What comes to mind when you think of the Holy Spirit?
The image of a fruit bowl overflowing with fruit pops into my mind. Church curriculum has done a great job of branding the Holy Spirit. Joy is a banana. Peace is an apple. Faithfulness is a clump of grapes. I’ve had ample opportunity to teach on this subject over the last 30 years of ministry and used the same branding. The gifts of the Spirit have also been branded. Small boxes wrapped in shiny paper with red ribbons and bows are neatly displayed on altars or communion tables as an insightful teacher or pastor challenges a class or congregation to imagine receiving gifts from God.
Sometimes the Holy Spirit is branded as a dove with a bright light behind it. Other times, like Pentecost Sunday, congregations are encouraged to wear red as a symbol of their solidarity in belief that the Holy Spirit is going to be mentioned that Sunday. Red cloth usually decorates the altar or communion table. Flames, fire and abstract art often decorate the cover of the bulletin in an attempt to capture the metaphor used in Acts 2. I wonder if all this clever branding has become a stumbling block for us. Could it actually be in the way of us experiencing God?
It’s tricky. The images we create and the reality of God don’t always line up. We are not supposed to allow images of God to filter or get in the way of how the Divine is actively seeking to relate and create with us. We may expect one thing but experience another. We have faith but it’s not working very well. Could it be that our judgments about God keep us from what we want most?
Think about it. If our images and expectations of God have been hindering us from consciously experiencing the presence of The Divine, all we have to do is give our expectations a rest and learn to work with what God is offering. *
In the Bible, God approached people in many different ways. Adam and Eve walked alongside God. Noah obeyed God and built an ark. Jacob saw a ladder. Moses experienced God in a burning bush on top of a mountain. David experienced God as a confidant. Angels, visions, signs, wonders and dreams all became common ways human beings interacted with the Divine. God’s Spirit is referred to over 50 times as a mist or cloud. God spoke dramatically from the cloud to startled disciples during Jesus’ Transfiguration. These are some of the most mysterious and significant passages in the bible. Sacred scripture offers us a glimpse into how others experienced the Living God who invited them to participate in his ongoing, creatively loving, difference-making work. I wonder if any of us believe that Divine interaction could be available for us today. Could God be reaching out to us in a fresh new way?
The Holy Spirit is a Person.
Supernatural is the title of our next preaching series. Let us discover someone new together. Allow Jesus to introduce you to the relational Person who is the Holy Spirit. Give your expectations a rest. Let go of all the silly images or ideas that hinder His introduction into your heart. Lower your guard. Resist the desire to control. Keep the ego in check. It’s time to connect the hose to the end of a spigot.
The Spirit will show you what is true. The people of this world cannot accept the Spirit, because they don’t see or know him. But you know the Spirit, who is with you and will keep on living in you.
John 14: 17 CEV
*The Rest that Works: Living a Life of Loving Mindfulness. Scott Daniels. 2015