On Pentecost Sunday, June 8th, we will gather as one congregation to share how the Holy Spirit has been active in our lives within the context of this community. This is a very appropriate and exciting way to share and to acknowledge the participation of the Holy Spirit among us as a community.
As a congregation we rarely take the opportunity to identify the ways God is active in our lives or how we experience God through each other. And yet as Christ tells us this morning, this is the primary way we are to experience the Holy Spirit. In this morning’s Gospel, Jesus tells the Disciples that he will soon be physically gone from this earth, but not to despair for he will send an advocate, a Paraclete, the Holy Spirit to be there for them, for us, to guide us and to comfort us. He also tells them/us that we will know the Holy Spirit because he abides with us and in us.
In researching this passage, I learned the traditional translation of this line may not be the best possible translation of the original Greek. Instead of the Holy Spirit residing within us, the alternative translation could be that the Holy Spirit resides among us.
This second translation is the more consistent with other statements by Jesus. In Matthew, Jesus tells us “where two or three are gathered together in his name, he is in the midst of them. The primary thrust of Trinitarian theology, or our belief in the unity of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, tells us the God we worship is one of perfect relationship. And, in my basic knowledge of traditional Judaism, in order for a public service to commence, a minyan, a congregation of ten people must be present in order for the service to begin. So doesn’t it make sense that the Holy Spirit would most likely reside among us and not just within us?
Imagine how very different our primary understanding of why we come to church would be if we came knowing we are needed to create an atmosphere in which the Holy Spirit can be fully present with us each week, if we came knowing that without our presence the experience of the community is greatly lessened.
Believe it or not, all of the above is true. Part of the reason we gather each week is to offer space for the fullness of the Holy Spirit to be present among us. As I have said many times over the years, in each of us is a spark of the divine, the heart light Neil Diamond sung of many years ago, and the light the alien ET allowed to glow brightly in his chest whenever and wherever he felt safe and loved.
It is our own heart lights that we carry with us and bring with us each Sunday morning. It is our heart lights which hold our experience of the Holy Spirit and allow us to connect with each other. And it is in the gathering and the sharing of the light within that allows us to see and to experience the fullness of the Holy Spirit.
Our experience can never be complete on our own. I know much of today’s spirituality centers on the individual. If Pew research is correct, while less than 50% of Americans associate themselves with particular religious groups, most hold onto a belief in God. They define themselves as spiritual but not religious. How sad, after 2000 years of proclaiming and teaching God as a relational being, we have chosen to eschew the gathered community in order to find God on our own. Yes, we can experience God in the midst of creation. Yes, we can gain a deeper knowledge of God through our own personal and daily prayer. What we cannot experience on our own is the fullest possible expression of God in our lives. This is only possible through the intentional sharing of our experience with others.
This is why we have set aside June 8th as, A Day to Share the Spirit. It is our chance to connect the dots, or better yet, to connect the light among us. Look around, everyone has a story to tell, everyone knows a part of the Holy Spirit through their experience among us. These are the stories of being cared for and uplifted when we felt lost. These are stories of finding family and love among strangers similar to what Sam shared with us last week. These are stories of life and ministries coming together unexpectedly out of thin air. And these are stories of finding a safe haven, here, among us amidst the storms of life.
Each of us has a different story to tell, but as we choose to share these stories, we will, I assure you, become amazed at how active and fully present the Holy Spirit is both within us and among us.
One of the reasons I look forward to being part of Sunday mornings each week, is because I know I will see the Holy Spirit as each of you comes to the rail. I see the activity of the Holy Spirit in the joy of your eyes as you reach out to receive the bread each week. I experience the Holy Spirit in the faces of our children when they innocently reach for the sacred food, or bring a stuffed animal or doll to the rail to be blessed, or when two choose to walk up the aisle hand in hand delighted in the friend they have found at church.
I have found the Holy Spirit here among us as I have learned that wholeness is only found in the context of brokenness. And the Spirit has provided me with many teachers as you have taught me what it means to find hope in the midst of adversity, and found new and fuller lives from the ashes of ones destroyed.
What Christ said to his disciples nearly two thousand years ago, Christ says to us today. He has sent an advocate, the Holy Spirit who we know, because it lives among us and within us. It is that spirit that calls us here each week, it is that spirit that binds us as a community, it is that Spirit which is fully revealed through the gathered community of faith.
So I not only invite you, but encourage each of you to be here on June eighth, To come ready and eager to share your stories of how you have experienced the Holy Spirit through your experience of this community that is St. Luke’s.