Midweek Musing. On the long neglected Spirit.

We don't talk about the Spirit much in church. We have this day, Pentecost, when we celebrate the Spirit coming. But for the majority of our words – we give them to Jesus and God.

Now, Jesus, fair enough. We follow the Way of Jesus, through whom we understand God to have renewed God's relationship with creation.
Last week I related that through Jesus we gain a new understanding of God: Creator/Father; Word/Wisdom; Holy Spirit.
So we do talk about Jesus a lot.
But I wonder if we don't look through Jesus to the Divine – Holy One, Holy Three – quite enough?

We give a lot of words to 'God', too. I am becoming more and more dissatisfied with the way we use the name 'God', however. In creeds and songs and prayers we use the name 'God' to speak of the Holy Three, or the elements of the Three we also call Father, Maker, Creator.
I find it clearer to use 'God' for the Three together.
My concern is that to equate 'God' with only one 'person' of the Trinity creates the sense of a hierarchy within the Trinity. Such as :

Son and Spirit 



rather than

Creator Son Spirit 

Because the best of our theology would resist hierarchy. There is a mutuality between them, an equality, in the best of our images of God Three in One.

Perhaps from church structures that are inherently hierarchical, such a picture of God is understandable. Our language for God is inevitably shaped by our experience.

But in the Uniting Church, our structures are flatter – I know, the series of interrelated councils can be frustratingly time consuming, so it's not as if it's perfect either. I think our structures aim for a reflection of the mutuality and relationship we experience in God Three in One. And the logo itself reaches for Spirit more than our language does: the dove with its wings of fire.

Still, we do not talk about Spirit very much.
I remember five or six years ago in South Australia, the presbytery and synod were asked by members for conversations about the Spirit and the particular gifts often collected together as the 'spiritual gifts'. (Let's put aside for a moment the tangent on which I debate the wisdom of this approach that lends itself to an elitism of gifts, when a) Paul in his letters offers various lists of gifts as examples, not finite lists of the sorts of gifts to be considered of the Spirit, so that, b) the one Spirit into which we are all baptised equips each of us with the gifts and abilities.). The point is, a significant portion of our church felt like they had to go elsewhere to have conversations about the Holy Spirit because the Uniting Church's language and practice did not resource and equip such conversations.

In his letters, Paul does actually speak of the Spirit, yet the church quite often focuses exclusively on what he says about Jesus the Christ.

Ockert and I are spending time with some of our younger members as they prepare to confirm their baptism at our next parish service. I am remembering the Spirit into which they, and we, are all baptised.
I am also thinking about the statements of faith they will make, and that the church claims together. In the Apostles' Creed, the Spirit is neglected to the point of receiving only one line in a paragraph of beliefs in the holy catholic church, the resurrection of the dead, life everlasting. 'God' gets the opening strong statement, and Jesus gets a very long and detailed paragraph. I find this imbalance profoundly inadequate. Our language will always be inadequate, but I believe we can do better. Our language can reach for the inherent equality and mutuality of the Trinity.

For the Spirit has been present and experienced as part of 'God' from the beginning of the story. The ruach of God hovered over the formless waters at the beginning of it all. Ruach - Hebrew for breath/wind/Spirit.
Fire has been part of the experience of God before - remember the bush that didn't actually burn before Moses' eyes?
Spirit descended on Jesus like a dove at the beginning of his story, as he was baptised.
These are only a few examples of Spirit infusing the story throughout.

And I bet the Spirit infuses your story, too.

In the story, Spirit descends on the people and they shine with God, they speak of God.
I would like to invite us now to speak of Spirit together, to hear each others' experiences. Where have you known Spirit in your life? How have you encountered Spirit? How do you imagine Spirit?

we shared stories for 7 or 8 minutes 

Spirit is the inspirer of our gifts, the oneness holding together the diversity of the Church, the power with which we pray.

The people ask - what does this mean?
What does it mean that we have encountered Spirit this way - as flames alighting us, as a message spoken in every tongue, as fulfilment of Jesus' promise not to leave us alone?

For Spirit is the oneness holding us together. We might even consider this a bookend to the story at Babel, where language became a division, boundary, between people. Here, at Pentecost, God breaks down the boundary, crosses the dividing lines, meets the people in their difference. This is a celebration of diversity.

We are baptised into this one Spirit, immersed in the Spirit, alive, fully, as we live in the Spirit.

Spirit is the very air we breathe, Spirit is the power with which we pray. So pray with every breath, with every thought, with every movement, attentive to the Spirit always with you: Jesus' promise fulfilled.

Spirit inspires the story we tell, when we receive the flame, and let it burn. So we seek, actively seeking the flame, and we carry it. Do not leave it here. For Spirit is not a story we tell only at Pentecost - tell the story every day.

For the interactive prayer of confession and assurance of forgiveness from our Pentecost worship at Wesley, see my pray the story site.


Popular posts from this blog

On hearing marriage might be restricted again in our church. Midweek Musing.

oral communication and the relationship between speaker and listener

Diary of a chronically exhausted vicar. Part 1.