Message Supplement (24 May 2015)

Today we’re talkin’ the core of spirit, God’s very essence. This is a crucial topic because God is spirit. We are created in God’s image, so we have a spirit and as such we are connected to God via a direct, spirit-to-spirit relationship.

Jesus promised that he would send the energetic, marvelous Spirit of God. Why? Perhaps Jesus didn’t want us to be alone and powerless. It’s not military force or coercive intent we leverage but rather the unconquerable, eternal energy of God, who accomplishes tasks through us inasmuch as we’re willing to follow.

The most basic biblical message about God’s core—spirit—is that this essential ingredient comforts and guides us. God is spirit, hence the Holy Spirit is God’s truest and most basic form. All of this is simply a long-winded way to introduce Pentecost, recorded in the Bible’s book of Acts. Strange things happened on Pentecost: Flames of fire appeared above the assembled disciples; people spoke foreign languages without prior knowledge, and the astonished believers were gathered together in a wonderful celebration. The venerable Peter, one of Jesus’ closest friends, stood up and explained that even greater things would happen, such as prophecies and diverse signs and wonders. What a scene!

Are you confused and perplexed about all the spirit talk and miraculous claims? If so, then you’re not alone. There is much controversy about the nature, role and presence of the Holy Spirit. Christians are divided more than ever about these issues. Some argue that we can and should expect the same miracles as described in Acts. In this perspective, God’s Spirit is ready and able to do the types of miracles through us in precisely the same way as we read in Acts.

Other Christians suggest that the age of intense miracles is long over, and that God uses other, more subtle means to empower believers and to get things done. The claim here is that conditions were “special” long ago and God doesn’t need parlor tricks to accomplish his mission. The danger in this latter position is that it can lead to ignoring or diminishing the Holy Spirit. On the other side of things, placing too much emphasis on the literal, specific miracles in Acts can generate distractions and pride.

There is no known way to demonstrate which side of the spirit debate is absolutely, totally correct. As usual, there’s likely some value in each position. As prevalent in politicized religious debates, each side sees what they want to perceive and contrary evidence is either ignored or dismissed. Unfortunately, this situation is common for most of what Christians claim they believe. How does anyone emerge intact from this mess?

It seems clear that God’s Spirit is within us and it’s worth exploring what good things can happen when we open ourselves to new possibilities. We must widen the gaze of our understanding and consider that we run a risk of outright defiance of God’s Spirit or, at the very least, we risk alienation from God if we dismiss spirit. True, a lively experience of spiritual power is not aligned with some folks’ style or worship. Be that as it may, we can’t allow how we were raised and indoctrinated into Christianity to function as the final arbiter of who we are and what we’re willing to become. God is greater than familiarity and tradition.

As persons of faith, we must choose to let God do great things in us and through us. The challenge for us is to grow and keep our faith alive by claiming God’s promises rather than demoting them to fiction and folly. Our spirits can progress if and when we embrace the possibility that God’s spirit—the Holy Spirit—can empower our spiritual journey. We should never give-up on moving-up. We must set goals in our faith journey that advance God’s kingdom and that challenge us to become stronger and more loving. Otherwise, what’s the point of living a dry, powerless and withering religion that goes nowhere? The world is watching us, and so is God. So what are we waiting for? Better that we do whatever we can to demonstrate that God is alive in us and through us.

–Reverend Larry Hoxey