Monday, May 20, 2013

Come, Holy Spirit

The Scripture reading this week tells the story of Pentecost.

Alright. You know the game where you have to see what’s the same about a bunch of things in a group? Usually you get two or three…sometimes four if you’re playing that new app—I forget what it’s called. Well, today we get five things to figure out what the common bond is.

Marie or Madame Curie, the wheel, the printing press, Albert Einstein, and the telephone.

Any guesses?

They are all game changers. Each one of these items or people pushed the history of humanity down a significantly different path than it had been on before.

Madame Curie had the first major discoveries with radioactivity: suddenly a whole new kind of energy and elements can be used and developed. The wheel: humanity is more mobile than before; they can travel further. Einstein: e = mc2, redefining how we think of time and space. The printing press: widespread publications and therefore expanded literacy. The telephone: long distance communications. Now we don’t have to travel so far to communicate.

In our lessons today—actually throughout our whole year—we hear about a huge game-changer: God. God the parent, creator, father/mother of all heaven and earth. God the Son, Jesus Christ, who died for the sin of the world that humanity may have eternal life. God the Holy Spirit, the Advocate, who continues to inspire, create and work in the world. 

In the gospel lesson, Jesus calls this person, this Holy Spirit, the Advocate. At Pentecost, which we celebrate today, we read about the effects of this Spirit, coming down like tongues of fire. This Spirit speaks not only to the chosen, but also sweeps over everyone gathered there, reaching out through the voices of the disciples on this day to tell the story of Jesus.

It’s good that we set aside a day to talk specifically about the Holy Spirit. From what I’ve been told—and what I’ve seen myself--we talk a lot about the first two persons of the trinity—the parent and the son, but the Holy Spirit is somehow missed, just sort of tacked on to the end.

That’s odd because it is the Holy Spirit who is our Advocate in today’s world—our inspiration and source of faith really. It’s the Holy Spirit that unites us to Christ in baptism. Maybe we don’t know how to talk about God in this way because it’s the piece that’s still moving and working in us. The Holy Spirit is a huge game changer, and that can be intimidating to talk about.

But guess what? We do talk about the Holy Spirit—almost every single week—at least in worship.

I believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy catholic church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting. Amen.

Amen. There it is--the third article of the Apostles' Creed.

That whole sentence or article is about the Holy Spirit. 

What? No! It’s about the church and communion of saints and a bunch of other stuff besides the Holy Spirit.

That’s what I thought for years. Then I started wondering. The first article or section of the creed is about God the father almighty, creator of heaven and earth. The second article is all about God’s son, Jesus, and his life, death, resurrection and future promise. Logically, the third article should be about…. 

So I looked it up in this handy dandy little thing Martin Luther wrote called the Small Catechism and there it was!! Right in front of me for over 400--almost 500--years. The third article of the Apostles' Creed is all about the Holy Spirit.

I believe in the Holy Spirit. Self explanatory. The holy catholic church—small c. Church everywhere…

Do me a favor. Imagine the place you call home—whatever and wherever that may be. You can even pause and close your eyes for a moment if you need to get a better picture. Fill that place up with light. Look around. Think of every detail in that place. Notice the edges, the textures, the patterns of the place. Think of the smells, the sounds. 

Now picture church. Think of entering through the doors. See the people who meet you. Smell the fresh spring air, the coffee, the fellowship hour treats. Have it? Hold those two pictures in your mind. Home and church. Church and home.

These are the places that are there for you—no matter what. No matter how soon or long or how far or near, you can return. You don’t need to wait for an invitation, just come. Take that familiar path, walk through the door. You already belong. Church doesn’t even have to be this or that particular building or congregation--though it can be. Remember what we said—little “c”—church universal. It’s everywhere. Look for it.

Okay, next line: the communion of saints…here Luther states that the Holy Spirit “calls, gathers, enlightens, and sanctifies the whole Christian Church on earth, and keeps it with Jesus Christ.” We’re all connected throughout time and space by the faith given to us by the Holy Spirit.

The forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting. The Holy Spirit does this, too. The Holy Spirit “forgives daily and richly all sins to me and all believers, and at the last day will raise up me and all the dead, and will give to me and to all believers in Christ everlasting life. This is most certainly true.” That’s how Luther’s small catechism closes this section. "This is most certainly true."

This is the Holy Spirit that came to the disciples on Pentecost—enabling faith in Christ.

Forgiving sins, speaking to everyone in the world in his or her own language, lighting a fire in the hearts of the disciples. This story doesn't end on Pentecost, though. The Holy Spirit is still working, still inspiring, still forgiving, enlightening, calling. Pushing all of us out of our comfort zones to serve God’s world while always telling us that we belong.

Truth be told, one Sunday is not enough to talk about the Holy Spirit and the gift given to humanity at Pentecost. We have to keep the conversation going—all year, all week. Because when the Holy Spirit descends in something like tongues of fire and rushing wind, it’s going to spread. 

The disciples immediately started talking to whomever they could. Whoever was there, whoever would listen, heard the gospel that very day. The disciples immediately started sharing and working. Because when that fire lights up in you, you can’t be still, at least not for long.

And the question isn’t "if," it’s "what."

So…What is the Holy Spirit working in you? 
Where is that fire, that wind, that breath, spreading? 
How can you join in?

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