Chapter Three: The Cross as the End of an Illusion

Maturing in the Christian Life: A Pastor’s Guide
by Neill Q. Hamilton

Chapter Three: The Cross as the End of an Illusion

From the beginning, Jesus, the teacher of discipleship, had been implicitly challenging the illusion of a nationalist, ethnocentric kingdom coupled with a militant messiah. The challenge intensified after the disciples developed to the point of recognizing him as the Messiah, and not merely the prophet of crowd perception. The challenge became explicit when in response to their confession Jesus began to predict his suffering, his rejection by the nation's leaders, and his ensuing death. Peter, speaking for all the disciples, could not, of course, square this outcome with his illusion of militant triumph. So Jesus rebuked him with the same language he had used to exorcise the demons from the man possessed and began to draw the implications for discipleship: "If any would come after me, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me." (See Mark 8:34.)

The self to be denied was the self that had projected its childish, tribal dreams onto the parenting God of the kingdom. The cross stands athwart the path of the journey of faith, barring the way to further development until we come to terms with our illusions about what God was up to in Jesus of Nazareth. Sooner or later, disciples must face the fact that a crucified Christ cannot be made to be the patron of the misfit dreams of discipleship.

The cross of Jesus is the perfect squelch to the illusion of worldly triumph. Everything about the manner of his death militated against this illusion. When he was arrested, he refused to fight. His disciples had armed themselves. One actually struck what he supposed was the first blow for freedom by cutting off the ear of the slave of the high priest. Though Jesus was arraigned before the Romans as a dangerous subversive, everyone knew better. The disciples knew better after the fiasco of an unresisting arrest. Then the crowd knew better too and asked instead for Barabbas, a certified freedom fighter. The manner of Jesus' death did not make sense from the perspective of the illusion of Davidic triumphalism. So those who chose to continue with this crucified Christ needed to make new sense of the selves they had formed around this illusion.

It does not matter which side of the cross you may be on chronologically. The need for the cross to reform the self of the Christian persists long after the event is literally behind us. In Mark's day the triumphalist Davidic dream had reared its head again in the form of the holy war of the Jews against the Romans (A.D. 66-70). Followers of Jesus were being recruited to participate in that war and were responding. The cross was not seen as a barrier to joining up. Zealot Christians probably interpreted Jesus' death as one more glorious instance in a long line of martyrs in the cause of national liberation. Palestinian Christians were being asked to follow this example. Mark made sure that this interpretation of Jesus' death was struck down by highlighting the incongruity between the public charge of revolutionary subversion and the whole manner of Jesus' own conduct. Mark carefully edited the story of the passion to end the same illusion in his generation that had plagued disciples in Jesus' day. The same task of setting cross over against illusion must be repeated in every generation and within every Christian self bent on maturing.

As we have suggested already, the cross challenges the favorite forms of the classic illusion in our generation. Immature evangelical disc iples seek national triumph through a moral majority at home and military superiority abroad. Immature social activist disciples seek kingdom triumph by pluralistic tolerance at home and wars o£ national liberation abroad. Selves formed in the service of these illusions must suffer a psychic death of disillusionment before new selves may be formed in the service of the fresh realities God holds out to us in the phase of the Christian life that follows. But the first grand dreams of discipleship die hard.


The Trauma of Gethsemane

There seems to be no way around some trauma in the process of the psychic death and dying that accompanies the dispelling of illusion. In the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus modeled the transition in the self that the cross eventually calls for in us all. His invitation to the disciples to accompany him in the original experience is our invitation to follow as well.

The story clearly displays trauma. The pathos of dying surrounded Jesus' plea to be relieved of the burden of his dreadful fate. The mood of mourning is caught in the words, "My soul is very sorrowful, even to death" (Mark 14:33-34). An ancient reading in Luke heightened the trauma: "And being in an agony he prayed more earnestly; and his sweat became like great drops of blood falling down upon the ground" (Luke 22:44). In Matthew, "he fell on his face and prayed." What is there about this transition that fells us so? The prayer itself tells.

"Abba, Father" -- here is the confidence and security of the intimacy built through many experiences of answers to the disciples' prayer. "All things are possible to thee" -- here is the childlike illusion that no serious hitch need ever develop in the lives of the children of an omnipotent parent. So far it is all in keeping with the childhood phase. Then comes the glimmer of a new perception of God and self-"yet not what I will, but what thou wilt." At this point the self breaks the chrysalis of childhood. It entertains the idea that God has not been seeking in God's Messiah what we have wished. God's will and our wills have been on divergent courses.

The Last Supper

The Last Supper, preceding Gethsemane, launched the transition beyond discipleship illusion. It offered the initial clue to the meaning of Jesus' failure to triumph. By identifying the broken loaf and poured-out wine with his body and blood, he announced that these symbols referred to his impending death. The meaning of the death was that it was "for many," and Matthew adds, "for the forgiveness of sins" (Mark 14:24; Matt. 26:28). When the disciples first joined him, they supposed they had ceased to be sinners, since by following Jesus they had repented and believed as both John's and Jesus' teachings had prescribed. Only now it turns out that in their believing in the coming kingdom they had not ceased to be sinners but had become a new kind of sinner-the kind that substitutes one's own worldly, status-seeking projects for the kingdom of God, while claiming sanction for them from the God of that kingdom. It is sobering to come to realize that Christ died precisely for religious people actively committed to the coming of the kingdom. But it was a kingdom born of illusion, not God's kingdom.

It is precisely while we are being so utterly religious that we need forgiveness most. No wonder the disciples' prayer calls for daily forgiveness. What did the first disciples think the Supper meant as they celebrated it before its postdiscipleship meaning began to dawn? We perceive the Sacraments according to the phase we are in when we celebrate. For the first disciples and all disciples since, the Supper was and is an anticipatory victory banquet. We lift the wine in a stirring toast to the victorious kingdom: "Truly, I say to you, I shall not drink again of the fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new in the kingdom of God" (Mark 14:25). "Cheersl" But when we become willing to hear, the cup word and bread word invite us to see our illusions for what they are and to leave them behind. In a highly artful way Mark shows us this "leaving behind."


The Young Man as Archetype of Transition

Mark never showed the name disciples as making the transition he was prescribing-presumably because the militant Christians of his day were using the Twelve as patrons to justify their refusal to move on to greater maturing. So Mark supplied a no-name figure to show the way. It was done so subtly that the lesson is usually overlooked.

A young man makes two appearances in Mark, one at the scene of the arrest, where all the disciples forsake Jesus and flee (Mark 14:50; Matt. 26:56) except for this young man. He "followed him, with nothing but a linen cloth about his body; and they seized him, but he left the linen cloth and ran away naked" (Mark 14:51-52). The second appearance of the young man (the same Greek word is used) is at the empty tomb. "And entering the tomb, they [the women who have come to complete the burial] saw a young man sitting on the right side, dressed in a white robe; and they were amazed" (Mark 16:5). The young man announces the resurrection and tells the women to deliver a message to the disciples and to Peter. We miss the continuity between the two appearances partly because Matthew turned the young man into an angel and Luke made him into two men, but mainly because we do not realize that Mark is inviting us to a transition beyond discipleship.

Apart from the lesson of the young man, disciples in Mark go from misunderstanding to betrayal, with no subsequent rehabilitation. Missing this lesson of the young man is what makes the book of Mark so unsatisfying. Mark meant for the double appearance of the young man to repair the gap created by the collapse of discipleship. His lost shirt represents the illusion that must be left behind, the nakedness represents the trauma involved, and the white robe points to the new realization beyond illusion. The young man models for us what the relentlessly militant disciples could not.

There is comfort in Mark's having to resort to the young man. If a wing of the church in his day was using the original Twelve to prolong their discipleship phase, we must not be too hard on ourselves or our parishioners if we discover ourselves caught in a similar resistance to maturing. There is indeed a long and venerable tradition that argues for arresting development in the phase of discipleship.

Collapse from Within

For the original disciples and for disciples in Mark's day, discipleship collapsed from without. Jesus refused to start a holy war. A generation later his countrymen tried it, but it ended in a fiasco that nearly obliterated Palestinian Judaism. Periodically the message of the cross comes to us from without whenever our holy war plans come to naught. For most generations the course of events does not force an end to discipleship's dreams. Nevertheless, if God is good to us and we avail ourselves of the means of grace, discipleship eventually collapses from within. There is simply not enough psychic return in keeping the ethic of discipleship to make up for the loss of worldly return that ethic entails. Virtue is not its own reward. Loving your enemies puts you at a distinct disadvantage in a competitive climate where they are likely to sock it to you if you turn the other cheek. To forgive and forget is asking to be taken advantage of a second timel

The resources of the self are no match for storms of anger and resentment at the loss of worldly advantage, let alone the lust and craving that regularly flash across the horizon of the interior life. With time the point emerges at which our plans for self-gratification are hopelessly at cross-purposes with the commands of the Jesus we have sworn to follow. Then Paul's description of the journey of faith on the verge of transition to Spirit becomes our story. "So I find it to be a law that when I want to do right, evil lies close at hand. For I delight in the law of God [represented now by the commandments of discipleship], in my inmost self, but I see in my members another law at war with the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin which dwells in my members. Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?" (Rom. 7:21-24).

It is not just the failure of the self in the face of an ethic now experienced as too demanding that pushes us on to some new phase. There is a restlessness with religion itself. The whole round of observances and obligations comes to be felt as a burden in an already burdened life.

My own childhood was set in a congregation of Scottish Covenanters full of just such righteous but weary saints. The heavy righteousness was epitomized in the stiff faces of the choir that sang of that righteousness. A saint has been defined as someone who makes goodness seem attractive. These saints made goodness seem merely obligatory. They were bound and determined to be good even if it killed them. It is this weariness with well-doing that finally puts a permanent cloud cover over discipleship. John Wesley expressed the feeling of this period of the faith journey when he confessed, "I dragged on heavily."

We now have a word for this crisis when it is connected with work among clergy and other helping professionals -- burnout. Those who do not go on to some new phase of maturing may simply revert to their predisciple life-styles. "Simon Peter said to them, `I am going fishing.' They said to him, `We will go with you."' Until we transit this dead end, we are more battered by sin and baffled by our inability to deal with it than at any former time in our lives. Wesley found that those "who were thoroughly bruised by sin willingly heard and received ... [the good news of a further phase of faith] gladly."

Failing some transition to greater maturing, weary saints must lead double lives -- a righteous life to ease the conscience and a fun life to make the righteous one bearable. With time, this back-and-forth existence is likely to lead to cynicism and emotional withdrawal from professional tasks.

Perhaps the most common refuge today in this wasteland period of the journey of faith, for lay and clergy alike, is the "affair".39 When God and all the commitments we have made in God's name seem to be receding from us, the closeness of a fresh sexual partner partly fills the space that distance from God and covenant partners leaves. The diversion enables us to avoid, for a time, the mounting pressure upon us to make the transition to greater spiritual maturing.

The good news that there is more to the Christian life than this often leads to what seems like a conversion experience. John Wesley returned from Georgia a failure as clergyperson, suitor, and Christian. Peter Bohler persuaded him, from Scripture and the experience of acquaintances, that there was more to the faith journey than he yet knew. In that hope Wesley went one night to Aldersgate Street, where his heart was strangely warmed as Luther's "Preface to Romans" was being read. That experience launched Wesley's ministry as the instrument of the evangelical awakening in England and eventual founder of Methodism. It was fitting that Wesley should catch this experience through Luther, for, as a weary monk, Luther had had that same kind of experience in the tower.

In the full flush of the positive side of this transition experience a person supposes that he or she is now really Christian for the first time. That was Wesley's judgment when he recorded the Aldersgate experience. In his subsequent maturing he revised that judgment.40 I am suggesting that the so-called conversion experiences of Wesley and Luther and many others are really transition experiences.

Resurrection Realization

Mark's young man shows us the first step on the positive side of the transition we are describing. In the slough of despond that had enveloped everyone when discipleship collapsed, he had the grace to remember that Jesus had promised something more. On the merest hunch that there might be. more, the young man went out to the cemetery to see if perchance Jesus had escaped being entombed by the collapse of the disciples' dreams. The young man was the first to discover that the tomb was empty. Mark judged that no appearance of the risen Christ was necessary for the faith journey to resume just the empty tomb. Mark offered the empty tomb as a symbol of the faith fact, that when our dreams die, when the life of faith collapses under the weight of illusion, Christ is not consigned to the tomb, nor does the whole structure of faith collapse. Instead, Christ waits beyond the wreckage of our first attempts to follow him to assure us that the most exciting phase of the journey of faith is about to begin. This realization was given to the young man for us all. To come to the point where you realize there is more is to begin to believe in the resurrection. Without that realization no amount of mouthing of Easter confessions counts. To believe in the resurrection is to believe the promise that the risen Christ waits for you beyond discipleship.

To be sure, there were appearances of the risen Lord to the first disciples. Mark's account without those appearances means that for all subsequent generations, what matters is not appearances but the promise. Resurrection promises an experience of the risen Christ in a completely different mode from the one familiar to discipleship. Mark only hints at the new mode with the Baptist's promise that Jesus "will baptize you with the Holy Spirit" (Mark 1:8). The major contribution of the Fourth Gospel and of Luke is that each undertook to display this new mode of faith that succeeds the "following" of discipleship.

John's Mode of the Presence

John related his new mode of Christ's presence directly to the problem posed by the empty tomb. That problem is where and how we may experience the risen Christ when he is no longer visible out there in front of us leading as he did in the days of his flesh. "Blessed are those who have not seen [the risen Lord in objective form] and yet believe" John 20:29) is precisely to the point. By the time that benediction was pronounced, the solution had been given.

In the farewell discourse, beginning at John 13:31 and ending with ch. 17, John's Jesus forced the problem of the mode of his continuing presence on the disciples before it had become an issue for them. In a variety of ways he warned them of his coming absence: "You will seek me; ... so now I say to you `Where I am going you cannot come"' (13:33); "I go to prepare a place for you" (14:2); "I will not leave you desolate" (v. 18); "You heard me say to you `I go away"' (v. 28); "But now I am going to him who sent me" (16:5); "It is to your advantage that I go away" (v. 6); "A little while, and you will see me no more" (v. 16); "I am leaving the world and going to the Father" (v. 28); "And now I am no more in the world" (17:11). The warning of his impending absence triggered the central question for the experience of post-resurrection faith and for the transition we are discovering: "Lord, how is it that you will manifest yourself to us?" (14:22). John's answer is his doctrine of the Paraclete. The Paraclete is the substitute or alternate mode of divine presence filling the void left by Jesus' going away: "The Father ... will give you another Counselor [Paraclete] to be with you for ever" (14:16); "The Counselor [Paraclete] ... whom the Father will send in my name ... will teach you all things (just as Jesus had been teaching them everything], and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you" (v. 26); "When the Counselor [Paraclete] comes, . . . he will bear witness to me" (15:26).

So concentrated is this alternate presence on the things of Jesus that it seems almost to be another Jesus: "The Counselor [Paraclete], . . . whom the Father will send in my name, he will ... bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you.... Peace I leave with you" (14:26-27); and "He will take what is mine and declare it to you" (16:14). Indeed, to live in this presence is the same as to abide in the risen Jesus (15:1-11).

Although functioning as an alter Jesus, the Counselor (Paraclete) is actually the Holy Spirit (14:17, 26). This clarifies the situation. The divine presence that replaces Jesus is another person of the Godhead. The transition from discipleship to life in the Spirit introduces a trinitarian note into the journey of faith. We shall return to trinitarian consciousness as a mark of this transition. The point at hand is that the Spirit's presence as Counselor (Paraclete) solves the problem to faith of the vacancy left by the departure of the Jesus who had led in discipleship, and shifts the life of faith into another mode than "following."

The problem, as John put it, recalls the bereavement at Gethsemane and the heaviness that comes as the discipleship phase wears out. The disciples were troubled and afraid (14:1, 27); they felt desolate (v. 18); they were inclined to defect from faith altogether (16:1); sorrow had filled their hearts (vs. 6, 20, 22); they would weep and lament; and they would scatter in unbelief (v. 32).

The realization that the problem has been overcome allows John, in contrast to the Synoptic presentation, to concentrate on the positive effects of the transition, namely: life (14:6), rejoicing (16:22;17:13), joy (16:20), fullness of joy (15:11; 16:24; 17:13), and peace (14:27; 16:33); coupled with the confidence that nothing that happens in the world can any longer take that joy and peace away (16:22, 33). Now it is possible to continue to believe (14:29; 16:1). In the light of this shift of the focus of faith from Jesus to Spirit in the farewell discourse, we see that the full force of the good news of John's Gospel is experienced not at entrance into discipleship but at transition to life in the Spirit.

The experience of this joy and peace in believing is available only after resurrection realization has dawned upon disciples, for it is the risen Christ who breathes the Spirit on his followers, not the Jesus of the ministry and of discipleship. With that breathing and receiving of the Holy Spirit, discipleship ends and a new phase of faith begins. John portrays it as an advanced phase with special advantages (16:7): new access to truth (vs. 13, 15); heightened intimacy with the Father and with Jesus (14:20, 23; 15:1-11; 16:23, 26; 17:3, 6-8, 21-26); and the prospect of greater effectiveness in mission (14:12, 13, 14; 15:5, 7, 16; 16:8-11).

It is to this experience of transition that John's famous metaphor of the new birth (3:3-8) applies and not to the entrance into discipleship. New birth is the work of the Spirit, and the Spirit was not yet bestowed during the discipleship phase. Even if Nicodemus had understood the need for another birth, he would have had to wait for it until after the resurrection. When the American tradition of evangelism insists on using this metaphor for the entrance to faith, it tends to misrepresent that entrance, to malign people who have already begun the journey of faith as disciples, and to deprive the church of the challenge to mature which the original thrust of the metaphor offers. The greatest blessing of the Christian life comes not at the beginning but in the experience of this transition to life in the Spirit.

The Shift of Locus in Faith Experience

Periodically in the life of the church some author recovers this revolutionary insight and makes it available to others. For example, Henry Scougal's The Life of God in the Soul of Man performed that service for George Whitefield. John Wesley appreciated its point as well and issued an abridged version of the book in 1742. The message continued to be so constantly discovered that a reprint was issued every three years in the eighteenth century. Scougal's thesis: "True religion is a union of the soul with God, a real participation of the divine nature, the very image of God drawn upon the soul," is a fair summary of the shift of locus in faith experience that comes with transition to life in the Spirit 41

We saw how Mark hinted at this shift by relocating the divine presence from the Galilee of Jesus' ministry to the Galilee of the landscape of faith. John described the shift explicitly. In the time of discipleship John's Jesus says, the Spirit "dwells with you," as the power leading Jesus in his ministry. With transition the Spirit "will be in you" (John 14:17). The Counselor (Paraclete) fills the vacuum left when Jesus rose to the Father. The limited energy of a self misguided by illusion drove the life of discipleship. Now the life of faith is driven by the unlimited energy of the Holy Spirit. The raising of consciousness that accompanies this shift of focus is the difference between living as an alienated slave who moves in sheer obedience to commands that a slave has no way of understanding, and living as a friend who works out of understanding sympathy with another friend who explains everything as they go. The slave brings no heart to the task. The friend works from the heart. "No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what the master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you" (15:15).

This change in the quality of relationship inaugurates an intimacy that removes all distance between the believer and God: "We [the Father and Jesus] will come to [believers in transition] and make our home with [them]" (14:23; 17:22). This presence of the Spirit within each believer bringing with it mystical union with the Father and the Son empowers the believer beyond anything that was possible before: "Truly, truly, I say to you, any who believe in me [and this new mode of God's presence] will also do the works that I do; and greater works than these will they do, because I go to the Father" (14:12). This intense intimacy makes possible not only new levels of effectiveness in mission but new levels of holiness in the believer's life. "Sanctify them in the truth" (17:17), which is to say, disciples may now become holy by means of the truth of this new intimacy with divine life to a degree never possible before. The contrast in mood between discipleship faith as a burden to be borne and transition faith which bears one up by the grace of the Comforter-Paraclete justifies the drama in the metaphor of rebirth.

The gift o£ the Spirit provides the second chance that the collapse of discipleship requires. "I have said all this to you to keep you from falling away" (16:1). What keeps the believer from falling out of faith is the relocation of divine presence as Spirit within rather than as historical Jesus out in front. When John portrayed the resurrected Jesus breathing the Spirit upon the defected disciples, he reenacted creation. As Yahweh breathed Spirit into the molded but lifeless body of Adam (Gen. 2:7), the risen Christ breathes life into the bodies discipleship has molded.

The Situation for the Doctrine of the Paraclete

About A.D. 85, Judaism declared Christians heretics and took steps to exclude them from the synagogue. This is obviously the bind that Johannine disciples were in John 9:22; 16:2; 19:38). Under pressure of excommunication some were falling away. The doctrine of the coming of the Spirit presented in the farewell discourse was designed to keep this defection from becoming final (16:1). According to the editor of John 21, the original disciples, representing Johannine Christians, had already "gone fishing," that is, they had dropped out of mission rather than face the pressure of persecution. Just as the arrest and threat of death at the hands of Jewish authorities had brought the discipleship to an end originally, so arrest and threat of death (16:2) were bringing discipleship within the Johannine community to an end. To stay in the journey of faith would require an infusion of new life to transform faith in the face of persecution. The breathing of the Spirit on the disciples by the risen Christ symbolized that revitalizing infusion. The obvious allusion to the act of creating Adam by the breath of God recalls the root meaning of Spirit as breath of life .42 The parallel with Ezekiel's vision of the resuscitation of the dry bones is especially apt (Ezek. 37:5, 9-10). John's community needed to come back to life by means of the Spirit, just as Israel had needed to in Ezekiel's day.

The metaphor of paraclete gave the doctrine of Spirit the shape it needed to meet the judicial process of expulsion, judgment, and persecution. "Paraclete" is a forensic term for the lawyer or counselor who acts for a client on trial .43 Accordingly, the Paraclete was the one who stood up in Jewish court for the disciples under accusation and threat of judgment. Jesus had modeled this counselor role in the case of the man cured of congenital blindness John 9). The cured man stood up for Jesus under examination by the Jews and was cast out for wanting to become a disciple (vs. 27, 34). Then Jesus sought him out, welcomed him to discipleship and rebuked the Pharisees, hence the aptness of the Paraclete as "another" or second counselor (14:16). The courtroom context for the metaphor is confirmed by John's picture of the Paraclete turning the tables on the world as it brings Johannine Christians to trial, accusing and convicting those who had brought the charges in the first place (16:8-11) just as Jesus had done for the. cured blind man. Jesus' action on behalf of the blind man showed the Paraclete not merely in a defensive role but taking the initiative to support and vindicate Jesus' own, whatever their fate in court. Thus the idea of Paraclete includes mediator, intercessor, and helper, as well as advocate or counselor .44 Provision of this supporting, empowering role by the Paraclete enabled

Luke's Version of Transition to Spirit

Luke too developed his form of transition to Spirit with reference to Judaism and mission. The book of Acts show 0as representative missioners of the early church beginning with Stephen and ending with Paul. Each took the gospel first to the synagogue, experienced rejection, and then moved out to the Gentiles. In Acts the Jews continually blocked the missionary activity of the church by attempting to take its representatives into custody, whereupon the Roman government would step in to offer protection. The church's strategy was to claim legitimacy as Jews before Rome in spite of rejection by Jewish edict. This strategy worked until the end of Domitian's reign, when, in A.D. 96, legal status as Jews was withdrawn from the church. In the period between 85 and 96, Luke argued that the church was the true Israel because it was observant (this was expressed decisively by the edict of the Council of Jerusalem), but even more because it had received the eschatological promise of the Spirit Joel 2:28-32; Acts 2:17-21).

To define the church as eschatological Israel and not merely as observant Israel, Luke transformed Pentecost, the Jewish festival to commemorate the giving of the Law, into a commemoration of the giving of the Spirit. When Luke argued for the true Israel as the eschatological community of the Spirit, he declared in effect that discipleship was a preliminary and incomplete expression of faith. During the ministry, Jesus, not the disciples, had the Spirit, and therefore disciples only qualified as the true Israel after they received the Spirit at Pentecost (Luke 4:16ff.; Isa. 61:1-2).

By Luke's time the political illusion of discipleship characteristic of Mark's time had been dispelled by Roman victory in A.D. 70. The illusion that clouded discipleship in Luke's day was an apocalyptic one, namely, that since the time was so short and the kingdom so near, the eschatological community of the Spirit did not need to take bodily existence and historical tasks seriously. In particular, disciples felt free of the obligation to continue in mission. Luke countered withdrawal from bodily existence with the blatantly bodily quality of Jesus' resurrection -- `See my hands and my feet, that it is I myself; handle me, and see; for a spirit has not flesh and bones as you see that I have" (Luke 24:39). Apocalyptic withdrawal was corrected by rejecting immediate expectation of the end (21:8b; Acts 1:6-7) and by substituting mission in the power of the Spirit for idle curiosity as to the time of the end (Acts 1:7-8).

In the light of this situation Luke made three major points in his portrayal of Pentecost. First, the Spirit was really given to all the followers of Jesus, marking them as the true, eschatological Israel. Any followers of Jesus or of John the Baptist who had not received the Spirit were still living the obsolete life of the old Israel which had only the Law and the historical Jesus, but not the eschatological gift of Spirit. Secondly, although the Spirit was indeed an eschatological gift, Spirit was only available on condition that the new Israel reject preoccupying concern for the end and commit itself to mission (Acts 1:8).

Thirdly, Luke meant the tongues of Pentecost to be real foreign languages rather than the ecstatic speech of glossolalia. The commitment to mission is the point of the real foreign languages at Pentecost when bystanders "from every nation under heaven" heard the people speaking in different languages, telling in their own tongue "the mighty works of God" (Acts 2:5-6, 11). Luke's presentation of speaking in tongues as speaking real foreign languages confirmed the missionary thrust of life in the Spirit. What world mission needs is foreign languages, not ecstatic babble. It also guarded against the unearthly spirituality of withdrawal from common life that glossolalia tended to induce. Most probably the presentation of real Berlitz type languages and a flesh-and-bones, hungry and lunching risen Christ were both directed against the temptation to equate the life of faith with esoteric experiences in withdrawal from the real world.

Luke took such care in explaining the manner and content of the speaking "in other tongues" that it is hard to resist the conclusion that he was fending off a Corinthian-like version of that experience. Jesus in the incident in the synagogue at Nazareth modeled what Luke intended speaking in the Spirit to mean. Following the lesson from Isaiah that the Spirit had anointed him to act in the role of a prophet to "preach good news" (Luke 4:18; Isa. 61:1), Jesus sat down to do just that in the plain language of the synagogue. In volume two Luke used Joel to explain the anointing with Spirit to the same purpose. Joel specified that the Spirit was given for prophecy: "I will pour out my Spirit; and they shall prophesy" (Acts 2:18; Joel 2:28). That is exactly what each recipient of the Spirit does at Pentecost: "telling [in plain language] ... the mighty works of God" (Acts 2:4) by recounting "the sending and exaltation of Jesus "45 Peter's address filled out the meaning. Both the rank and file of Christians at Pentecost and Peter, the apostle, illustrate the eschatological gift of the Spirit as the plain-language preaching that Joel had foretold.

Luke's lesson that the Spirit is a gift for proclamation is reinforced by the other two occasions in Acts where speaking in tongues is reported. At Acts 10:46, Luke used a variation of the same expressions found in 2:11 alongside "speaking in tongues," so that prophesying in a foreign language is most probably meant again .46 Peter's companions from Joppa in a multilingual society would presumably have recognized other languages than their own. It is clear in the explanatory comment "and extolling God" that what was being said was understandable. Only plain language would have let them know that God was being praised. Luke used the same word to introduce the sublimely clear Magnificat of Mary's praise (Luke 1:46).

There is no doubt what Luke meant at Acts 19:6: "The Holy Spirit came on them; and they spoke with tongues and prophesied." Here the pattern prescribed in Joel and explained at Pentecost reoccurs. "And prophesied" stands in apposition with "spoke with tongues," explaining the contents of the speaking. Luke had found an ingenious way to follow Paul's advice to the Corinthians of permitting speaking in tongues but urging pursuit of the higher gift of prophecy by simply combining the two into a single giftl

I have taken such care to define what this one striking manifestation of Spirit was in Luke's church in order to show that Luke's portrayal of transition to Spirit does not support the interpretation imposed upon him by Pentecostalism and by some charismatics. The book of Acts does not recognize glossolalia as an indispensable mark of spiritual maturing. Quite the opposite-Pentecost meant that transition to Spirit calls the maturing disciple to serve the mission of the church to the whole world by proclamation in all its languages. Luke meant to displace the unintelligible speaking we know from Corinth.

There are no New Testament texts that justify Pentecostal or charismatic gatherings where many people speak in tongues without interpretation. Luke meant to discourage such by his portrayal of Pentecost. In this he carried out the spirit of Paul's regulations whereby at most two or three speak in tongues and then only when someone interprets for each (I Cor. 14:27-28). Neither Luke's record of Pentecost nor any other New Testament text justifies mass glossolalia. Such practice comes from the spirit of worldly culture, not from the Holy Spirit.

There were other aspects of the experience of transition to Spirit that Luke wished to emphasize. The experience of the Spirit is the climactic aim of all prayer (Luke 11:13; Acts 1:14). Experience of Spirit binds believers together as a community of love (Acts 2:43-47). Experience of Spirit provides such transforming intimacy with God in Christ that seeing the glory of God, the believer is effective in witness and unshakable in persecution (7:54-60).47 The Spirit accounts for making joy and praise the dominant moods of the Christian life (2:47; 3:8-9; 4:21; 5:41; 13:52). But one cannot do justice to post-Pentecostal life in Luke's church by listing its features. The experience of that church under the power and leading of the Spirit is actually an interconnected whole in which repentance, faith, prayer, baptism, the Lord's Supper, communal meals, laying on of hands, interpreting Scripture, speaking in foreign languages for proclamation, guidance in mission by the Spirit, and shared life in the church each has a place. I have space to pick out only what applies particularly to a scheme of the faith journey.

As a transition beyond the conditions of discipleship the most important thing to observe is how the Spirit makes up for the loss of the role that Jesus played in the life of the disciples. To emphasize the transition to a new situation Luke alone gives us the forty-day interval between resurrection and ascension. That, coupled with the scene of ascension, again only in Luke, dramatized the absence of Jesus and the need for an alternate form of divine presence for the life of faith. By virtue of Pentecost, the Spirit now led and empowered believers in the same way that Jesus had led and empowered them by his presence (Luke 4:14, 18, 19). In the time of the Spirit, disciples who formerly followed Jesus' leading are led by the Spirit instead.

Discipleship, as a following of Jesus moving on ahead, no longer fit the circumstances. The Spirit, not Jesus, now points the way, not from up ahead, but by prompting from within. Luke continued to use the disciple metaphor. For the purposes of our sketch of the Christian life, however, a shift in terminology helps us note the need to change our orientation to God in order to tap the new mode of divine presence. Luke's continuing use of "disciple" for the post-Pentecost Christian, of course, justifies that same usageSpirit accounts for making joy and praise the dominant moods of the Christian life (2:47; 3:8-9; 4:21; 5:41; 13:52). But one cannot do justice to post-Pentecostal life in Luke's church by listing its features. The experience of that church under the power and leading of the Spirit is actually an interconnected whole in which repentance, faith, prayer, baptism, the Lord's Supper, communal meals, laying on of hands, interpreting Scripture, speaking in foreign languages for proclamation, guidance in mission by the Spirit, and shared life in the church each has a place. I have space to pick out only what applies particularly to a scheme of the faith journey.

As a transition beyond the conditions of discipleship the most important thing to observe is how the Spirit makes up for the loss of the role that Jesus played in the life of the disciples. To emphasize the transition to a new situation Luke alone gives us the forty-day interval between resurrection and ascension. That, coupled with the scene of ascension, again only in Luke, dramatized the absence of Jesus and the need for an alternate form of divine presence for the life of faith. By virtue of Pentecost, the Spirit now led and empowered believers in the same way that Jesus had led and empowered them by his presence (Luke 4:14, 18, 19). In the time of the Spirit, disciples who formerly followed Jesus' leading are led by the Spirit instead.

Discipleship, as a following of Jesus moving on ahead, no longer fit the circumstances. The Spirit, not Jesus, now points the way, not from up ahead, but by prompting from within. Luke continued to use the disciple metaphor. For the purposes of our sketch of the Christian life, however, a shift in terminology helps us note the need to change our orientation to God in order to tap the new mode of divine presence. Luke's continuing use of "disciple" for the post-Pentecost Christian, of course, justifies that same usage today. Those who prefer Luke's scheme will need to take Lucan pains to show the difference between life ante-Pentecost and post-Pentecost.

In Luke, the church's special term for Christianity is "the Way" (Acts 9:2; 19:9; 22:4; 24:22). While Luke does use the expressions "way of God" and "way of the Lord" (18:25-26), the prominence he gives to the role of the Spirit would suggest strongly that "way of the Spirit" or "the journey of faith led by the Spirit" would be the most appropriate paraphrases. As commentators frequently suggest, the book would be aptly named "The Acts of the Holy Spirit." At crucial times on the unfolding way of the early church, the Spirit calls the turn (8:29; 11:12; 13:2; 16:6, 7; 1921).

These dramatic leadings at forks in "the Way" imply that all along the church was being led and empowered by the Spirit whether that was reported explicitly or not. Jesus' baptism in Spirit as he began his Galilean ministry provided the underlying assumption of his whole ministry. Occasionally the empowering Spirit surfaced, as in the challenge to his exorcisms, when refusing to acknowledge the power of the Spirit in them amounts to the unforgivable sin.

The Spirit of Mission

Luke's major contribution to our understanding of transition into life' in the Spirit is to put that experience in service of mission. The point of the coming of the Spirit into the church's life is not to provide some rush of feeling of fulfillment, but to launch believers into a particular Way of life. The Way is what occupies the attention, not the emotional overtones. Above all, where the Way leads is what counts. Luke said, "Look to the ends of the earth." Discipleship amounted to a pilgrimage for the grail of upward mobility. With that preoccupation disposed of, the faith journey turns into a missionary journey.

Pentecost certainly was a dramatic experience for its participants, but to center one's attention on the experience per se would be to substitute another distracting illusion for the ones given up in discipleship. Transition in Spirit draws us into a way of life, not just into one more conversionlike experience. The risk in any discussion of experience of Spirit is the tendency to seek the experience for its own sake. I can only grieve that most exegetes still represent Luke as continuing to foster ecstasy as the mark of the Spirit's coming when Luke substituted foreign languages for "tongues" to dispel that distraction. A survey of Spirit experiences in the New Testament forces me to conclude that "speaking in tongues" in a Corinthian sense had not worn well in the church since Paul, and that Luke offered the next generation, and offers ours, a compelling alternative. Transition to life in the Spirit is transition to a life empowered for missionary engagement-never to a life preoccupied with religious experiences. As we shall see, Paul, who endorsed Corinthian tongue-speaking, had a way of setting the context that put tongues in the service of mission. In fact, Paul is our best New Testament witness to the inner quality of life in the Spirit. What John promised and hinted at in the farewell discourse and what Luke described as a somewhat impersonal power in Acts, Paul described in terms of intimate personal relationship.

The source of Luke's doctrine of Spirit was the Old Testament idea of Spirit as special additional equipment for carrying out particular tasks. Luke's major variation on that idea was that all believers now have this special equipment, not just heroic figures with special commissions. Luke thought of that special equipment as a supplement to faith. In Acts it was possible to believe and not have the Spirit.

Spirit Intimacy in Paul

Nothing epitomized Paul's view of life in the Spirit as new intimacy with God as much as did prayer in the Spirit. Its most dramatic form was speaking in tongues. In Pauline congregations a more accurate expression would be "praying in tongues," for this is what was taking place (I Cor. 14:13-16). The Spirit supplies a heavenly prayer language, different from any of the languages available in the world. Even the person who is praying may not understand. In a deeply moving and faith-confirming way God assures the praying charismatic not only that the prayer is being heard but that it is being supplied as well. As a consequence the believer feels caught up into the awesome intimacy that flows eternally within the Trinity themselves. The praise, thanksgiving, and adoration being offered and received are too deep for ordinary words. This being caught up into intratriune intimacy is calculated to wean us away from preoccupation with self in order to allow Christ to occupy our consciousness.

Pentecostals and charismatics tend to overplay Spirit-generated prayer in the form of mysterious language. Paul offered Spirit-generated prayer in other forms as well. One form is simply nonverbal. The Spirit intercedes for us in sighs too deep for words (Rom. 8:26), what we now call meditative or silent prayer. The other form is in the ordinary language of intimacy, such as, "Abbal Fatherl" (Rom. 8:15).

In every case, with or without intelligible language, every form of prayer in the Spirit begins from the basic premises that we are "led by the Spirit of God" (Rom. 8:14) and that "we do not know how to pray as we ought" (Rom. 8:26). How different this is from the disciples' prayer in which we are taught to bring any petition we wish (Mark 11:24; Matt. 7:7-11). The puzzle of this carte blanche prayer is solved by the missing element of the Spirit's role in generating prayer. John's version of that same saying included the role of Spirit. "If you abide in me [in the Spirit], and my words abide in you [supplied by the Spirit], ask whatever you will, and it shall be done for you" John 15:7). All open invitations to prayer in the Gospels assume the conditions John states. Silent prayer, constant prayer (I Thess. 5:17), and intercessory prayer all begin to make sense when we come to realize that the Spirit catches the believer up into a cycle of divine overture and response which the Spirit herself generates.48.This experience of Spirit in prayer is the ultimate expression of the relocation of divine life within the believer that is such a prominent feature of the life in Spirit phase.

Holy Spirit -- The Feminine Side of God

The feminine side of God finally comes to the fore in the experience of Spirit. Intimacy requires an "other" to complete the relationship or else intimacy collapses into sheer subjectivity. The form of this divine other does not derive from the Spirit. The Spirit is in herself formless. In the experience of Spirit intimacy, the form is Christ's. Paul says, "I am again in travail until Christ be formed in you!" (Gal. 4:19), not until the Spirit be formed in you. The Spirit is content to be completely self-effacing, so that the face we behold in the process of our transformation is the face of the Christ, not of the Spirit. Therefore in our sanctification we experience the Spirit as "Spirit of the Lord"; indeed in such face-to-face encounter "the Lord is the Spirit" (II Cor. 3:15-18). This self-effacing deference displays the metasexual role of "she" which I suggest we associate with Spirit.

This self-effacing and intensely intimate quality of life in the Spirit calls for associating the feminine aspect of Trinity with Spirit. The more we learn about the maturing adult, the more we come to realize that all of us, whether physically male or female, have the capacity to exercise both masculine and feminine traits. Men and women who open themselves to a total experience of personhood are on their way to greater maturity. Openness to this transsexual, bipolar exploration of life means freedom from the rigid truncation of life that the cultural definition of sexual roles lays upon us all. Jürgen Moltmann has pointed out that one amazing ramification of Christianity's peculiar doctrine of the Trinity is the way it transcends the patriarchalism implicit in Jewish monotheism as well as the matriarchalism implicit in pagan pantheism.49 Using sexual terms in a metasexual rather than a literal, genital, and bodily sense, the feminine dimension of personality refers to the receptive, passive, self-effacing, care-receiving capacity in us all that contrasts with the initiating, aggressive, self-assertive, self-sufficient traits we associate with the masculine dimension. In conventional parenting, from which our paradigm arises, the female supports programs, designs, and goals for family life set by male initiative. The mother supports and nourishes children unconditionally, while the father conditions his support on performance. The traits our culture assigns to the female side of life have bodily correlations in the acts of fertilization, childbearing, and nursing

In the discipleship period God is experienced mainly as male. Favor is conditioned on obedience. This call for obedience in turn generates a masculinelike initiative taking and self-reliance on the part of the believer. But that is not the whole story. Even within discipleship, the limits of conventional masculinity in God are threatened, anticipating a shift. The father in the parable of the prodigal son acted more like a mother in receiving back so wayward a child unconditionally. Remember how the father in the parable "had compassion and ran and embraced him and kissed" the son before there was any chance for him to test the son for signs of repentance.

Too little notice has been taken of this unconventional father of Jesus' teaching, but Moltmann finds one excellent example. The Council of Toledo of 675 attributed a feminine side to God. In explaining the procession of the Son from the Father both as a begetting and a birth, it included a motherly role for the Father. "It must be held that the Son was created, neither out of nothingness nor yet out of any substance, but that He was begotten or born out of the Father's womb, that is, out of his very essense."50 This expansion of our appreciation of God to include feminine dimensions, even when God is called "Father," points to a comparable expansion of the dimensions of the life of the believer opened to Spirit.

Holy Spirit -- The Feminine Side of the Life of Faith

The receiving of the Holy Spirit adds the feminine dimension to the life of faith that discipleship overlooks. Until the Spirit's coming, discipleship has been predominantly a masculine response. In it we create a life of faith to offer to God as our achievement. We take the initiative to satisfy the conditions placed upon us, however costly. We generate images of a conquering kingdom with a masterful messiah to match. In short, disciples act out masculine traits. The transition to Spirit finds disciples, worn out by these masculine efforts, ready to receive the life we had hoped to generate ourselves. The idea of the Council of Toledo has a counterpart for faith experience. The Spirit provides a nesting place in each believer for the growth of the divine life. Transition to life in the Spirit is a kind of faith pregnancy in the course of which Christ is formed in each of us (Gal. 4:19). The righteousness we had hoped to achieve as disciples grows and kicks within us. We stop generating long-range plans and strategies for God and the kingdom. We relinquish the grand strategy to God and content ourselves with knowing the course one day at a time. Not sure where the course leads, we settle for love and patience over knowledge. Satisfied with a life of adoring gratitude to God for this intimacy, we permit ourselves to enjoy the company along the Way. In short, we act out feminine traits. This does not mean that we drop the masculine side of the life of faith. From now on it will not be either masculine or feminine but will be both. In the world to which we are propelled in mission we will seem predominantly masculine, but in our relationship with God we will seem predominantly feminine. Because the coming of the Spirit opens up this feminine side of the life of faith, I have spoken of Spirit as "she." The Spirit is feminine in the Hebrew Old Testament. She became neuter in the shift to the Greek of the New Testament. Reflection on the effects of Spirit on the life of faith helps us to undo this linguistic neutering. We need to honor the Spirit's deferring to Christ in order to come to the heart of the experience of transition to Spirit.

The Face of the Crucified One

The face of the Christ who is formed in us in the Spirit womb is the face of the crucified One. That face transforms us as we come to realize that the act of crucifixion was not just a judgment upon discipleship illusions, but a declaration of God's love as well. As disciples we may have confessed this by mouth before but never savored it in our hearts. Why? Until we experience the collapse of religious self-confidence and detect the alienation from God's true purposes brought on by macho religious consciousness, we have no real sense of the deep tragedy to which our religiosity contributes. Until we experience some degree of our own dereliction from the will of God even while we repeat petitions such as "Thy will be done," we cannot sympathize with Jesus' own cry of dereliction. Without ever knowing quite why it works this way, we only know that we, who ought to be abandoned by God for our perverse misreading of God's reign, never will be because Jesus was abandoned in our stead. So we find that just when we have forfeited all claim to acceptance, the eternally feminine God has found a way to accept us nevertheless.

The dawning realization of so great a love begins to effect the lifelong process of transformation that is life in the Spirit. It was Wesley's basking in the new light of this feminine love of God and sensing its promise of continuing transformation that warmed his heart at Aldersgate. But one has to have experienced the demolition of the masculine house of self, built on the sands of an achieved righteousness, before there is any possibility in one's own life of the atonement becoming relevant, let alone transforming. The fiasco of Wesley's ministry in Georgia, the collapse of his courtship, and the fear of death on the voyage home all conspired to unlock the feminine receptivity masked by Wesley, the disciplined masculine and accomplished athlete of the religious life. All those turned him feminine and receptive to life in the Spirit.

The thing that makes the transition to life in the Spirit so difficult to entertain is the religious resistance to it that we have built into our lives all during the discipleship period. We ground the illusions that flaw our lives with elaborate biblical theological rationalizations. Consequently we live out these illusions with a good conscience. Should someone challenge these illusions, we imagine ourselves in the role of a heroic confessor, another Luther crying out, "Here I stand. I can, God helping me, do no other," when all the while God is trying to help us get beyond the position we so heroically espouse. For most of us it takes a collapse something like Wesley's to undermine our carefully constructed theological rationalizations. Seriously religious nuts are the toughest ones to crack, therefore the trauma of Gethsemane, the bitter tears of Peter, and the leveling of Paul into the dust of the road to Damascus. When we finally do crack, we are ready for one last feminine form of dependence.

Led by the Spirit

Stripped of religious rationalization and accomplishments, we are ready for the first time to be led in life by the Spirit rather than continuing to lead our own lives. The Spirit's leading introduced the Christian phase of redemptive history. Immediately upon Jesus' baptism with the Holy Spirit, the first and archetypical action of the Spirit was to lead him:' "Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness" (Matt. 4:1; c£ Luke 4:1; Mark 1:12"The Spirit ... drove him . . . "). For the sake of the narrative, Jesus becomes the active agent after the temptation-"Jesus came into Galilee" (Mark), "withdrew into Galilee" (Matthew), or "returned in the power of the Spirit into Galilee" (Luke). But as Luke's "in the power of the Spirit" suggests, the continuing assumption of all the Evangelists was that Jesus was being led by the Spirit throughout the ministry.

Paul carried this crucial assumption about life in the Spirit over from Jesus to all believers: "For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God" (Rom. 8:14; c£ Gal. 5:18).51 We have already noted this leading at the crucial turning points of the church's mission in Acts. The Spirit's leading works through prayer in the Spirit. The context is individual, "Abba"-intimacy and churchly community in ultimate commitment to mission. Under these conditions God gives direction for mission. In this phase of the faith journey one adds an expectation of personal, direct communication from God to the disciple practice of hearing and obeying the Jesus tradition. A major task of this phase is to grow accustomed to what Thomas Kelly called "inner guidance and whispered promptings of encouragement from the Center of our life.52 The Imitation of Christ called it "the pulse of the divine whisper."

Risky as subjective leading may seem to the disciple accustomed to the more objective orientation of Jesus' teaching and example, this is the way maturing lies. Until we overcome our resistance to it and practice it to the point of being comfortably confident of the Spirit's guidance, our spiritual lives stay on "hold." We gain confidence in our reading of the promptings of the Spirit as we risk "practicing the presence of God.".53 A certain amount of trial and error is inevitable. It helps to avoid injury to ourselves and to others if we practice with a safety harness tended by a spiritual friend or director over the safety net of the church's counsel and tradition. People who wish to perform the high-flying routines of life in the Spirit without such aids reveal that they are still in the grip of self-reliant individualism so characteristic of discipleship

We are talking about what is sometimes called the mystical dimension of the faith journey. It is more apt to speak of the dimension of intimacy. Mysticism connotes religious eccentricity. Within the tradition of biblical and trinitarian Christianity it would be eccentric not to come to be on intimate terms with God. That is what the gospel eventually invites and requires. Only within this intimacy does the life of faith receive the emotional energy and concrete guidance required to move beyond childhood to maturing. Without this intimacy and guidance, not only will our spiritual growth stop but sooner or later, religiously speaking, we will display the bizarre behavior of the emotionally deprived. The spiritually deprived missionary becomes a stunt man or woman bent on getting God and neighbor's attention by outrageous gestures of sin or sanctity, deep plunges of doubt, or Icarian flights of faith. In terms of classic temptations it is the dream of hang gliding from the pinnacle of the Temple


Transition to life in the Spirit entails three major moves. First, it entails an acute consciousness of the worldly illusion that dominated our discipleship and a turning from the religious selves constructed upon them. This is modeled in Gethsemane. Secondly, it entails acceptance of the forgiveness made possible in the crucifixion. The offer of forgiveness through the cross is accepted in partaking of the Lord's Supper in the light of the guarantee of the resurrection. Thirdly, the departure of the risen Christ opens the way to fresh intimacy through the gift of the Spirit. In this new intimacy the support and direction that mission requires become the common everyday experience of one who practices the presence of God.

To make the transition, some ruling misconception about the religious life must be given up. In Mark it was that the kingdom would come as a political takeover through holy war, with the spoils of victory as reward. In Matthew it was the hope that by keeping the will of God in the scaled-down version being codified by the Pharisaic court at Jamnia one could earn eternal life. In Luke it was the temptation to withdraw from mission to the world on the basis of a docetic Christology and calculation of an early restoration of the kingdom to the new Israel in an apocalyptic act. In John it was fear of rejection and reprisal by Judaism for continuing to adapt the Christian tradition to Hellenistic pluralism for missionary purposes.

I have argued that it is important to distinguish the phase of life in the Spirit from the phase of discipleship even though we are used to equating discipleship with the whole of the Christian life. Discipleship as I am defining it is that phase of the Christian life when Christ is experienced primarily as a figure of the past who continues among us in his teachings and example. The essential. mode of contact with him is to remember. God, the Father, in this mode of piety is at an austere distance "in heaven," although at work in the world in mysterious providential ways. The particulars of that providence remain shrouded in mystery. Just as mysteriously, this remote God intervenes in life to answer prayers of petition that do sustain our lives in the particulars of bread and forgiveness in the measure we trust him and repent of our sins. We experience God the Father remote in spatial terms just as we experience Jesus remote in time. The genius of the transition I am pointing to is that both God as Father and Jesus as Son now draw near and by taking up residence within us become involved in prompting, teaching, and empowering us from the center of our lives. God, as Father and Son, experienced as intimately engaged for missionary ends is the experience of God as Holy Spirit.

The experience of Spirit as I have portrayed it differs from the version offered in Pentecostalism and the charismatic movement. I have appended an extended note on tongues for those whose ministry calls for care of charismatics and Pentecostals. (See Appendix L)

The Continuation of Discipleship

Phase theory dictates that no previous phase is ever left completely behind as we move to more mature phases. The new phase includes all that was valid in the previous phase and depends on it as the ground of every advance the new phase presents. Two elements in discipleship that become obsolete are concentration on the historical Jesus as Messiah and the illusion of upward mobility which clouds the kingdom his Messiahship serves. Once the historical Jesus is displaced by the risen Christ encountering us in experience of Holy Spirit and the kingdom is disengaged from every worldly dream, the whole body of the Synoptic tradition takes on transformed significance. The Spirit loosens that tradition from its confinement to the first century and applies it to the fresh circumstances of our day. The lessons of the Lord's Prayer become fresh realities for us as we cease to strive to make them come true by our own efforts and accept them as gifts of Christ in the Spirit instead. For example, we continue to be forgiven daily but with less lingering regret that we had not done better. We continue to ask for daily bread but with less anxiety about how much we must do first before accepting any "free lunch." We hallow God's name by confusing it less with human parenting figures who conditioned their care for us on the standing we had earned by our performance. In short, we are enabled by the Spirit to penetrate the cover of the historical Jesus, disclosing the splendid, transforming face of the crucified and risen Christ. The Synoptic tradition continues to ground the life of Christians in every subsequent phase as the risen Christ shares the Spirit with former followers who may now have the same energy they observed in Jesus but could not yet share.

Implications of Transition to Spirit for Clergy

I think it fair to say that the theological education of the vast majority of clergy will have prepared them to recognize some familiar doctrinal themes in the above exposition but little that is familiar to their experience. We are all victims of the way theology has been done in the West since the split with Eastern Orthodoxy. When they chose to put the experience of Spirit at the center of their theological task, we chose to put rational, doctrinal reflection at the center instead. The result has been massive neglect of the experience of the Holy Spirit in the training of Western theologians, Catholic and Protestant. Protestants have suffered most since we have no lively tradition of spiritual theology. The only comparable attention to experience in Protestant seminaries has been clinical pastoral education, but it sets experience in the context of a psychology of the self rather than in the context of a theology of the Holy Spirit. Protestants are just now beginning to catch up to Catholics by adding seminary courses in spiritual formation and by mounting continuing education programs for preparation of spiritual directors. These efforts are too late or too unavailable for most of us. Clergy will have to band together to teach themselves. The times call for a massive effort of remedial theological education for the clergy of the West. Only by coming to terms with an experience of Spirit of their own do clergy have a ghost of a chance to fulfill their calling. Every layer of the New Testament testifies that the ministry of the church is conducted by the Holy Spirit. Clergy may have a share in that ministry in the measure that we fall in with the movement of the Spirit. Until we do, the ministry of clergy and laity alike will mainly be spinning of institutional wheels.

We saw at the end of Chapter 2 how the forsaking of the eschatology of career is the beginning of readiness for ministry in the Spirit. To begin there means readiness to accept a call or appointment to a particular post solely on the basis of the missionary task it represents under the prompting of the Spirit. To be open for this means to have learned the lesson of discipleship to the point that God must be trusted to provide support for the standard of living appropriate to our families. It seems we cannot break with one of Hoge's big three without jettisoning the other two. Probably that will mean staying longer in small parishes that worship in buildings with low steeples. We shall agree to career moves only with the sure confidence that they are the leading of the Holy Spirit. For most of us that will take much greater sensitivity to the prompting of the Spirit than we now possess. Assuming a first degree from the school of discipleship, we shall now have to add continuing education in the school of the Spirit.

I continued my education by reading Douglas V. Steere's Prayer and Worship in connection with the rich and convenient sampling of devotional classics found in a pack of pamphlets issued by the Upper Room called Living Selections from Devotional Classics. From them I have been led to works of Thomas Kelly, John Woolman, and William Temple. You will find your own way from there. It is catchingl In the vein of spiritual direction, Kenneth Leech's Soul Friend sets the stage. I plan next to go on to Baron Friedrich von Hugel's classic, The Mystical Element of Religion. Morton Kelsey's The Other Side of Silence serves notice that we shall have to imagine a spectrum of approaches to Spirit sensitivity to allow for varieties of temperament and personality.

This is merely a hint of the record of my prompting toward ministry in Spirit. Dip anywhere into the vast but neglected library of devotional literature and the way opens of itself. I suspect we shall be building shelves in our studies to accommodate a devotional collection nearly equal to the rational collection we were trained to accumulate.

To this budding understanding of experience of the Holy Spirit we shall need to add a laboratory component. This calls for a radical reordering of our lives. To go to school with the Spirit we must set aside twenty or thirty minutes of prime time morning and/or evening to put ourselves at the disposal of the Spirit in prayer. Without this provision for basking in the Spirit's presence, we shall never cultivate the sensitivity to the Spirit's prompting that authentic ministry requires. In the 1960s my interest in Zen finally led to the same conclusion. After several years of approaching Zen as a philosophy to be studied, I chanced upon a master whose observation almost induced satori. The insight was: Zen is sitting. For those of us in the West who have approached Christianity as if it were a philosophical system to be learned it is high time we came to a similar conclusion. Christianity is praying. For us to get on with our spiritual maturing, faith must become a waiting and listening alertly for the breeze of the Spirit. We shall become fully Christian in the measure we fall in with the movement of the ongoing ministry of the Holy Spirit. The first two phases of the Christian life suggest an agenda for this praying.

Step one is to consider the lilies of the field. The free-floating and unresolved anxieties connected with family, career, and standard of living must all be identified and eased from our shoulders on to those of Christ. We labor and are heavy laden under the yoke of these anxieties until Christ relieves us and we find his yoke easy and his burden light. There is no shirking of our responsibility here. We will be directed to work for which there is compensation. Resolution of anxiety comes when we attend to the work and trust God for the level of compensation.

Attending to that work is the second step. Now we discover or reaffirm the focus of our calling by retracing the Damascus road of our own call to a particular ministry. Krister Stendahl is quite right in Paul Among Jews and Gentiles. Paul's Damascus road experience was a call to a particular ministry rather than a conversion. Its major effect was that Paul came to realize that, from his mother's womb, his destiny was the mission to the Gentiles-a good thing too, for he was a "bust" among the Jews. Clarity about who our "Gentiles" are would deliver us from the clerical equivalent of the "Peter principle." Without this clear targeting by the Spirit, we find ourselves accepting appointments or calls among people with whom we are not particularly comfortable, for whom we do not particularly care, and to whom we do not have anything special to say. Paul loved his Gentiles more than livelihood, went to any lengths to serve them, and found his message for them constantly expanding and deepening in its appreciation of what God had done for their salvation in Christ. As a result of listening for this focus we shall either relocate or settle in contentedly where we are to discover over time what the Spirit is up to among our people.

Most of us are too busy inventing ministry and fretting over its outcome to realize that the Spirit has been concerned for our people and conducting a ministry among them long before we arrived and will continue to do so long after we have gone. The name of the game is not thinking up ministry where we are but listening for what the Spirit has in mind. We are to look to the mind of Christ rather than the mind-set of clergy preoccupied with ministry to an institution.

Ultimately the ministry belongs to the laity. The site of their ministry is not the institution but the house where they live, the place where they work, and the political communities represented on the ballots in their voting booths. The Spirit is encouraging them to minister there. Our task as clergy is to see how the Spirit is imagining using the institution to make their ministries beyond the institution more effective. Once we get in the spirit of that ministry I am confident that the Spirit will rise to become a trade wind of strategy, tactics, and programs filling the sails of all our ministries.

There is one final agenda item for our praying. It does not really fit within an order of prayer, since it hangs like a cloud over the whole order until it gets some measure of resolution. It will continue to be a constant presence even then. I am speaking of the chronic weakness or failing we all discover in ourselves after wrestling with God in our gardens of Gethsemane. The discipleship phase collapses largely because of this weakness. We must identify it and learn to live with it in the Spirit in order to mature into useful vessels of graceful ministry. If you are unaware of your weakness, you are not yet into the transition we are discussing. No one wrestles all night with God without limping in the morning and ever after. The weakness may be associated with failings or strengths. Paul had both kinds. It is revealing that he picked "coveting" as his example in Romans 7. Did he covet the authority of recognized apostles like Peter? But Christ delivered him from that failing, according to Romans 8. That was not his chronic weakness. His chronic weakness was one that played off of his strength. He was chronically disposed to exalt himself because of the privileged revelations he received. Paul never outgrew this tendency to pride and arrogance. Accordingly, he was given a chronic illness to keep him reminded of his chronic disposition to hubris. "To keep me from being too elated by the abundance of revelations, a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan, to harass me, to keep me from being too elated" (II Cor. 12:7).

A Catholic priest charged with the care of clergy once generalized that in his experience the two major pitfalls among his charges were "Punch and Judy." I find their appeal ecumenical. For Protestant clergy I would add careerism and the star consciousness that waits in the wings to seize preachers with good communication skills.

There is really no need for a catalog of clerical vices. All experienced clergy will know only too well the Achilles tendon that snapped, thus hobbling effective ministry just when they were hitting their stride. For long-standing weaknesses of which you are acutely aware, two responses will be appropriate. First, give up imagining that you will ever be cured of this weakness so that it will no longer dog your life. Second, settle down to live with your weakness the way an alcoholic does with alcoholism. Expect to need strengthening a day at a time for the rest of your life. People who live in the Spirit live with the consciousness of weakness. The comfort is that when we are weak, then and only then are we strong. Actually, it is a relief to be rid of the consciousness of strength.

Chronic weakness is likely to draw long-standing guilt in its train. If we are unable to throw off the pall of this guilt using the ordinary means of grace, it is time to seek out a spiritual director. He or she must be someone who, hearing the full confession of our weakness and accepting it, is likely to become the vehicle for our hearing Christ say, "Neither do I condemn you; go, and do not sin again." With guilt behind us and confidence in the power of the Spirit of Christ to sustain us in the future, we have set our feet on the path that leads to maturing in church and in mission -- the third and culminating phase of the Christian life.


Notes (Notes 1- 38 are in Chapters One and Two)


39. Conway, Men in Mid-Life Crisis, Ch. 10, "The Affair," and Ch. 11, "Escaping the Affair."

40. In a footnote of the 1797 edition of his Journal, Wesley agreed with a Dr. Broughton who refused to believe that Wesley had not had faith before then. "He was in the right. I certainly then had the faith of a servant, though not of a son." (Outler, ed., John Wesley, p. 54, n. 2.)

41. Henry Scougal, The Life of God in the Soul of Man, arr. and ed. by Thomas S. Kepler for Living Selections from the Great Devotional Classics (Nashville: Upper Room, 1962), p. 10.

42. Professor Brown aptly makes the connection between John's picture of bestowing of the Spirit and Genesis, Wisdom, and Ezekiel without, however, coupling these to the situation of John. (Raymond E. Brown, The Gospel According to John, XIIIXXI, The Anchor Bible, Vol. 29A, pp. 10371; Doubleday & Co., 1970.)

43. Charles H. Dodd, The Interpretation of the Fourth Gospel (Cambridge University Press, 1953), p. 414.

44. William F. Arndt and F. Wilbur Gingrich, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature, being a translation and adaptation of Walter Bauer's original work (University of Chicago Press, 1957), p. 623.

45. Ernst Haenchen, The Acts of the Apostles: A Commentary (Westminster Press, 1971), p. 171, n. 2.

46. Against Haenchen, who declares that ecstatic speech is meant but provides no argument. After the pattern set by Isaiah, Jesus, Joel, and Pentecost, the burden of proof is on anyone who claims that Luke means anything other than foreign languages.

47. John Koenig calls this "the confidence of faith" in Charismata: God's Gifts for God's People (Westminster Press, 1978), p. 53. No other single book I know describes so thoroughly the multifaceted experience of the Holy Spirit in the New Testament that I am calling transition into life in the Spirit. I am indebted to it for stimulation even where I do not cite it specifically. I would make it required reading for any who wish to broaden their understanding of a subject I am only able to introduce within the scope of this chapter.

48. Perhaps the Quakers as a denomination understand this life of prayer better than any others do since they are organized around the recognition of the divine presence within making them in effect a community that grounds itself in transition into life in the Spirit.

49. For most of this section I am indebted to the stimulation of Professor Moltmann to be found in The Trinity and the Kingdom (Harper & Row, 1981), pp. 151-188, and in the lecture "A Doxological Concept of the Trinity," delivered at Moravian Theological Seminary in Bethlehem, Pa., in 1980 expanding this theme of the book. This remark on monotheism and pantheism is found in the book at p. 165, as well as in the lecture.

50. Moltmann, The Trinity and the Kingdom, p. 165.

51. The companion metaphor is to "walk by the Spirit," emphasizing the comprehensive scope of the Spirit's leading (Gal. 5:16, 25; Rom. 6:4; 8:4; cf. Eph. 5:2, 8; I John 1:7).

52. Thomas R. Kelly, Testament of Devotion (Harper & Brothers, 1941), p. 124.

53. Brother Lawrence, The Practice of the Presence of God, arr. and ed. by Douglas V. Steere for Living Selections from the Great Devotional Classics (Nashville: Upper Room, 1950).