There is always the danger of the health and wealth gospel. This dime store Jesus puts out like a hooker, and the shyster pastors on TV are his pimps. We have no use for such healer and dealer players.
But on the other side of the spectrum, we have the Puddleglums of Christendom who are functional third cousins of the first century heretic Marcion. They have a different version of the Choose-Your-Own-Adventure Bible, performing a sort of Jeffersonian surgery on the Scriptures, leaving only Job and Ecclesiastes and all the other painful and creepy bits that celebrate their depression and angst and confusion.
There’s a sick sort of comfort in the false gospel proclamation: life sucks. It’s as if we believe that if we can just say this mantra out loud, if we can just put it into words and stick this ingratitude on our bumper somewhere, the fact that we feel like God and the world and everyone and their little sister have given us the royal shaft, then we feel better. And every day these puddleglummers mount their whiner defenses with more proof: disease, death, murder, abuse, traffic jams, the TSA, Lady Gaga.
And Christians do this in their own pious and holy ways, with Bible verses stamped to the dog collars they bought at Hot Topic or the local Catholic supply store.
Of course, Job was severely tried, life is vapor, and God disciplines the sons that He loves. There will be bad days, hard days, and even weeks or months or years that are cruel and unrelenting.
But the gospel is good news, and the impossible gift of the Spirit is Somehow Joy. Martyrs go to the stake singing hymns in triumphant defiance. Faithful saints lay on their deathbeds insisting that they are still so happy. Men, women, and children go through the meat grinders of life, and they emerge somehow with joy. Somehow, they emerge like gold from the furnace, like silver tested. They are struck down, and they get up smiling. They are crucified, and they wake up laughing.
The gospel is not good news unless it actually makes a difference. The gift of the Holy Spirit is nothing unless it creates this Somehow Joy in us. And part of this gift of Somehow Joy is the ability to see the world rightly, the ability to see the world truly. The puddleglummers can only see the shadows, and like the dwarves in The Last Battle, they can’t see anything but barn, can’t taste anything but hay. But the Spirit gives the sons of God this Somehow Joy by showing them the way the world really is, the way God is conspiring to bless the world. The light of the gospel shows all the darkness to be only shadows, fleeting shadows. God is telling the best joke ever: the history of this world. And the story ends with a wedding feast and the whole world laughing.
And Pentecost means that a chuckle has begun in our souls.