Lectionary passages for June 8. Pentecost Sunday. Acts 2:1-21, Numbers 11:24-30, Psalm 104:24-34, 35b, 1 Cor. 12:3-13, John 20:19-23, John 7: 37-39
Growing up in the Mennonite Church (general conference), I don't remember talking very much about the Holy Spirit. We talked about the Trinity, but the bulk of the year that meant God and Jesus. The Spirit came up in the Pentecost readings, but I never really felt like we knew what to do with it or how to have an understanding of the Spirit enliven our faith lives.When we did talk about it, my perception was that it was a rather private thing between me and God. I guess it's just hard for those of us who are used to being practical and logical to try to get our minds around the concept of the Holy Spirit. It's a bit like trying to pin down the wind.
The best explanation of the Spirit I remember hearing as a child, was during a story that my mom did during one worship service. She showed us kids an apple and explained how the peel, the flesh, and the core are all different, but all apple. Then she also talked about how we could experience water as a solid, liquid, or gas, yet they are all the same thing. She said God had many different aspects too, and we could experience God as a heavenly parent, a human friend, and as quietly present in our conscience. That helped me with the Trinity idea, but I still didn't really get the Spirit part. Especially when it was sometimes referred to as the Holy Ghost. Ghost! That bit was hard for a kid to get her mind around!
The readings help us understand various aspects of God as Spirit.While we tend to emphasize that the Spirit was given to all believers at Pentecost, there is a great story of God's Spirit given to the elders with Moses in Numbers 11, it pushes them to prophesy, to tell God's story. God's Spirit is a creating and renewing force in Psalm 104. In the Corinthians piece, the Spirit bestows a variety of gifts on believers, gifts meant for the building up of the church. In John 20 the gift of the Spirit is related to the ability to forgive.In John 7, the Spirit is something that will "stream" out from the believer.
In all these passages, the Spirit of God is an energizing presence that absolutely must be shared. Those gifted can't help but respond and spread the news to others.
This is not a private "conversion" experience, or some inner quiet knowledge. This Spirit is bestowed in groups, is creative, is joyful, and builds up the community. While I have appreciated my church experience with it's cerebral understanding of faith, I would like to also feel the fresh, creative, communal, and renewing wind of God's Spirit on more days than just Pentecost!
A book I discovered at Chapters this week has been very helpful. It's called; "When God Winks", by SQire Rushnell. (Yes, the Q is supposed to be a capital.) This little book talks about all the ways God uses things we might call coincidences to nudge us. When we pay attention to these nudgings of the Spirit, we allow God to guide and direct us in life. Its got me paying attention to God in a fresh way this week. Creative and fun, and I hope to have lots of chances to share!