Friday Focus: Alive In the Spirit
"When the Advocate comes, whom I will send to you
from the Father, the Spirit of truth who comes from the Father, he will testify
on my behalf. You also are to testify because you have been with me from the beginning.
"I did not say these things to you from the beginning, because I was with
you. But now I am going to him who sent me; yet none of you asks me, 'Where are
you going?' But because I have said these things to you, sorrow has filled your
hearts. Nevertheless I tell you the
truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the
Advocate will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you. And when he comes, he will prove the world
wrong about sin and righteousness and judgment: about sin, because they do not
believe in me; about righteousness, because I am going to the Father and you
will see me no longer; about judgment, because the ruler of this world has been
condemned. "I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear
them now. When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth;
for he will not speak on his own, but will speak whatever he hears, and he will
declare to you the things that are to come. He will glorify me, because he will
take what is mine and declare it to you. All that the Father has is mine. For this
reason I said that he will take what is mine and declare it to you." - John 15: 26-27; 16: 4b-15
Ascension Thursday, Pentecost, Trinity Sunday… our
Easter season concludes with a crescendo. Jesus ascends. The Holy Spirit
descends. And we are given a window into the ultimate mystery of our
The gospels for this week and next take us into the
deepest of theological waters: What precisely is the nature of God? Yes, we
know the rote answer from childhood: We worship one God in three divine
persons, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. As a kid I was always comfortable with
the concept of the Father and the Son, but vaguely unsure of where the Holy
Spirit fit in. The name “Holy Ghost” did not help either. Casper was the only
ghost I knew. And the antics of the Friendly Ghost made it tough for me to put
a Holy Ghost in the same league as the Father and Son.
So much of our learning is visual. The mention of God
the Father conjures up a host of familiar images, perhaps most powerfully
captured by Michelangelo on the Sistine ceiling as the white-bearded Creator in
the clouds, giving life to a languid Adam. God as the loving, all powerful
parent is a concept we intuitively understand. Similarly we don’t have to reach
very far for an image of Jesus… The Son, our brother, in his many familiar roles:
the infant of Bethlehem, the preacher, the healer, the sacrificial victim, the
Images of the Holy Spirit are nowhere near as
familiar or as vivid. There is the dove hovering over Christ’s baptism in the
Jordan. There are Pentecostal tongues of fire inspiring the apostles. But by
definition “spirits” don’t easily lend themselves to visual images. The same is
true for our intuitive understanding of the role of the Holy Spirit. Creating clearly
belongs to the Father. Redeeming belongs to the Son. But where does the Holy
Spirit fit in?
Start with the ancient Greek designation of the Holy
Spirit as the “Paraclete,” literally one who stands by your side… inspiring, informing,
animating, motivating, protecting, comforting, energizing, empowering. The Holy
Spirit is the moving force of God dwelling in us individually and collectively.
The Old Testament makes only brief reference to the Holy Spirit. Jesus
introduces us to the Holy Spirit in Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. But it is in
Acts and the Epistles that the Holy Spirit comes to the fore in scores of
references. Clearly, to the apostles there was nothing vague about the Holy
Spirit. Jesus promised them the power of
the Spirit of truth. And on Pentecost
the Holy Spirit delivered. The frightened fugitives in the upper room were
transformed into powerhouses of evangelical grace. Inarticulate fishermen
became spellbinding preachers. Marginally literate country folk became towering
evangelists. Fair weather disciples became fearless martyrs for the faith. It
was all as Jesus had promised; they were filled with the Holy Spirit and
nothing in the world has ever been the same.
That’s because the
faith that Jesus left us is not just a set of beliefs, a philosophy or a code
of ethics. Above all, Christianity is a presence… the Holy Spirit, sent to us
by the risen Christ, lives within us. In baptism we put on the Holy Spirit. And
in Confirmation our baptismal grace was taken up to a higher level through a
full outpouring of the Holy Spirit. As fully formed Christians, we are not only
blessed, but we are meant to be a blessing … an extension of the Holy Spirit, a
channel of grace to all we touch and all who touch us. The Hebrew origin of the
word “spirit” is ruah, literally
“breath.” The Holy Spirit is our spiritual breath of life. As such the Holy
Spirit literally inspires us. Through the Holy Spirit we breathe in life-giving
grace and we expel the poisons collected through our human frailty. As Jesus
promised, the Holy Spirit will be with us not only to our last breath, but
until the last breath of the whole world. Til then we are alive in the Spirit.
And we pray with confidence: In the name of the Father and of the Son and of
the Holy Spirit.
Welcome to Our Church
On the Facebook trail tonight a priest from the Hudson Valley posted an extraordinary YouTube piece entitled Welcome to Our Church
. There is no attribution whatsoever for this video and I can only thank those who produced and participated in this amazing piece of evangelism.
Here is the video clip: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xKUkz0nnp_8
. Watch this video and after you do, ask yourself whether the views and statements made in this short piece reflect the practices in place in your own parish. If they don't,
what can you do to change that?
This video is a wonderful reminder about evangelism and a greater truth that goes beyond the red doors of your building. This is OUR
church. Let us welcome and be welcomed!
Remembering Mare AND Her Geraniums
The Geranium Farm has been on Facebook for well over a year now ... and our "numbers" (Likes), are up to 1,192 as of today. That's remarkable, really. The Farm lives in the ether, floating in cyberspace, yet is as grounded and earthy as anything that could support the life of the hearty geranium.
I've been searching high and low for a great shot of geraniums for what FB calls 'a
Cover' but everything image that has grabbed my attention is for sale. Then I remembered a photo of some geraniums a friend bought for me - to remember my grandmother - and the photo she took of "Mare's Geraniums".
I tried to upload at photo but it isn't large enough for the format. Instead I will remember my grandmother fondly - her love of cooking and feeding family, her fear of owls and her window boxes: full of bright red geraniums, tall and proud, hanging on the banister of the Elmer Street house. Consider recalling your
grandmothers today. Celebrate by enjoying life - - - and don't forget to smell the geraniums!