Have you ever asked yourself “Where would I look to find the Holy Spirit? How would I know if I am in the Spirit’s presence?”
In the Old Testament the Holy Spirit is called “ruach” and likened to the power of blowing wind, blowing exactly where it wants, sometimes gently and at other times with gale force winds. Ask anyone this time of year, the storm season, if they are eager to see a storm blow in from the Gulf Coast or off the Atlantic or Pacific Oceans. When I was seven, I lived in Florida with my grandparents. The biggest hurricane that had ever come inland raced across the state, moving the lake that could be seen from Grandpa’s back porch 600 yards, right up to the back door. When the storm was over, an alligator had sought refuge on the back porch step and other creatures could be found in places I did not want to find them. I was not allowed to go into the garage or laundry room until Grandpa checked them for displaced snakes.
In our search for the Holy Spirit, the life force within each person takes us deep within ourselves and beyond. The Spirit is a force to be reckoned with. It is concerned about the way we communicate with each other. Paul describes the Holy Spirit as a catalyst within us motivating us to use our God’ given gifts.
At the Confirmation service last week, I prayed for God’s Spirit to watch over and to guide Kyle and Kylee all the days of their lives. Even though we want God to work in us, do we want God’s Spirit to be disruptive, blow through us, stirring and unsettling us? Is God’s Spirit unsafe at times, but good? In the way that the Holy Spirit can move us in directions we are not sure we want to experience, maybe the stirring can be a step in creating new possibilities. Pentecost marks the descent of the Holy Spirit of God. It is the hurricane like wind that, if we have the courage to plan and act together, it will rearrange us into people who can be more than we are and to do more than we do–not just for ourselves, but for others. It is the earth shaking the blast that motivates with power to choose love instead of hate and acceptance over judgment.
The past week 54 youth and teens, plus a whole crew of adult volunteers to direct crafts, recreation, snacks, discovery time, music, Bible stories and all kinds of lively activities was evidence that God’s Spirit was on “overdrive.” Workshop of Wonders was the overall theme in which the kids learned to Imagine, Build, Grow, Work and Walk with God. We all learned that God is with us to motivate us to be in relationship with God and the people around us in our community; whether it be in our neighborhood or in our faith community where we worship and study about God. God works with us to help us to stretch and grow in our understanding of God at work in our lives. It would be a mistake to assume that God’s Spirit is only disruptive, seeking to move us out of complacency.That is the wind part when it blows with hurricane intensity. But then comes the breath part which lives deep within you and me. The breath part says to us, “In the midst of all that is swirling around you, be still. Go to the place inside you where you find your core strength and goodness.” This is the Spirit’s gift when we feel overwhelmed or overcome by what is happening around us, when life conspires to disconnect us from our core truth and keeps us on focus on the things that matter least in life, rather than on what matters most.
The Holy Spirit, Jesus told his disciples, “Lies within you.” Writer Anne Lamott speaks at commencements and tells new graduates, “Your spiritual identity is something to feel best when you are not doing much–when you are in nature, when you are very quiet, or when you listen to music. Music is the voice of the heart. When you listen to music, you can feel the Spirit and hear it in the music you love, in the bass line (boom-it-t-boom), in the harmonies, in the silence between the notes. We can feel the Spirit if we pay attention to our breath–breathing in and out, allowing our minds to calm down so that we can listen from the core–where the Spirit lives and speaks most profoundly.
How can we sort out the Spirit’s voice from our own? How can the Spirit speak to us to get our attention, to point us toward God” It is the Spirit’s presence that buoys up my internal anxiety, with the assurance that when we are worried, things will turn out okay. The Holy Spirit shifts our perception of another person or situation, giving us the capacity to be kind when we are hurt, non-defensive when we are challenged, accepting when we are disappointed and forgiving when we would rather exhibit anger.
Friends are another place where we can encounter the Holy Spirit in relationship to one another, by working and walking with God to take care of the poor and hungry, to lift up the hearts of those who are poor in spirit, are worried or have given up hope. When we are willing to allow others to deal with their imperfections and to simply offer help, the Holy Spirit will meet us more than halfway. When we take the time to be kind to one another, to meet the needs of annoying, sometimes neurotic folks, that’s where we see the Holy Spirit most brightly.
Let God’s Spirit blow all around you, gently or fiercely, and pay attention to what the powerful Holy Spirit might be saying: go deep within yourself, breathe deeply and pay attention. Celebrate the beautiful children in our midst and their families who present them for baptism to receive the gifts of the Holy Spirit to pray God will watch over them and protect them from worldly dangers, that goodness will prevail and the Kingdom of God will become a reality. Pay attention to the ways you might be part of the blessing they are seeking. The Holy Spirit is around, between and in us, a force to reckon with and God’s greatest gift to those who are open to receive it. Image, Build, Grow, Work and Walk with God as we work together, to make the world be the place God intends it to be. Utilize the power of God’s Holy Spirit. “May the force be with you.”