Someone asked me this week, “Is there a difference between experiencing God’s Spirit and knowing the Spirit of God?”
To which I responded, “Nope. If we want to know the Spirit of God in any way prfounder than just a definition out of a Sunday School primer or somehow very philosophically, one must be working, at least in part, from a personal experience recognized as ‘of the Spirit.’
Even if one only has faith the size of the mustard seed, one must have been in some communication, had some brush with the Spirit. It’s somewhat analogous to knowing a person, don’t you think? To really know someone, I must have had some sort of encounter.”
The trick is: human beings, more often than we realize, experience God’s Spirit without ever recognizing what happened to them as such. That’s what my sermon will be about this week. I hope to be able to point to places where God’s spirit is moving, and we’d do well to recognize it.
I invite you to share with me how you have experienced the Holy Spirit. It will help me preach. Your sharing will be one of the way the Spirit is at work!
It will also help the church. You see, one of the tasks of the church is to name certain experiences in such a way… to provide the language by which someone who’s had such an experience might be able to imagine — deeper than or beyond the mystery of it all — that God is the author of what happened to them.
That’s not an easy assignment. In fact, in a scientific world, it’s a real sisyphean task. Nonetheless, despite any discomfort or lack of understanding we ourselves, as people of the mainline church, may have with the Holy Spirit, it’s a necessity for successfully preaching the Gospel. The language of the religious imagination is how people — us in the church as well as those who are not a part of the church — can begin to perceive God at work in our world.
Finally, if you really think of it, any of our first hand experience of God or of Jesus, are received as the outreach of God’s Spirit. In this time after Jesus’ ascension and before his return, the Spirit is the medium or our bridge to the Divine.
If Jacob’s ladder promised the ancient Israelites there was a connection, an interchange between earth and heaven, we might understand the Holy Spirit as our version of the same: a tie and connection, the power of God that keeps us in some creative and dynamic tension with that which is beyond us.
Beloved, welcome to the age of the Spirit. Let’s work at being cognizant, articulate and fluent when it comes to seeing and speaking Spirit.
See you in church this Sunday on Pentecost,
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