talking-to from our moms that morning.

But those verses stuck with me, nearly two and a half decades later.

The story of Pentecost is the day when God does something in the lives of the followers of Jesus that causes the rest of the world to look at them and say “you’re drunk!”, there’s no other explanation.  To which Peter, always one who had a certain way with words, responds, “we’re not drunk… it’s only 9am!”.

Now of course, while scripture affirms that wine and beer are gifts from God to make the heart glad, we’ll also agree with scripture that drunkenness – putting aside wisdom and sober-mindedness and making yourself powerless to worldly passions – is a problem, particularly when it becomes a tool used by pain and hurt and shame to wear in an easy path to destruction.  That’s certainly another topic, one we’ll talk about another day.

But today, I want to think about that reaction: when the whole world looks at the followers of Jesus and simply can’t figure it out; they look at what God is doing in the lives of his people and say, “what’s going on here?  This makes no sense.  Who would live like this?  Who would act like this?  They must be drunk!”.

Just imagine a church where the way of life that God inspired in us was so remarkably different than the ways of the world that people looked at us, at the way we live, and at the way we love and serve one another and are simply astonished, scratching their heads, and saying “what’s going on here!?”, “why are these people acting this way?”.

The Work of the Spirit.

As we read in today’s Gospel, before Jesus’ crucifixion, he explains to them that, just as He and the Father are one and the Father sent the Son, the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father, and the Son sends the Spirit to enlighten and guide those who follow Jesus on the path of life.[1]

The Spirit, translated in English as our Advocate and our Helper, is called a word in New Testament Greek that essentially means “lawyer”, one who stands alongside the person making a defense.  Our Lord sent the Holy Spirit to be our legal counsel – to encourage us when the right course of action is to admit our faults and ask for mercy, and to strengthen us to stand firm when we are being faithful.  As Jesus says, “it’s to our advantage” – we’re better off – to have the Spirit with us, making us aware of sin, righteousness, and judgment”; it wasn’t God’s plan to leave us with and the endless and perfect counsels of God to figure out on our own, no, it’s far better, Jesus says, that God gives us the Spirit of truth to guide us into the truth, glorifying our Lord as that truth comes to light.[2]

But what’s the result?  What does that look like, to have the Spirit of God guiding us?

Well, frankly, straight from the pages of scripture, a Spirit-filled life is one that catches the world off-guard, one which defies all worldly logic or explanation, to the point that the world looked at the disciples and said “you’re speaking nonsense, you’re drunk!”.

And really, if we lived the way God intended, I think we’d get the same reaction:

When the Holy Spirit comes into your life, when the Holy Spirit becomes your defense attorney, standing beside you through life, telling you in each situation whether you need to plead guilty and ask for mercy or whether you need to stand firm and do what is right, I can guarantee – I know from experience – that your life will not make sense by worldly standards.

The Holy Spirit will guide you to love God and neighbour, and convict you that loving your own life – putting yourself first – will cause you to lose what little life you have.  Living for God and others rather than yourself?  “What foolishness”, the world says, “listen to yourself, what’s wrong with you?”.

The Holy Spirit will guide you to carry the burdens of those who sit beside you here, and then go out and extend a hand to lift the burden from those you don’t even know.  The world says “nobody’s got time or energy for that, you gotta look out for #1”.  We ask for a yoke to be put around our neck, knowing that, in the long run, it’s better to share a load than to haul it yourself.

The Holy Spirit, standing beside us, will teach us not to cling to things, but to share what we have since everything, including the health and strength we have to work and the family and country we were born into are not our own doing.  The world tells us to store up for tomorrow, the Holy Spirit tells us to trust God and open our storehouses, barns, and bank accounts, for whatever we store up today is going to lose value tomorrow, and wealth is a harsh master.  The Holy Spirit says, “if someone takes your coat, let them take your shirt too” – don’t get worked up, don’t worry about it, don’t get your heart set on revenge; “no”, the Holy Spirit says, “pray for your enemy”. 

The World says “you’re nuts.  Listen to yourself!  Are you drunk?”

The Holy Spirit says “all my hope is in Christ alone”, I will not trust in gifts or strength or wisdom or power or might.  The Holy Spirit says, if you think you’ve got your faith and the future figured out, that’s not faith: faithfulness is putting your trust in God, not because you can chart out the pros and cons of why it makes sense, but simply because He’s God and we’re not.

The world says, “we don’t need God.  Religion served a purpose before we knew how everything works.  Look at all the bad that hypocrites have done in God’s name; trust in yourself, find your identity in yourself, be proud of who you are, rest easy, eat, drink, and be merry, for you only live once.”

The Holy Spirit says, “trust in God, for you were created by one greater for yourself for a purpose bigger than yourself; there’s more to life than what we see, there’s more to love or grief than a chemical in the brain, there’s more to pain and shame than social expectations and bad memories, there’s more to the pain passed from generation to generation than social work and a helping hand can fix”.  The Holy Spirit says, “you’re longing for more because you were created for more, but you can never spread yourself thin enough or stare at the emptiness within long enough to fill that void; the piece that fills that God-given hole is outside of yourself, just waiting to be invited in”.

The world says, “no, shoot for the stars, make a name for yourself; work harder, put your best foot forward, pull yourself up from your bootstraps, do what makes you happy, take your time off, live your best life, you deserve better, just keep going, ignore the pain, post the happy moments to your timeline, take that extra loan, cut those people loose, be the person you want to be, life is passing you by”. 

But the Spirit cries out “your young people will have visions of God’s faithfulness even though the world is set on exhaustion and decay; the old will dream dreams, trusting in God to do what they now know they can never do for themselves.  There is a way that leads to life and wholeness, all you have to do is look up and live, follow rather than stubbornly trying to lead, admit your weakness, admit your failures, and instead of wearing yourself out, plug yourself in to a source of unending power.”

…And the world says, “that’s insane.  These people must be drunk.”.

You are my witnesses.

And Jesus said, “The Spirit… will bear witness about me.  And you also will bear witness.”.

You see, the world will notice.

The wisdom of God is foolishness to those who are perishing.  The wise of the world have become futile in the darkness of their minds.

If we allow the Spirit to guide us in this absolutely ridiculous way of life, yes, the world might think we’re nuts.  But they will notice what God has done.

Friday night, Kristina and I went to the legion for a burger.  Someone who works for the Town was there, someone very involved with the evacuees from Fort Simpson.  This person mentioned how all of the staff were worn out from the work, how there’s so much overtime to get sorted out.  Then they paused.  “You must be wiped out”, this person said, “it seemed like you were coming and going all week”.  “Yeah, it was a long week, but I’m glad we had the opportunity to help”.  “Yes, but the staff were being paid, this is their job.”  “It’s my job too, we’re supposed to carry each others burdens and help those in need”.  On the way back to the table, she said, “I’ve never thought about it like that.  Thanks for all the church is doing in the community”. 

Always be ready to give an answer.

My friends, this is all foolishness in the world’s eyes.  And it will stay that way until they see for themselves what it is for ordinary people like you and me to choose not to live for ourselves, not to collect up flowery thank-you posts on Facebook, but to simply, quietly, constantly, and faithfully live for God’s glory. 

And then, like good old St. Peter, when they say we’re nuts, we too have the opportunity to say, “no, we’re not drunk”, we’re not crazy, God is faithful – and I’m putting my trust in him. 

Let’s be a church that’s so faithful, so out there, that people stop and stare, and then, by grace alone, when they realize that doing the same thing will only produce the same result, that trusting in themselves to somehow do better than they did yesterday will only end in stubborn frustration, we’ll be here with open arms, living as the Spirit leads us on.

To God be the glory, now and forevermore.  Amen.

[1] John 15:26-27

[2] Acts 2: 4b-15

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