Forming Faith Blog

Waiting for the Spirit (Acts 2; Philippians 4)

When the Spirit shows up in our lives were we waiting for it, or did it just happen? The story of Pentecost is not about speaking to be heard, it’s about listening to what’s being said.

A woman waiting in a restaurant.
Photo by Juan Pablo Serrano Arenas on
Picture This….

We are sitting in an empty room, me and about 15 teenagers. It’s a Sunday Night Youth Group meeting, and the aforementioned empty room is on the second floor of a large church in Northeast Ohio. It is a week after Easter.

We are sitting together in this room, and the lights are out. There is one candle, and I’ve got it, and I’m using it to read this passage from Acts 2.

Now rewind. Three hours ago, a few volunteers and I moved all the furniture out of the room and covered the windows in black plastic trash bags. We put six, count them SIX, of those large box fans around the edges of the room and ran extension cords to a single contact strip. That strip is now behind me. As far as they know, we are sitting on the floor reading the Bible. The room is nearly pitch black; the students have no idea what is about to happen next.

The Waiting Is the Hardest Part

How well do you wait? In this world of instant access to almost everything, we’ll get upset when the computer takes 45 seconds to boot up instead of 10. Having spent twenty+ years in Orlando and a lot of that at the big-name amusement parks, I spent a lot of time near signs that read:

From this point on, it will be 2 and 1/2 hours before you ride.

Patience is not my strong suit, even if it’s one of Paul’s biggies.

The disciples have been waiting for days. First, they watch Jesus die. They think the ministry is over, and they’ll return to their regular jobs. Then Jesus shows up! Disappears again but not before saying he will send “the Companion.” Please stand by. Wait, He’s sending a what?

They have no idea what’s about to happen next.

Wait for It. In 3…2…1…

I hit the switch on the contact strip behind me. It was loud. “Rushing wind” does not begin to cover the volume level of what’s happening. To be honest, we didn’t really have that much time to test this idea out, so the volunteers and I are experiencing it at the same time as the students. The candle goes out instantly, and we are in pitch black with a tremendous amount of wind and noise and more than a few screams. It was chaos. Wonderfully unpredictable chaos. One kid bolted for the door and ran headlong into one of my larger volunteers, who anticipated such a thing and caught the kid before he banged his head in the dark.

We let the “wildfire” (as it is called in The Message) run for about 15 seconds, which seems like a LOT longer if you are in the middle of it. I switched off the fans, and my volunteer by the door turned on the room lights. The students calmed down, and I kept reading the story.

Now Hear This

On Pentecost Sunday, churches like to trot out their foreign language skills. They find members of the congregation who speak various languages and let them read the passage. But it’s not just about speaking. Verse 8 says the people HEARD them speaking in their own language. Pentecost is not just a day of speaking. It’s a day of listening.

Pentecost is a message of confusion.  People are running around asking: What does this mean? What is happening here? What do we do now? Maybe the answer comes in the second passage.

Waiting on the Celebration

The passage from Philippians (Philippians 4:4-7) does not say, “Oh, now I understand.” It does not explain anything. It says celebrate. It says don’t be anxious. It says stay with each other. Ride this out together.

This second passage is about moving forward without answers. It’s sharing the Good News by saying, “I’m just as confused as you are. I’m just as uncertain as you are. I’m not sure what’s going on either, but we can face this together. We can pray together. We can try and find answers together. We are in this together.”

Jesus never promised to solve our problems. Jesus promised to be beside us in the midst of them. Isn’t that what we can do for each other?

Pentecost is often referred to as the birth of the church. This organization, this institution, this family that so many of us have given our hearts, souls, and lives to…is birthed in confusion. Has it ever really changed? Ever?

Waiting on the Understanding

The passage from Philippians says the peace of God transcends all understanding—not just yours and my understanding but ALL understanding. We are not going to get the answers because the concept of God is beyond us. We were meant to keep talking, to keep listening. The church is not the building. The church is the gathering. We were meant to be “in church” with each other, in communication, in prayer, in understanding…in church.

People come to the church for answers, and sometimes we’re so afraid of looking like we don’t have all the answers that we start to give them. We should be saying, I don’t get this either, but maybe I get it enough so we can listen to each other and maybe find some understanding.

The church is about one beggar showing another beggar where the food is.


Steve Case is a freelance writer and youth pastor living in Raleigh, North Carolina. His most recent book is F**K Death a hard-core guide to grief for those who are sick of pity and condolences. It is available on Amazon.

Free Resource

During the main Narrative Lectionary year (this year: Sept 12 to June 5), we provide a free resource download from one of our products to help you in your faith formation ministry. This week, download the activity “Popcorn Power” from our Living the Word: Kids (PK-2nd, NL) curriculum which can be used by many ages in many contexts!

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