Spirit of the Lord?
When most folk think of someone swept up in the Spirit of the Lord they’re likely in the space a fellow named Paul was when he wrote that women should keep their hair bound up in worship. It resulted in a long practice of women wearing head coverings in church. Some scholars think that Paul was more concerned with what women were doing with their hair than with how they wore it.
In his day, (and ours), some folk were so taken up in the ecstasy of worship they’d dance around, singing and waving body parts in various directions. Women would toss their tresses. Paul thought people were upset enough with Christians without women acting like the followers of Isis, so he said they should stop. Eventually, in most ‘respectable’ Christian circles, they did.
Now perhaps that’s an image (hair tossing women; gyrating, articulating men) people hold when they consider where the Spirit of the Lord takes believers. Maybe the image takes people to the place Paul went – ‘No more of that, and certainly not in public!’
Even Jesus evoked a negative response from some who heard him proclaim it. Luke’s Gospel tells us that after teaching and healing elsewhere in Galilee, Jesus came home to offer freedom in the synagogue at Nazareth:
The Spirit of the Lord is upon me.’ he said.
‘because he has anointed me
to bring good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives
and recovery of sight to the blind,
to let the oppressed go free,
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour.’
And he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant, and sat down. The eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on him. Then he began to say to them, ‘Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.’”
They were amazed that the carpenter’s son spoke with grace and authority. He had been working ‘miracles’ and teaching in the villages that didn’t know him like they did. Maybe it had gone to his head. ‘The Spirit of the Lord?’ Really? They let him know he was over-reaching.
He reminded them of how their ancestors ignored prophets–prophets who taught and healed anywhere, just not in Israel. The implication was clear: no miracles for them; no healing; no word from God to free them from prisons they’d built for themselves. Blind to salvation, and poverty stricken they would deny themselves riches lying within their hands. Others would reap the bounty God had sown.
The neighbours tried to treat Jesus the way their ancestors had tried to treat the elder prophets, tried to toss him off a hill. But he passed through them and went on his way.
Someone from the neighbourhood is proclaiming the year of the Lord’s favour. The Spirit is upon the messenger. The good news of salvation is at hand. We can release the shackles, see the false barricades erected against common cause with one another and the created world. Abundance is within reach, scarcity tips on the verge of incomprehension.
Do you wonder, embrace, dance and create? Or find a mountain, choose a cliff, and toss the long-haired poseur off? Do you maintain respectable propriety set in the ethics of earned grace?
The Spirit of the Lord is upon you. Do you dance, or choose your hat?
Keith Simmonds is a diaconal minister in the Communities in Faith Pastoral Charge serving Beaver Valley, Rossland, Salmo and Trail.