A Flat Bottle of Soda or a Scary Thing

Recently I had the great joy of sharing in a Charge Conference Celebration for the East District.  As we sang, prayed and heard incredible witnesses of service in the name of Christ from various congregations, I had this sense of the Holy Spirit moving powerfully in our midst.  In a much quieter way, but no less substantial, I experienced the presence of the Holy Spirit in worship at the 8:30 a.m. service at Arborlawn on November 3rd.  We remembered the saints in prayers and thanksgiving, among those listed was my mother-in-law. All of this is great joy.  I think God is up to something new with the United Methodist Church.  The Holy Spirit is messing with us.  I recall an old story about an enthusiastic preacher who preached in one of those old “prow” (as in prow of a ship) pulpits in New England where, when the preacher stepped into the pulpit, a small door or gate was latched behind them.  While hearing the enthusiastic sermon a wide-eyed little boy tightly gripped his father’s hand.  As the cadence rose and the Spirit moved, the little boy leaned over and whispered to his dad.  “What do we do if he gets out?” By contrast, Joseph Nader passed on some remarks made by the noted horror novelist Stephen King in an interview with Terri Gross on NPR's Fresh Air.  King was talking about his new novel, Joyland, which apparently intermixes elements of a criminal detective story with the supernatural.  Naturally the conversation drifted into King’s own religious (and hence spiritual) background.  The following dialog took place:
  • “GROSS: Is that what you had in church? What did you have in church when you were growing up?
  • KING: Oh no, I went to a Methodist church for years as a kid, and Methodist youth fellowship on Thursday nights, and it was all pretty - you know, think of a bottle of soda with the cap off for 24 hours.
  • KING: There weren't very many bubbles left in that stuff by then. It was pretty - it was Yankee religion, Terry, and there's really not much in the world that's any more boring than that. They tell you that you're going to go to hell, and you're half-asleep.
  • KING: What kind of preaching is that?
  • GROSS: But you always believed in God. You were just bored in church.
  • KING: Well, I guess that the jury's out on that.”
  • (The entire transcript may be found at http://www.npr.org/2013/05/28/184827647/stephen-king-on-growing-up-believing-in-god-and-getting-scare)
Ouch!  Methodism is compared to a “bottle of soda with the cap off for 24 hours.”  Painfully, I think there is some truth to the complaint.  (I said some not total truth.)  We had/have (?) gotten so respectable that we’ve been afraid to acknowledge the Holy Spirit moving in our midst. A part of what excites me today is that I believe I am seeing a discernible change.  The Holy Spirit does scare us (scares me!).  The Spirit ought to!  Remember Hebrews 10:31 – “It’s scary to fall into the hands of the living God!”  It is well to remember that the original Methodists were called “enthusiasts.” One of C. S. Lewis’ great comments comes again to mind.  “Safe? Who said anything about safe? ‘Course he [Jesus Christ] isn’t safe. But he’s good.”