Sunday, June 4, 2017

Pentecost 2017

Acts 2:1-21      Ps 104     1 Corinthians 12:3-13       John 20:19-23

It is Pentecost so the Spirit, or Holy Spirit, is the central focus today. If the Trinity is a mystery, then the Holy Spirit is the most mysterious element of the mystery. Who, or what is the Holy Spirit?

The Hebrew word for spirit, ruah, occurs 375 times, but sometimes it means breath, life or wind. We only find the words "Holy Spirit" three times in the Hebrew Bible--Psalm 51:11 and twice in Isaiah 63:10-11. While most Christian theologians are quick to differentiate the Jewish and Christian use of the terms, in the end one is left to wonder what other Spirit of God is there besides the Holy Spirit?

Most explanations of the Holy Spirit focus on 'power,' the life animating the inner core of God. Another ancient and popular understanding is the Spirit is Love. Next week, on Trinity Sunday, we will delve deeper, but remember that God the Father eternally generates the Son, much as one speaks a Word. Think of the Son as the Father's Self Expression--so His Word is the fullness of divinity. In and through the Word God created everything. The Holy Spirit is also the loving relationship of Father and Son. The inner life of the Triune God --the Holy Spirit--is what falls upon the apostles on Pentecost morning.

Sharing in the life of God is like catching on fire or being filled with breath. The ancient church calls this union with God theosis or divinization. The same Spirit that is in Jesus is in us! This is amazing! The Holy Spirit in Jesus also fills our spirit. Luke makes clear that we are to be like Jesus, we must cooperate with the Hoy Spirit at work within us. We must understand spiritual warfare means that we battle against the evil spirits which seek to dehumanize us. Too often, we see salvation as a commodity, something which we personally enjoy. However, salvation is only the beginning---God rescues us from sin and death and creates a loving community of service. The gifts of the Holy Spirit are for the benefit of others. Community is a key component of salvation.

In the Gospel of John, the gift of the Holy Spirit is directly bestowed by Jesus. His breath conveys the Holy Spirit and imparts the power to forgive sins. God's ministry of redemption in Jesus is breathed into human beings, in a baffling act of divine trust. Why would God give such power to feeble humans? Most Christians, even Bible Believers, do not believe this. They differentiate between Jesus and the Church, God and Man. The say there is no need for a human intermediary, go straight to God.They prefer a purer "spiritual" world and negate material reality. However, Jesus does not say, "Receive the Holy Spirit, go tell people their sins are forgiven by God and there is no need for humans..." In God's real creation theosis happens--the body and soul of people are sanctified and consecrated by the Holy Spirit of God. Human Beings become the sacrament of salvation. In and through the divine Man Jesus, in and through divinized men and woman, the Heavenly Father heals, teaches, redeems and saves. Filled with the Holy Spirit, we, right now, can allow God's fire of love to burn within us, His healing light to shine from us. The Holy Spirit is in us, we just have to cooperate. This is a church-work to which we are all invited!

In Corinthians, Paul lists gifts of the Spirit. We all have gifts, we need to exercise and perfect them. We all have different gifts, we need to work together! The church is a team empowered and sent by Christ. Teams need different kinds of athletes in order to be successful. Look at the diversity of a football team, but it makes sense when you see that different positions require different kinds of people. The same is true for church ministry. This is often missed, especially when we choose to experience God away from others. We must remember that in the Bible, God never comes to give people a good feeling. He comes to empower them, to bless them, to send them to benefit others. It is a challenge to be a Christian, but God provides all that we need.

So if you want a prayer that is always answered, then sincerely pray: "Fill me, Holy Spirit, and use me!" That prayer always gets a yes!

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