Red: Week 2 - Daily Reflection Thursday, October 15, 2015
This is the second week of daily devotions reflecting on the sermon series that I'm currently preaching, "Red: Understanding the Hard Sayings of Jesus." This week we are reflecting on what it means to recognize the Holy Spirit working, moving, creating and inspiring in the world around us.
Every Sunday at the traditional worship service of my church we read as part of our liturgy an "Affirmation of Faith." Typically, we rotate between three different historic "creeds" of the Church: The Apostle's Creed, The Nicene Creed and the French Reformed Creed (which we use mostly on Sundays when we celebrate communion).
Each creed is a bit different in language and form, but not that dissimilar in substance. They all affirm the same basic Christian beliefs about God, the church, sacraments and community. And each contains very distinct language affirming the Christian belief in the Trinity.
The Trinity is one of the most mysterious and challenging doctrines of the Christian faith. It is the belief that God is One, but that God is also Three. Christians believe in the One God, like our Jewish forbears, but we believe that there God is also three distinct persons--God is Father, God is Son and God is Spirit.
Most of us mess this doctrine up pretty badly. It's so complex to think about that we honestly don't think about it. And because we don't think about it, we end up separating the persons of the Trinity. In our desire for simplicity we figure that God does what God does--creating, judging, overseeing things. And then Jesus sort of does what Jesus does--loving, saving, keeping God from smiting us.
But when we talk about the Holy Spirit, we get kind of vague, and don't really know what to say. Even in the ancient creeds it feels like the Third Person of the Trinity gets short shrift. All of the important and cool stuff is done by the Father and the Son. Some of our brothers and sisters in the Pentecostal Christian tradition move in the opposite direction--giving the Holy Spirit all the cool stuff, and de-emphasizing the Father and the Son.
In our efforts to simplify things, to eliminate the mystery of our faith, we have actually done violence to the historic creeds, and to the basic, essential tenets of Christian theology. In the words of theologians Stanley Hauerwas and Will Willimon, "Most heresies are attempts to simplify belief about God."
The best way to describe the relationship of the Father, Son and the Holy Spirit is with the Greek word perichoresis. This word essentially means "rotation" or "dance." The ancient church fathers who imagined this, and coined this word to describe the Trinity saw the Father, Son and Spirit in kind of a holy, communal, eternal dance. There are seasons when the Father leads the dance between the Three, and there are seasons where the Son leads, and then in turn seasons for the Spirit.
"Why should I care about all of this?" That's the question you just asked, right?
Well, in a very personal way the holy dance shared by the persons of the Trinity is a dance that takes place in our own lives. There are moments when we feel the presence of the Father, the Creator deeply, and then moments when we fully experience the Son, the Redeemer. There are also more than a few moments when we feel the Spirit surrounding us, guiding us, leading us to truth.
And it's all God, nothing but God, completely God. Nothing of the Father nor the Son is lost when we experience the Holy Spirit. Further, it's the guiding force of the Holy Spirit that actually enables us to more fully experience both the Father and the Son. It's an endless dance, and we are part of it in a wonderful, mysterious and beautiful way.
So, join in the dance. Don't worry about having two left feet. Your dance partner(s) (has) have been at it for a while--let Him (Them) lead.