Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Easter 3

The Trinity were planning a holiday. The Spirit, manifesting the creative part of the divine nature, was coming up with the ideas. "Let's go to New York," he suggested. "No, no, no," said the Father, "They're all so liberated, they'll spend the whole time calling me 'Mother' and it will just do my head in." So the Spirit sat back and thought. "I know, what about Jerusalem?" he said. "It's beautiful and then there's the history and everything." "No way!" the Son declared. "After what happened the last time, I'm never going there again!" At this point, the Spirit got annoyed and went off in a huff. Sometime later he returned and found that the Father and Son had had a idea they both thought was excellent: "Why don't we go to Rome?" said the Son. "Perfect!" cried the Holy Spirit. "I've never been there before!"

Who is the Holy Spirit and why hasn't it ever been in Rome? Joking! The Holy Spirit has been all over the whole world.

Since we spent all of Lent talking about who Jesus is and what Jesus was doing in the world, building up to Holy Week and Easter, we are going to spend the Easter season building up to Pentecost talking about the Holy Spirit. Who is the Holy Spirit? What does the Holy Spirit do in the world?

We know the Holy Spirit from scripture as the Spirit, as the breath of God, as the advocate, the Paraclesis, the Sustainer, the Comforter, the one who inspired the authors of the scriptures, the one who moves us to repentance and baptism, the part of God working in us before we know it and can name it. But who really is this Holy Spirit?

Early on in the Christian tradition, St. Augustine of Hippo said in his book, On the Trinity, "the Trinity works indivisibly in everything that God works," in other words,  never does one part of the Trinity work alone. The Trinity always works together. So whenever we see the presence of Jesus or God the Father or the Holy Spirit, the other two are at work as well. In the passage from Acts, we see the workings of the Holy Spirit in all those who repent and are baptized by Peter and the other apostles. The people who are baptized "receive the gift of the Holy Spirit." We talk about this gift being given to us in baptism. In the passage from Luke, we definitely see Jesus in this passage, so the Father and the Holy Spirit must be present. We see the Holy Spirit in Cleopas and the other disciple walking along being opened to the scriptures. We cannot believe anything about God without the working of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is which gives us the ability to make the leap to faith.

Who is the Holy Spirit? The Holy Spirit is the third person of the Trinity. In Christian history, discussions about The Holy Spirit happened fairly late. In the original edition of the Nicene creed, the Holy Spirit had one phrase, "And in the Holy Ghost." That was it. The Holy Spirit was the afterthought addendum to the Nicene Creed.  The theologians at the time were too busy trying to figure out Jesus. However, once they figured out Jesus, they did start discussing the Holy Spirit and so we end up with the end of the Nicene Creed as we now know it.

"We believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the giver of life, who proceeds from the Father and the Son. With the Father and the Son he is worshiped and glorified. He has spoken through the Prophets. We believe in one holy catholic and apostolic Church. We acknowledge one baptism for the forgiveness of sins. We look for the resurrection of the dead, and the life of the world to come. Amen."

Much more meaty! But still kind of vague. The fuller ending of the Nicene Creed shows how the church has settled on the question of who the Holy Spirit is and what the work of the Spirit is. The Spirit is part of the Trinity of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. The Spirit is what inspired the prophets. The Spirit is what has created the church. The Spirit is that which moves in us to prompt us to baptism and shares with us the grace of the forgiveness of sins. The Spirit is that which gives us hope for the resurrection. All good things. But as you can see, still no determination on what the Spirit is, even though we can point to areas where the Spirit is at work.

In this way, the Spirit goes with the oldest metaphors of its name. In the books of the Hebrew scriptures, the Holy Spirit is known as the breath of God, in Hebrew, the feminine word, ruach, meaning breath or wind. Even though the wind blows and we can feel it, we cannot see it. We cannot see where it is coming from or where it is going. The Holy Spirit works in this mysterious way. In the New Testament, the Greek word for the Spirit is pneuma, also meaning breath or wind.  And of course, we get our name for the Holy Spirit from the Latin word meaning breath or wind, spiritus. God breaths out the Spirit and shares himself with us. I want you all to do something silly for a moment. Look over at the person closest to you and intentionally breathe towards them.  Go on... We all share God's breath, God's Spirit in us.

Who is the Holy Spirit? The Catechism from the Book of Common Prayer asks this very same question. It has this to say about the Spirit, "The Holy Spirit is the Third Person of the Trinity, God at work in the world and in the Church even now." "The Holy Spirit is revealed as the Lord who leads us into all truth and enables us to grow in the likeness of Christ."
"We recognize the presence of the Holy Spirit when we confess Jesus Christ as Lord and are brought into love and harmony with God, with ourselves, with our neighbors, and with all creation." Who is the Holy Spirit? The Holy Spirit is that which inspires us. Which is God breathing on us and leading us back to God. Through worship and prayer, we recognize the presence of the Spirit as everywhere in the world.