A Spirit-Soaked World

Recently, I had the opportunity to visit the National Civil Rights Museum in Memphis, TN.  The museum is built on and around the Lorraine Motel, where Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated on April 4, 1968.  

After spending several hours in the museum exhibits, I stood outside and gazed up at the site of Dr. King's tragic death on the second-floor balcony of the motel.  I felt a palpable sense of the holy as I stood there.  I closed my eyes and breathed deeply of the heavy Memphis air, and choked back a sob.  

Suddenly, I was moved to listen to a song by the band U2 at that moment--a song entitled Pride (In The Name of Love) that contains this stanza:  

Early evening, April four
A shot rings out in the Memphis sky
Free at last, they took your life
They could not take your pride
In the name of love
In the name of love

With my eyes filled with tears, I stumbled toward a bench and sat down.  I resisted the urge to take my shoes off, Moses-style.  But I did blubber a bit and took a bunch of deep breaths that sounded louder in my head because of my headphones.  

The song finished and I sat there in silence for a while just taking everything in.  Maybe it was the significance of the history of the place that overwhelmed me, or perhaps it was the fact that so many before me had come on pilgrimage there, imbuing it with a sacred sense.  

I decided it was both of those things and more besides that had brought me to such an emotional state.  I decided that the main reason why I felt the way I did was because of the presence of the Holy Spirit all around me.  

I suppose I should be a bit more specific... It was because I recognized the presence of the Holy Spirit all around me.  

You see, I've felt that feeling, that presence before, and in far less auspicious locations and moments.  I've felt overwhelmed by holiness.  I've been overcome by a sense of the glory of God---what is described in Hebrew as the kovod, or "the heaviness."

But right then and there in that moment on the bench in front of that sacred space, I felt it more acutely.  My defenses were down.  I'd had my heart wrung out.  I was filled with holy discontent at the state of the world, and my own response to it.  

I felt sad and elated all at once.  I mourned and rejoiced.  

I realized that this is what it feels like to encounter the Spirit of God doing what the Spirit of God does, which is to open eyes, soften hearts, enliven spirits, expand minds... to reveal, instruct, convict, and anoint.  

The great Vietnamese Buddhist teacher Thich Nhat Hahn wrote about this very thing:  

The Holy Spirit, the energy of God in us, is the true door.  We know the Holy Spirit as energy and not as notions and words.  Wherever there is attention, the Holy Spirit is there.  Wherever there is understanding, the Holy Spirit is there.  Where there is love and faith, the Holy Spirit is there.  All of us are capable of recognizing the Holy Spirit when [the Spirit] is present.

The world is not as it should be, but that doesn't mean it isn't beautiful. The world is beautiful... and strange and wonderful, and the Spirit of God is present all throughout it.  

And the Spirit that hovered over the waters of Creation is still hovering over waters today... and also finding a place to alight on dry land, and still descending like fire on rooms filled with expectant, praying people who are scared and uncertain and wondering what comes next.  

The Spirit finds us when we least expect it---in holy places and ordinary ones, on the mountaintops, and also in the valleys.  The Spirit is everywhere, and we can recognize the Spirit if we are willing and open to the Spirit.  

May you have your eyes opened today to the beauty of the world around you, a world that is Spirit-soaked and filled with glorious purpose.  May you find your part in this Spirit-soaked world, and may you see at last.  

And may the grace and peace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you now and always. Amen.  


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