The Creed - Week 3: "In The Holy Spirit"
Over twenty five years ago I ran into a high school friend at an arena football game in Orlando. She just happened to be in town that day visiting her family, and got invited to go to the game. Her seat was two rows away from mine.
What are the odds, right?
I had been drinking, and wasn't in the best of shape when I saw her. She was concerned enough about my overall state of mind that she called one of our former high school classmates the next day.
This high school classmate of ours happened to be my ex-girlfriend and the love of my life, Merideth Nagel.
We had been apart for five years with a lot of water under our respective bridges. But, when our mutual friend made that call, Merideth responded to the concern in her voice, found my phone number and called me.
Six months later we were married. Twenty-five years later with three boys, two cats, a dog and a wonderful life together, we know that we owe our friend an incredible debt.
About ten years ago, we sat down with our friend after not seeing her for fifteen years. I told her that I owed her a debt I would never be able to repay, and then told her the story.
And this is what she said to me... "I don't remember that at all." This was one of the most significant moments of my whole life, and she had no recollection of even being at that game, or of calling my wife!
But at that moment, on that day---she responded to a feeling to go out with those friends that night to an arena football game... And when she saw me, which was a whole set of crazy all together, she responded to a feeling to call Merideth.
And even though Merideth was three weeks away from marrying someone else, she called me because she felt something when our friend called her--a something that ended up becoming twenty-five years of marriage.
We were all in the right place at the right time. We all had these feelings of connection and otherworldly kind of direction.
Was it all coincidence? Where do those "feelings" come from--the ones that we feel that move us, direct us, stop us and start us?
Let's be honest here. We all know that there is something going on around us. Even the biggest skeptics get that. At a very basic level, a sub-sub atomic level, we are exchanging energy with one another and the world around us. We are connected in ways that we are often never really aware of.
And if we are tuned in to this, if we are paying attention to the connections we have with whatever is going on around us, we have to admit that it feels a lot like we are not alone.
What do we call this?
How do we go about describing what we are experiencing? Christians will say that all of this is the work of the Holy Spirit. But what does that mean?
We have some words from our Scriptures that help us figure this out.
These words are ruach from the Hebrew Scriptures and pneuma from the New Testament.
Both of them simply mean breath--as in the breath of God, the air that we breathe that is filled with God, a wind that blows where it wants to, and you can hear the sound of it (these are the words of Jesus, by the way), experience the evidence of it, but not truly see where it comes from or where it's going.
Jesus called the Spirit of God the parakletos, which means faithful companion, or advocate. The literal translation is "called to stand to the side of..."
The Holy Spirit is the third person of the Trinity. As we've been learning together, God is one, but God is also three.
The ancient church fathers believed that the Trinity was what was called a perichoresis--which means "rotation" or "dance." In other words, each person of the Trinity has moments when they "lead" in this endless, loving dance.
And there are moments when the Spirit leads this dance.
The sixteenth century theologian John Calvin once wrote that the Holy Spirit is the bond that unites us to Christ.
So what exactly are we saying when we repeat the Apostles Creed and we say the words, "I believe in the Holy Spirit."
Essentially what the Apostle's Creed teaches us about the Holy Spirit is this: The Spirit of God works to move our beliefs from our head to our heart.
In fact, the phrase "I believe in the Holy Spirit" in Latin is Credo in Spiritum which literally translated means "I give myself over in belief" or "surrendering to the incomprehensible someone."
In his letter to the Romans, the Apostle Paul wrote about the work of the Spirit in the life of someone who commits to being a follower of Christ:
5 Those who live according to the flesh have their minds set on what the flesh desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires. 6 The mind governed by the flesh is death, but the mind governed by the Spirit is life and peace.
So for Paul when you lived in connection and accordance with the leading of the Spirit of God, you will have life and peace, rather than death and destruction, which sounds awesome.
But Paul never once says anywhere in any of his writings that the Holy Spirit is always gentle and not once does he indicate that the Holy Spirit is tame. The fact of the matter is, the Holy Spirit is not a plaything, just like a live wire isn't a plaything.
Jesus took it further and said the Spirit of God is like a wind, and we all know too well that wind can either come as a gentle breeze or a scary storm.
But even though there is a dangerous edge to the Spirit of God---the Apostle Paul wrote that where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom, and he also affirmed that the Spirit will (as Jesus taught) guide us to truth.
And truth isn't always trapped in the past. That's the beauty of the work of the Spirit of God. Through the Spirit, God continues to reveal Godself, moving us forward into a future where Jesus promised we had a place prepared, a place where Jesus himself awaits us.
I know---that's a lot of belief packed into that one simple statement: I believe in the Holy Spirit.
The bottom line is simply this: The Holy Spirit is the imminent presence of God all around us, in us and through us.
The Spirit is the power that enables us to be the Church, to do all of the the things that follow in the Apostles Creed. The Spirit is on our side, bridging the gap between what we say and what we do, our theology and our beliefs.
But so many of us struggle to feel and experience the presence of the Holy Spirit in the world and in our lives. In the words of Richard Rohr, with all of our busyness, pride, need for certainty, desire to do everything on our own... "We severely limit the Spirit's working hours."
So, here's a big question: How do you experience the Holy Spirit at work in your life? Do you have moments when you are convinced that your heart is going to burst with joy at all the goodness you see around you? Do you feel burning righteous indignation at the presence of evil and injustice in the world?
I think the sure sign that we are not open to the movement of the ever-present, ever-working Spirit of God all around us is when we become apathetic, world-weary, jaded, sarcastic, snarky and bitter... when our anger is always directed at the shortcomings of others, and not the darkness around them that keeps them from seeing clearly.
Do you actively seek to experience the Holy Spirit of God around you? Because all you need to do is listen intently. Listen with your whole heart. Shut out the noise. Open your eyes. Because the Spirit is always speaking, moving and guiding us.
Story of the church...
Pure Gift of God
Promise of the Father
Life of Jesus
Pledge and Guarantee
Reminder of the Mystery
Knower of All Things
Overcomer of the Gap
Always Already Awareness
Mutual Yearning Place
Hidden Love of God
Fire of Life and Love
Nonviolence of God
Seal of the Incarnation
First Fruits of Everything
Father and Mother of Orphans
God’s Secret Plan
Great Bridge Builder
Warmer of Hearts
Space between Everything
Wind of Change
Cloud of Unknowing
Deepest Level of Our Longing
Softener of Our Spirit
Will of God
Generosity of the Creator
The One Sadness
Our Shared Joy
The Welcoming Within
New and Eternal Covenant
Contract Written on Our Hearts
Desiring of God