Holy Spirit

Suffocating the Holy Spirit

Jesus was taking to Nicodemus when he said, "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.’ (John 3:8). 

It is not very scientific to talk about Spirits, I get that. However little you believe in actual ethereal Spirits in creation, I find the metaphor helpful. I find that I am often surrounded by a spirit of frustration or the spirit of discomfort. I have seen people ensnared by a spirit of anger while others the spirit of despair. Whatever you want to call it is fine with me, I am comfortable with Spirit language. 

In my life I have discovered that there are some Spirits that need you to hold onto them in order to live. For instance, the longer I hold onto my anger the angrier I become. The spirit of anger needs someone to hold it in order to live, because the spirit of anger is too weak to survive on it's own. To be frank, most spirits are too fragile and weak to live on their own, they require a host to live in so to survive (see Mark 5 for a time when spirits desired to live in pigs rather than be with a host).

It is this that makes the Holy Spirit "Holy". It is set apart in this way: the Holy Spirit can live without a host. The Holy Spirit can move and exist like the wind and can be autonomous. It is strong enough to live without and yet gentle enough to live within creation. It is a good thing we can't capture the Holy Spirit that would mean it is too weak to live on it's own.

Of course the irony is that if we attempt to hold on and capture the Holy Spirit, we suffocate it.

Is Focus Leading Us Astray?

Odeo was a tech company that created a platform for people to create podcasts quickly and easily. At the time, right in the middle of the "dot com" boom, tech companies were getting a lot of funding but not all tech companies were surviving. Odeo was floundering. 

The company's leadership decided to refund all the investors and shared that they were ditching their podcasting platform. Additionally, the leadership shared that the company was going to take a little side project one of their employees was working on and try to make that product work. Odeo changed it's name to Twitter and, well you know what might have happened next. 

In the part of the Church that I work in, there is a emphasis on being focused. My conference has a focus "empower and equip local congregations to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world". My denomination has four areas of focus. Local congregations are encouraged to have a mission and vision statement in order to bring focus to the missional goals of the local church. And while this emphasis on being focused may be a reaction to the multi-tasking and distracting world we live in, focus can lead us astray. 

Jesus said the Spirit blows like the wind. We neither know where it comes from or where it is going. The Spirit came down at Pentecost and opened mouths not so that one focused language could be heard but that every language was heard. The work of Paul was like that of Jesus; moving from community to community on a constant search for the next thing that the Spirit is doing. The Spirit moved in the hearts of reformers and the Church is now expressed in thousands of denominations around the world. The Spirit cannot be contained, it cannot be focused.

Might it be possible that with our efforts to try to be more focused we are missing what the Spirit is trying to do in our midst? 

If Odeo was focused on podcasting and their software, they would have missed out on the wild-eyed idea that one of their people had to create a micro-blogging website which others did not see the value of. Odeo chased down an unfocused idea in order to discover a new and wonderful tool of connection and sharing. 

It was not what they thought they were going to create, but it was where the spirit of inspiration took them. 

The question for the local church is are we so bound to being focused that we are unwilling (or unable) to go to a new place that the Spirit may be taking us?

Spiritual Gifts and Perfectionism

The spirit of the Lord shall rest on him,
the spirit of wisdom and understanding,
the spirit of counsel and might,
the spirit of knowledge and the fear of the Lord.
His delight shall be in the fear of the Lord.
— Isaiah 11:2-3

Traditionally the Scripture in Isaiah is used to talk about the gifts of the Holy Spirit. There are seven: Wisdom, Understanding, Counsel, Might (Fortitude), Knowledge, Piety, and the Fear of the Lord (humility)

Some of our Christian brothers and sisters believe that the gifts of the Holy Spirit were perfected in Jesus Christ but these gifts are also present in the lives of anyone receiving God’s sanctifying grace.

I would submit that all these gifts are not present in anyone but all these gifts are present in everyone. These gifts not in one person (sans Jesus) but in a group of people - not an individual but a community. 

What would it look like if you gave your friend a gift and as soon as they opened the gift your friend said, this is great, but when and how can I get another gift? Would we see gratitude in our friend? Would we see greed in our friend? Would we think our friend is caught up in materialism? Is there a way you could tell your friend how much more important it is to want what you have rather than to have what you want?

Are we not doing the same thing when we look at the gift God has given us and then wonder when and how we can get another gift? Are we not just as blind as our friend?

The Good News is the spiritual life is a life that is not alone. We live in connection and community with others. We understand that interdependence is not an infringement on our independence. 

The Good News is the spiritual life is one that is in community so that we don't have to take on the individual burden of being perfect, we don't have to have it all or do it all. We live in community that embraces that some are gifted with wisdom and others are gifted with courage. 

The Good News is that the spiritual life is one that cultivates relationships so that we are all aware of how everyone is gifted so that we do not have to constantly seeking out how and when we are going to get the next gift.

This is why it is important to know what you gift is, but it not enough for just you to know what your gift is. It is not enough for you to know your gift but not the gift of others in our church community. If you are in search for the next spiritual gift, just look at the lives of the person next to you. God has placed gifts in those people. Build a relationship with those persons and you will have access to a broader Spirit.

"Doing" is only 1/2 of the spiritual life

A common metaphor of the holy spirit in Christianity is the Holy Spirit is like the wind. This metaphor may be rooted in the Biblical tradition of the arrival of the Holy Spirit among the disciples that came among them like a rush of wind. Or perhaps when Jesus says that like the wind, we do not know where the Spirit comes from or where it goes. 

Not long ago I was reintroduced to an older metaphor (I believe from Origen) who said that the spiritual life is that like a journey on the ocean. We are each the captain of our boats and the Holy Spirit of God is the wind in our sails. As the sailor of the boat we can do a lot of work to get the sails just right, but if the wind is not blowing, we are not moving very far. Conversely, if we do not do our part to put up the sails the wind will blow right past us. And we will not get very far.

The spiritual life is that of co-worker. God, through the Holy Spirit is the wind in our sails, but we must open our sails to accept the wind and try to work with the wind as it blows. The wind blows on everyone, but not everyone is prepared to catch the wind.

This has helped me consider why it is that sometimes I feel like I am working as hard as I can on my faith formation, only to not move very far. The winds are not blowing.

And so, the spiritual life is not a meritocracy (the one that works the hardest gets the greater rewards). The spiritual life is a life of preparation, being ready and hoping that you catch the wind in our sails. 

Simply put, the spiritual life is one of work and wait.

Source: http://www.jacksongov.org/content/3275/361...