This may seem obvious, but following Jesus today is much like it was for the original disciples. We learn together from Jesus’ words, we eat together with Jesus and each other around one table, we are made whole through the grace of Jesus. It is still about following and being with Jesus, the same as it was for the original disciples.
But there is one obvious difference: they could see Jesus and we can’t. Surprisingly, according to John 16:7, that gives us an advantage over the original disciples. This seems counter-intuitive for me. How many of us wish we had Jesus sitting right next to us, taking our hand, healing us with power, telling us stories just like he did in his ministry in the first century?
But Jesus said, “It is better that I go away so the Spirit can come.” So how do we make sense of this? Brian McLaren puts it this way: “If Jesus were physically present and visible, our focus would be on Christ over there, right there, out there…, but because of his absence, we discover the Spirit of Christ right here, in here, within.” 
Let’s see if I can put this another way. One of the terms we are learning to understand in today’s culture is “co-dependency.” “Co-dependent relationships are a type of dysfunctional helping relationship where one person supports or enables another person’s addiction, poor mental health, immaturity, irresponsibility, or under-achievement.”  What can happen, and perhaps did happen while Jesus was around, is that followers did not feel empowered to do all that they could do. Instead, they depended on Jesus to do it for them. This was specifically the problem when the disciples could not cast out the demon from a young man a father brought to Jesus (Mark 9:14-29). What McLaren is suggesting here is that if we had Jesus around, we could fall into a co-dependent relationship, becoming immature, irresponsible and in general, become under-achievers by having Jesus do everything hard for us.
It may be easy to fall into this kind of relationship even today. Have you heard someone say, “I’ll pray for you. Go be fed and warm” and do nothing about it (James 2:14-17)? “Leave it in God’s hands,” can mean, “I am off the hook. I don’t have to do anything.” When we make these excuses, we become dysfunctional disciples. Jesus had no intention for this to happen. Rather, empowered by the Spirit of Jesus disciples can do much more than Jesus could ever do as one person. Followers of Jesus are high functioning practitioners of the Kingdom of God, empowered by the Holy Spirit.
Pentecost was the day the disciples were freed from their co-dependency. They finally opened themselves to the Spirit in such a powerful way, that they were doing things only Jesus had done in the past. No longer were they held back by their yearning for Jesus. Something happened, as Jesus promised, and the Spirit came alive in them – with power and joy.
Jesus said that, with the Spirit, we will do greater things than he ever did (John 14:12). With the Spirit, centered in each human heart, we have the power to change the world in a way Jesus could not, because he was body-, time-, and space-bound. Those barriers are gone in the age of the Spirit. For the Spirit is not bound.
Perhaps that is what makes the Spirit, so frightening, and beyond understanding. The Spirit is not bound. While I can say those words, my mind cannot comprehend what the words mean. The Spirit is unbound, just as the universe in which we live is unbound. I remember in grade school learning the names of the planets of our solar system from a little model of balls on wire arms, circling around the sun. It was all so simple. We loved to go up to the desk and see how fast we could make the planets spin around the sun. Our concepts of God can be as limited as that solar system model of decades ago. Yes, it pointed to some truths – that our earth is small, and it orbits around the sun, that earth is not the center of the universe. But what has been discovered about space, stars, black holes, dark matter, isn’t even begun to be contained in that little model! There is unimaginably more out there. And it becomes more mysterious every day, rather than more known.
Jesus told the disciples that he had so much more to tell them, but they were not ready to hear it yet, just as I could not comprehend the universe in 4th grade! He told them that the Spirit of Truth would come and continue to teach them as the time for the new truths came.
Sometimes our understanding of God is lacking in mystery, much like that solar system model. The One who created us and is both beyond and within us, is and always will be, a mystery.
The Holy Spirit is the aspect of God which most reflects this mystery. The Spirit is that undefinable, universal presence of God with us and beyond us.
The Spirit is the UNDEFINABLE presence of God. When speaking of the Spirit, the Bible tells stories and uses metaphor. Can you think of some of the descriptors of the Spirit in the Bible? Wind. Breath. Fire. Cloud. Oil. Dove. These word pictures are in stark contrast to the images for God among the neighbors of the Hebrews – stone idols and high places – or even the thick theological books we have today. These earth-bound things might be impressive, even awe-inspiring, and they may be guides, but they are no substitute for the airy, agile, journeying God of the Hebrews and us.
The Bible speaks of the Spirit of God hovering over the waters of creation like wind, blowing newness, beauty, fecundity, into the roiling chaos. Just a few verses later, the Spirit is no longer wind, but breath of life. Spirit appears as fire – first to Moses in the burning bush, then to the people to guide and warm their path through the night of the desert journey. In the desert, the Spirit was also a cloud for the people, both guiding them and cooling them protectively from the desert heat. The Spirit’s choice of leaders is represented by the luxurious pouring of oil, a healing balm, giving the chosen one a sheen of reflected light and glory. At Jesus’ baptism, the Spirit looked like a dove, taking flight between heaven and earth. The list could go on.
God the Spirit is never definable in one image or set of words. Rather we look at our lives and our world, we recognize, we tell stories, we point and say, “This is Holy.” Every day we encounter signs that point to the active presence of Spirit in the world around us. As we point, describe and listen, we become more adept at discerning this sacred presence. On the day of Pentecost the disciples got a huge jolt of Spirit and they were propelled into the world to point, and laugh and pray and preach. ‘This energy you feel’ they explained to the crowd, ‘it is not the laughter of wine. It is the presence of the Holy One among us. Touch, taste, feel for yourselves!’ Spirit is undefinable, but points to something all people can experience – freedom and joy.
All people. The Spirit of Pentecost is the UNIVERSAL presence of God. After the birth of the Pentecostal movement in the early 1900’s and its re-emergence in the 1960’s in the mainline denominations and the hippie movement, this speaking in other languages became quite controversial, so we kind of started reading over it. But let’s take a look. When the followers of Jesus were touched by the Spirit with wind and fire, they were so full of joy that they poured into the streets. There they began to talk to everyone about what was happening in them. They spoke even in languages they had never learned.
What did this mean? Quite simply: the Spirit is available in every language. No one language or culture is superior. All are touched, loved, enlivened and empowered by God. Spirit speaks to everyone in the ways they can hear and understand.
One of my younger cousins was born with a severe brain injury, and developed severe disabilities. He never even learned to speak coherently. Back in those days, people wondered whether his disabilities kept him from a relationship with God. But even then, I understood from Pentecost that God speaks his language, even though we could never learn it. This is the kind of Spirit who fills us. Spirit is unbounded. Using any and all means to love.
The Holy Spirit reflects this mystery of God’s agile, loving, creative, active, gentle movement in history. In troubled times like ours, we yearn for an agile God. One who is not bound by our laws of religion or science. Again, still, we need the protecting cloud and revealing firelight of God with us.
This may be a long way of getting around to my original question: What does it mean to be spiritual? In a city where the “spiritual but not religious” population is the fastest growing element of the population, what do we church people do? Perhaps, within the diversity of religious language and practice, the Spirit is surfacing as a common word which can allow us to communicate with others. Are we spiritual? Yes! We may be spiritual and religious, but we have spirituality in common. Can this be enough for us to sit at a common table and share our stories of God? Can we open our hearts to another Pentecost? Speaking the language others understand in order to heal, love and forgive – the language of spirit? The growth of the numbers of folks who say they are spiritual is rising rapidly. We don’t all understand spiritual exactly the same way, but the fact that more and more people identify as spiritual, is evidence that the Spirit is on the move! It may be a sort of speaking-in-other-languages-that-we-never-learned experience.
In the Chronicles of Narnia, when things began to happen, people could be heard whispering: “Aslan is on the move!” Mr. Beaver said those words to the children after drawing them together in a tight huddle on their first visit to winter Narnia. Lewis writes:
And now a very curious thing happened. None of the children knew who Aslan was any more than you do; but the moment the Beaver had spoken these words everyone felt quite different. Perhaps it has sometimes happened to you in a dream that someone says something which you don’t understand but in the dream it feels as if it had some enormous meaning—either a terrifying one which turns the whole dream into a nightmare or else a lovely meaning too lovely to put into words, which makes the dream so beautiful that you remember it all your life and are always wishing you could get into that dream again. It was like that now. At the name of Aslan each one of the children felt something jump in his inside. Edmund felt a sensation of mysterious horror. Peter felt suddenly brave and adventurous. Susan felt as if some delicious smell or some delightful strain of music had just floated by her. And Lucy got the feeling you have when you wake up in the morning and realize that it is the beginning of the holidays or the beginning of summer. 
Pentecost is one of those times, when we as the followers of Jesus say, Aslan is on the move! The Spirit is breaking out. We can sense it, feel it, taste it, smell it! And all who are spiritual understand this mystery. What does it mean to be spiritual? To be open, like Lucy, so that the coming of Spirit is recognized, pointed out, and welcome. Being spiritual is where love, unity, healing and joy are welcome, and we find out that it is all one Spirit who does all, in all, and through all. Amen.
 We Make the Road By Walking, by Brian McLaren, p. 203.
 Wikipedia, “Co-dependency”
 The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, by C.S. Lewis, p. 54-55.