“Covenant Faithful”

Pity the Holy Spirit, if one can do such a thing for God.

For the Holy Spirit is the one who binds, or attempts to bind, us as a church into covenant faithful.

And if you’ve ever been at a church meeting with a budget fight, you know how hard that job that can be.

The Holy Spirit is, for us non Pentecostals, the most forgotten member of the trinity. Partly this is because we have a little bit of trouble placing the Holy Spirit.

God, our Father, source, fount, Creator of all things that are and will be, the ultimate, the Great IAM, etc., is if not fully conceivable, then well, at least archetypally so.

Jesus is of course the God-Man, fully human and fully Divine.

But then what is the Holy Spirit?

The words we translate now as Holy Spirit- or as the King James Bible did as Holy Ghost, are the Greek Theos Pneuma. Theos refers to the holy, to God, etc., but the word Pneuma is more interesting. 

For Pneuma, in addition to meaning spirit, means breath or wind.  If you’ve heard of a pneumatic drill, or press it’s propelled by air, it’s the same Greek root word.

And the Holy Spirit is a bit like the wind; It is everywhere, but sometimes it flows a bit more freely. The Holy Spirit goes where it pleases, and we know it mostly through its effects and presence in our lives, both individual and communal.

Christians understand the Holy Spirit, along with Jesus Christ, as being co-eternal with God, present from the beginning. We see this in Genesis 1:2- “the earth was a formless void and darkness covered the face of the deep, while a wind from God swept over the face of the waters.”

That wind of God is the Holy Spirit, who is co-equal and co-eternal with God, as much God as Jesus or God the Father.

The Holy Spirit, the breath of God, gets a renewed emphasis in the New Testament, and especially in the Gospel of John and in the book of Acts.

Although yes, the Holy Spirit gets a mention in the accounts of the baptism of Jesus in Matthew, Mark, and Luke, usually described as descending like a dove, and in the great commission, where we are told to Baptize in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, but it’s in the gospel of John and the book of Acts that Holy Spirit starts to take on a distinctiveness.

We especially see this in Jesus’ famous conversation with Nicodemus that begins chapter three of the Gospel of John.

Nicodemus is a Judean leader, a rabbi, who meets with Jesus in the cover of darkness, in secret, presumably to not be associated with Jesus.

Nicodemus doesn’t even start out with a question.  Instead, he starts out with one a statement that’s simultaneously full of faith and full of doubt.

“Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher who has come from God; for no one can do these signs that you do apart from the presence of God.”

It’s one of those statements that has an unspoken but… or yet… after it.

But Jesus doesn’t allow for those doubts to be fully spoken.  Instead, Jesus says something that’s puzzling for Nicodemus.  He says, “Very truly, I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God without being born from above.”

That word that we translate as “above” also means “again”- I believe that this is a wordplay from Jesus, and he fully intends both meanings: both that the Holy Spirit, sent metaphorically from above, is the one that gives birth to our new re born Christian selves.

These metaphors are a bit difficult for Nicodemus- this sort of religious language was not common in this time.  It would be like Christians today talking about Nirvana or something similarly outside of our religious vision.

Nicodemus takes this literally:  Nicodemus said to him, “How can anyone be born after having grown old? Can one enter a second time into the mother’s womb and be born?”

And Jesus’ response to this tells us much about what and who the Spirit is.

Jesus answered, “Very truly, I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God without being born of water and Spirit. What is born of the flesh is flesh, and what is born of the Spirit is spirit. Do not be astonished that I said to you, ‘You must be born from above.’ The wind blows where it chooses, and you hear the sound of it, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.”

The wind blows where it chooses, and you hear the sound of it, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes.

We feel the Holy Spirit when we feel God’s presence as something like the wind, that comes down, flows about, that comforts and agitates us, and then moves on.

We are not the instigators of the Spirit’s work.  We are the object of work of God, not the subject.  The Holy Spirit goes where it will, like the wind, and though we might harness it or direct it, ultimately, we cannot control it.

Later, the Gospel of John describes the Holy Spirit as our comforter and our advocate, and I would add, our inspiration, who Christ says will be with us even when Christ himself in body is gone from the Earth.

If you’ve ever felt a comforting presence blow through you like a gentle breeze, from somewhere outside of yourself, you might have felt the Holy Spirit.

We know from the book of Acts that the Holy Spirit has a special affinity to the church, as the Holy Spirit was the cause of the miracle of Pentecost, the birth of the church, which allowed each person to understand the message of the Gospel in their own language.

Honestly, I don’t know how to explain the success of the church without the power of the Holy Spirit.

And I believe many of our failures as the church come from our inability to listen to it, to feel it in our midst. Especially when that spirit called out to us from people we might not like, or who we thought were lesser than.

Paul reminds us in our passage from Romans that all who are led by the Spirit of God are our siblings, for we are all adopted by God as his children. Now, we are going to experience one of the ways that we invite the Holy Spirit into our church through the commissioning and blessing of our search committee.

In all three of our services, we’ll be asking the Holy Spirit to be with search committee, in their deliberations, in their searching, in their listening to one another and the church.  We will pray for the Holy Spirit to soften their hearts, open their ears, and let their words and work be pleasing to God.

Thanks be to God, and to the Holy Spirit.