Come, Holy Spirit!
From the beginning, the breath of the Holy Spirit pours out, bringing life. The Holy Spirit gives life to smallest microscopic organisms that can be seen only with the help of a microscope, and yet are essential to the world’s food chain. And the Holy Spirit works in and through the sweeping grandeur of this earth’s magnificent and ever changing landscapes, covered in life, that the earth sustains.
All of this life exists and thrives through the power of the Holy Spirit, uncontrollable, wild, and free. As Jesus told Nicodemus, “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.”
We Christians have been given the knowledge that the Holy Spirit is at work in our lives. I guarantee you that even when we don’t acknowledge or recognize the Spirit, the Holy Spirit is always at work in those born of the Spirit, and that’s us.
So today, I’d like to talk about how the Holy Spirit works in our lives so that we can more easily recognize the Spirit’s presence in each of us and among us.
First of all, the Holy Spirit heals us of our brokenness in unexpected ways—in uncontrollable, wild and free ways.
Jesus had already started the work of the Holy Spirit as the Spirit of Truth in his time on earth with the disciples. From having been with Jesus, the disciples had an idea of how the Spirit would work.
But in spite of what they knew, the disciples weren’t yet ready to go out into the world rejoicing in the power of the Spirit because they were scared to death after Jesus died on the cross.
On the day of the resurrection, the disciples had heard from Mary Magdalene that she had seen the Lord. Some of them had gone to the empty tomb. And yet, in spite of this overwhelming lifegiving evidence, they still gathered and locked themselves in a room because they feared that they too would be tracked down and put to death.
Jesus appears, and greets them twice with these words. “Peace be with you.” And then he tells them that he is giving them what he had promised before his crucifixion. He is giving them the Holy Spirit.
They need the Holy Spirit, alive and active in their lives, to heal them of their fear and to go with them wherever they will be sent. They need the holy comfort of the Spirit, not so that they can sit protected and safe, but so that they can go out into the mystery into which the Spirit is leading them, knowing that whatever happens, the Spirit will go with them and that they need not be afraid.
When we are trying to figure out how the Holy Spirit is at work, the first place to look is within our own lives. We become more aware of the places in our lives where we need healing. When we open our hearts to the work of the Holy Spirit, we start to see more clearly the things in our hearts that hold us back, that discourage us, give us fear, or immobilize us. We can turn to the easy answers of self-medicating with addictive drugs, or we sink into depression that numbs us, or our anger and frustration toward others may blind us to the work of the Spirit. We can all think of other things that may be holding us back from being completely present to the power of the Holy Spirit at work in our own lives. Jesus alludes to this problem when he says to them that if they forgive the sins of others, they are forgiven, but if they hold on to the sins of others, this holding on will only come back to hurt them.
When we are open to the fact that the Holy Spirit will heal us, and that healing may happen in unexpected ways, then we can be on the lookout for how healing is happening, or trying to happen, in our lives and then to work along with that healing power that the Holy Spirit is putting to work in us.
The second way the Holy Spirit works in our lives is to give us a sense of expectation about what the Holy Spirit is doing, or is about to do. Frequently, the Holy Spirit works in mysterious ways. So our challenge is to wait joyfully for the wild things that the Holy Spirit will do without having to try to figure out the details. The details are up to the power of the Holy Spirit. Our part is to wait expectantly for the Holy Spirit and not to second guess its work.
When, in Luke’s gospel, Jesus ascended and told the disciples to go back to Jerusalem to wait for the Holy Spirit, they did so with a sense of prayerful and joyful expectation that the Holy Spirit would indeed come to them.
So we can remember that waiting on God with expectation is essential. It’s the idea of doing the best we can with what we’ve got, but not being limited by what we’ve got because the Holy Spirit is wildly generous in ways we do not expect.
In today’s reading from Numbers, God has told Moses to gather up seventy elders so that God can put some of the spirit that he has given Moses on them, so that they can help Moses bear the burden of caring for those complaining Israelites out in the wilderness. So Moses gathers the seventy elders and God puts some of the spirit God has given Moses on them and they prophesied.
But as this passage goes on, we hear that back at the camp, the spirit rests on two more people, Eldad and Medad! They prophesied in the camp. Joshua, the assistant of Moses, was full of indignation. “Stop them,” he says. After all, hadn’t God told Moses to choose seventy elders? But Joshua doesn’t realize that God’s spirit, being wild and free, has unexpectedly added two more to the number who will be able to help Moses.
Through the power of the Holy Spirit, God is always giving us more than we could ask or imagine! Look for the work of the Holy Spirit in your life with a sense of expectation. We do the best we can with what we’ve got, knowing that the Holy Spirit will give us all we need and even more when we need help to deal with the tough times in our lives.
When the Holy Spirit fills the disciples on the day of Pentecost, suddenly they are speaking in languages that they did not know how to speak. The Holy Spirit has unexpectedly given them even more than what they’ve got so that they can witness to God’s deeds of power through Jesus Christ to the Jewish people who have come from everywhere and who speak many differently languages.
Some of the people who hear the disciples make a very rational assumption—that the disciples are drunk and babbling. But Peter makes it clear that the Holy Spirit is fulfilling the Old Testament prophet Joels’ prophesy that the “in the last day, God declares, I will pour out my Spirit among all flesh.” Peter knows this because he and the others have been waiting expectantly for the coming of the Holy Spirit, and Peter hasn’t put any limits on what he himself thinks the Holy Spirit can do. Peter is wide open to the power of the Holy Spirit. Thanks to the Holy Spirit, Peter and the other disciples can witness to God’s mighty deeds of power. That day, 3000 people hear and understand. Those three thousand decide turn away from all that is holding them back, and to turn instead toward Jesus and to follow him.
So these are three good things to remember today about how the Holy Spirit can work in all our lives.
First, the Holy Spirit will actively heal us of those things that keep us from living and witnessing fully.
Second, remember to wait expectantly for the power of the Holy Spirit to work in your life, even if you can’t imagine how anything could change your current situation.
Third, do the best you can with what you’ve got, but remember, God has got even more to give us directly through the generous power of the Holy Spirit to get God’s work done in us for the good of the world.
Let’s don’t limit God by our inevitably limited understanding of how the Holy Spirit is at work in the world. Instead, let us release ourselves into that powerful Spirit so that God’s will and work can be done through us, to God’s glory and our joy.
Today we celebrate the dramatic pouring out of the Holy Spirit on those people who have been waiting expectantly, and we celebrate the work of the Holy Spirit that happens through them.
But the Holy Spirit can come quietly as well, and just as powerfully.
Last week, in his sermon, Tom said that the dwelling place of God is not off in a temple. The dwelling place of God is in our hearts.
So open your heart today to the powerful love of God. As St Teresa of Avila says, “in this temple of God, in this divine dwelling place, God alone rejoices with the soul in the deepest silence. There is no reason for the intellect to stir or to seek anything, for the Lord who created it wishes to give it response there.”
We can throw open the doors of our hearts, knowing that God wants to dwell in us and that we can dwell in God through the power of the Holy Spirit, knowing that when God dwells in us, the Spirit, in its wild and free way, will provide us with even more than we could ever ask or imagine, and will bring us new life.
The Holy Spirit wants to work through us and with us for God’s glory and for the good of all creation.
Come, Holy Spirit!