Sundays in Pentecost: Open to the Spirit (5)
We are taking the Pentecost season to post a Sunday series of excerpts and reflections from Scot McKnight’s new book, Open to the Spirit: God in Us, God with Us, God Transforming Us.
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Through this experience [of his son’s cancer] I found that the Bible was not adequate. I needed God in a personal way— not as an object of my study, but as friend, guide, comforter. I needed an existential experience of the Holy One. Quite frankly, I found that the Bible was not the answer. I found the scriptures to be helpful— even authoritatively helpful— as a guide. But without feeling God, the Bible gave me little solace. In the midst of this “summer from hell,” I began to examine what had become of my faith. I found a longing to get closer to God, but found myself unable to do so through my normal means: exegesis, scripture reading, more exegesis. I believe that I had depersonalized God so much that when I really needed him I didn’t know how to relate. I longed for him, but found many community-wide restrictions in my cessationist environment. I looked for God, but all I found was a suffocation of the Spirit in my evangelical tradition as well as in my own heart.
• Quote from Daniel Wallace, p. 94
To a person like me, who comes from the world I’ve lived in most of my adult Christian life, these words from Daniel Wallace are utterly remarkable. Wallace is a New Testament professor at Dallas Theological Seminary, a leading dispensationalist and cessationist school. For someone in that setting to say, “The Bible was not adequate,” that it was “not the answer,” and to speak about needing to “feel God” in order for the Bible to be of solace is to go against concepts that are regularly taught and preached against.
The next section of Scot McKnight’s book about the Spirit explores the Spirit as “the power of God’s new presence” with us and in us. And the metaphor he begins with from the Bible is that of the Holy Spirit as “living water.”
Living water is water that is bubbling up, moving, running, flowing. It is not the static water we draw from a well, it is the water rushing along like those in the currents of a mountain stream. It is not simply water that quenches our thirst. This water invigorates us!
Some church denominations require baptism in running water. To them it is a powerful symbol of the living and life-giving energy of the Spirit. This is an old tradition; in fact one of our earliest Christian writings, The Didache (c. 100 AD), said that baptism in running water, though not required, was preferable.
It has been very hot in central Indiana this past week. Today, for Father’s Day, our children and grandchildren will be coming to our house. We prepared to have them in this weather by getting our water supplies. We don’t have a pool, so we got some kiddie pools for the little ones, slip-n-slides for the older ones, super-soaker water guns, and other such things. It’s going to be hot, and we will all need to be refreshed. So we’ll be spraying ourselves with water, dunking ourselves in water, running through sprinklers of water, soaking ourselves in a wild rumpus of joy.
I’ll be thinking of the Spirit, God’s living water, all day.