FAITH MATTERS: Pentecost a reminder to be filled with the Spirit

Take it from actress Tallulah Bankhead (1902-1968), whose last coherent words were reportedly, "codeine ... bourbon." Bankhead said in her autobiography, "I'm the foe of moderation, the champion of excess."

"Don't be swindled into believing there's any cure for a hangover," Bankhead also wrote. "I've tried them all: iced tomatoes, hot clam juice, brandy peaches. Like the common cold it defies solution. Time alone can say it.

"The hair of the dog?" (That is, fight hangover with more alcohol?) "That way lies folly. It's as logical as trying to put out a fire with applications of kerosene."

Did you know that Jesus warned about hangovers? (See Luke 21:34). He didn't want carousing to keep anyone from being ready for the last day, which will close like a trap on everyone on earth.

Likewise, when Jesus' apostle forbade drunkenness, he had a higher purpose than to say, "No."

"Do not get drunk with wine," Paul taught, "which leads to wasting your life. But be filled with the Spirit" (Ephesians 5:18). God compares alcohol's influence with the mind-altering effects of the Holy Spirit on Christians?

Yes, but as John Stott writes, "There the comparison ends and the contrast begins. In the heathen cult of Dionysus intoxication was regarded as a means to inspiration. But it is a serious mistake to suppose that to be filled with the Spirit of Jesus Christ is a kind of spiritual inebriation in which we lose control of ourselves. ... Under the influence of the Holy Spirit we do not lose control; we gain it."

Tomorrow many area churches will celebrate Pentecost -- when, 50 days after Jesus rose from the dead, he poured out his Holy Spirit dramatically. That led some in the Jerusalem crowd to mock early Christians.

Peter countered, "These people are not drunk, as you suppose. It's only nine in the morning" (Acts 2:15).

Then Peter explained how the Spirit's outpouring proved that Jesus lives, for Jesus had promised to send the Spirit. No dead Jesus could have done it.

People who realized they had crucified God's Son were cut to the heart, as a result. About 3,000 were baptized. They trusted in Jesus as Savior and followed him as Lord.

Do you?

Being filled with God's Spirit is not a one-time zapping for a few privileged elites, but an ongoing gift for all God's children via God's energizing, reality-reshaping word and sacraments.

The Rev. Daniel A. Witte, pastor of Risen Savior Lutheran Church, can be reached at 747-5564. For more information, see