By: Christa Meland
Who among us has been surprised by the Holy Spirit? Who has had your imagination expand by the Holy Spirit? Who can’t wait for the Holy Spirit to next prompt you, guide you, or challenge you? Who has been “blown away” by the mighty wind of the Holy Spirit?
Bishop Bruce R. Ough posed these questions to the congregation at the Celebration of Life in Ministry worship service Wednesday night. Hundreds of Minnesota United Methodists gathered to remember friends and colleagues who have died over the past year, honor retiring clergy, and celebrate newly licensed local pastors, those being commissioned and ordained, and those being received as associate members.
Preaching on Acts 2:1-4, Ough said that while Jesus is God’s greatest gift to the world, there is more. God isn’t through giving. Jesus reveals to his disciples that God was planning to give all who love Jesus and keep Jesus’ commandments a second gift—a very special, very personal, and very unique gift—the Holy Spirit.
This gift will be with us forever. It will be in us. It will prevail over our differences. It will break through our resistances. It will free us. It will empower us. It will cause us to live expectantly. It will surprise us again and again and again.
If there is a single word that captures the mood of every person present when the Spirit was poured out at Pentecost, it is “surprise,” Ough said.
“Pray for the surprise!” he told those gathered. “While we may not always agree or understand how the Spirit works in our lives, let us never forget the Holy Spirit is a gift from God. Let us never ignore or discount this gift; for the Holy Spirit is at the core of the Church today, and without the Holy Spirit, the Church has no imagination, no breakthroughs, no sustainability, no life.”
What kind of church do you believe the Holy Spirit is calling us to be in Minnesota? Ough asked. One that is constantly being surprised and awakened by the Spirit—or one that only affirms the Holy Spirit in a tidy doctrinal statement? One that stands on its tiptoes, expectant, eager, sometimes nervous with anticipation—or one that worships the status quo and has everything bolted to the floor? One that expects the miraculous “stuff” to happen—or one that only says nice, proper prayers about the “stuff”? One that welcomes and celebrates the imagination of God? Or one that is bound by fear, blocked by resistance, blinded by ignorance, and bullied by power?
“I have a vision for every church in the Minnesota Conference, for every pastor and lay person in this worship service this evening, and especially for those being commissioned, ordained or welcomed as an associate member or licensed local pastor,” said Ough. “My vision is that you will always, always, always be…reminding your congregations, and all of us, of the unlimited imagination of God; reminding us of the power of the Holy Spirit; reminding us that the risen Christ is present, not absent. My vision is that each of you will live and lead on your tiptoes, expectant, eager, sometimes even nervous with anticipation. My vision is that the same Holy Spirit that gave birth to the Church on Pentecost will continually prod, cajole, beckon and surprise you.”
Throughout the course of the worship service, these individuals were lifted up in remembrance, recognition, and celebration:
Minnesota Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church