Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Pentecost and the Power of Explanation

A reflection after Sunday’s sermon on Acts 2.

I read last week of one particular man's spiritual experience. The encounter did not happen too long ago. It could be the experience of many at dozens of Christian meetings in any city and all over the world. I quote the man:

  • “[At the meeting], I felt as if some active energy were pouring heat, like a warm current into my whole being. I fell into inertia, and my body grew numb; I tried to speak, but my tongue no longer obeyed me and I gradually slipped into a drowsy state as though a powerful narcotic had been administered to me...”

Extraordinary, and powerful, right? Wait until you hear its explanation!

But first, let me make a reflection on Acts 2:

I realised when reading the story of Pentecost in Acts 2 that those present also had an extraordinary and powerful Spiritual encounter. They clearly had a wonderful experience.

The experience itself [without the explanation] left the crowd "amazed and perplexed" [V12]. To tell you the truth, on my first reading [and not having been present that day], it left me more perplexed than amazed!

There were two responses after their amazement. Some were curious: "What does this mean?" Others went down the more cynical path: "They should be at AA if they are going to start this early."

Here is the thing I noticed: The explanation of the spiritual experience was as powerful [maybe more powerful?] than the experience itself.

The amazing experience [quiet rightly] produced curiosity and cynicism. The biblical explanation [quiet rightly] produced repentance and 3000 people becoming Christians that day.

The experience produces an appropriate ‘wow’, but the gospel produces a saving ‘faith’.

When it comes to spiritual experience, is the explanation as powerful [or even more powerful] than the experience? Or ought experiences like this simply be enjoyed, without the cumbersome weight of too many words?

You tell me your thoughts.

Oh, and that spiritual experience I read last week? It was a book on the Russian Revolution. The next words in the account where:

  • “...All I could see was Rasputin’s glittering eyes, like two beams of light drawing me near.”

Hooley Dooley.

Here endth the lesson.

Love, Justin.

PS Don't know Rasputin? Wiki Him. Scary dude.


Mandy said...

Hello back!

Been reading but have nothing intelligent to say :)

Scott said...

Nice Justin. I'm with you I think. Experience is powerful, for the pesron experiencing it. Not much good to anyone else though (ever hear an interview from someone abducted by aliens?)

Even though we sometimes think talking it out will ruin it (how can I explain to you my love for Hayley?) fortunately God doesn't have that problem. His word explains things very very well (but, graciously, still leaves room for some mystery too)

Scott said...

Wow, OK, just had anothe rthought. Could the explaination of the experience be an experience in itself?

Remember what it'felt like' to hear that sermon or be sitting in that biblestudy when it all clicked? I beleive it's what some call a moment of clarity.

Benjamin said...

I can certainly identify with the feelings of inertia, my whole body going numb, and drowsiness as if a powerful narcotic had been administered. This is what often happens to me when I'm sitting in church listening to a sermon--especially if there's nothing to distract me from the sermon itself. (I'm only half trying to be funny here, which could be interesting, since usally when I try to be funny I'm not, and when I am funny I wasn't trying to be) By the way, it's Hope you are well.

Eddo said...

Taking us back to your original question J-Man..

I suppose it could be possible that the experince could be part of a personal journey. But I want to vote that no experience is given to someone without the need for it to be shared. Tongues, Prophesy, Translation.. However we look at the many ways the Spirit can interact with us.. I'd like to think it to be very rare that we should merely enjoy the experience and leave it at that.

You asked if the explanation would be too heavy for the experience? I ask in return, Is the joy of knowing the Spirit is working in our lives directly a heavy thought? Or is it Uplifting (Lightening the load, so to speak)

All this could get quite 'vexing'..

chelsea said...

'the cumbersome weight of too many words'
So true - too often do my words not seem capable of expressing an experience in its entirity! Like scott said, the feeling that by talking about it may actually ruin it.
However in many cases this isnt actually the case when the expereince is shared (and thats probably due to the Spirit working through us..)

But, I do think it is possible that the explanation of an experience can indeed be as powerful, if not more powerful than the explanation...
someone hearing the gospel and responding to it is in a way hearing about the experience of jesus right, but still very powerful to hear about it now. and the explanation (God's love and desire to have a relationship with those who in reality dont deserve it) is also extremely powerful.
Now thats just one example...

anyway, theres a few more rambling thoughts from me hehe...
love your posts justin!

michael jensen said...

sock it to em big boy!

Anonymous said...

i think you can't separate the 2 - they go together (like peaches and cream). Rhea

Megs said...

explanation vs experience. Hmmmmm. I'm thinking of Beaudrillard, and word as symbol. An explanation distinct from experience is still symbolic. Words about gospel are still symbolic. I think we can access god's amazing gospel in a myriad ways, through story, art, emotion, intellect, discussion, word, music ... and each vehicle, including 'explanation' and 'experience' are uniquely valid as a portal connecting us to god himself....