Pastor’s Words

August 29th, 2019 by Kali Lewis

September 2019

“I believe in the Holy Spirit.” These words from the Apostles’ Creed give some people pause as they recite them from memory. Being able to explain these words may be almost impossible for person’s confused about their       understanding of the Trinity. As Christians, and certainly as United Methodists, we accept as part of the basic fabric of our Christian belief the concept of God in three persons, blessed Trinity. In reflecting on this thought this week, I decided to share my thoughts concerning the Holy Spirit and my own experience with the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is the presence we sense when we silence our own thinking and open our hearts to the will of God.      Indeed, our prayers may be directed to God, or the Lord, or Jesus, but the way in which we experience God or Jesus is through the powerful explainable something which occurs at the juncture of our hesitation and sudden decision making. Michael Ramsey states that “there is the constant belief that as Jesus did the work of God in his mission in history, so the Spirit continues the work of Jesus which is also the work of God.” I have often used the metaphor of a burning deep within our body to try to explain the presence of the Holy Spirit. This is inadequate, however, because no physical sensation can come close to explaining the unexplainable. There have been so many times during my life where I was brought out of some very dangerous situations where I truly believe that The Holy Spirit was involved, but, upon reflection I cannot explain how. Something put me in touch with the reality of God. Something put me in touch with the love of Jesus Christ. That something was the Holy Spirit. The leading of the Holy Spirit can also be found in the many sacrificial acts performed by communities of faith. Karl Barth’s use of the phrase “ever-coming” to describe the Holy Spirit resonates well with me. Like our breath, The Holy Spirit can’t be seen, and spreads over a wide area. Barth uses the word conscience to describe a part of the essence of the Holy Spirit, but I do not believe that this captures what happens when one feels the presence of the Spirit. Unlike the conscience which is often associated with notions of punishment, the Holy Spirit provides a gentle tug in the direction of God’s activity. The urging one feels to move off of center point and reach out to     another is in all likelihood the work of the Holy Spirit. According to Mack Stokes, John Wesley believed that the Holy Spirit is present in everyone even before they recognize this fact. It is through this preliminary work of the Holy Spirit known as prevenient grace that the Holy Spirit leads individuals toward justification. For United Methodists, it is difficult to imagine people who do not have the presence of the Holy Spirit: people who might be described as being Godless. I understand that the Holy Spirit is with everyone providing a way to move away from sin. Karl Barth gives a wonderful description of the manner in which individuals lay hold of the Holy Spirit: “in the Holy Spirit he hears God’s Word, far above any ethical reflection which can be of service only in this mundane sphere, and this Word is not lost in the darkness of his human ignorance.” Relying upon my own personal experience, I was struck by Barth’s description. My own call to ministry and my original coming to terms with God’s existence were the results of urgings which were difficult for me to rationalize. Barth’s description of the Word not being lost in the darkness of human ignorance was also very accurate in relation to my experiences. The Holy Spirit moves us beyond what we think is possible to a life of Christian service. We are moved individually, and, through relationships with other Christians, jointly in community. When a decision to act on God’s behalf begins to take shape within a group, I feel the movement of the Holy Spirit. It is like a group “aha” experience or a communal epiphany. God’s will to love and the power of the Holy Spirit result in mighty acts being committed in the name of Jesus Christ for the good of humankind and the world. Feeling the Holy Spirit move among a group of people is like a set of Christmas tree lights which flicker for a while until the right bulb is found and a steady circle of light is formed. The release of emotion which occurs at that moment is close to what is felt when the power of the Holy Spirit is jointly felt by a gathering of people. Following terrible tragedies, communities will often rally together to come to the aid of those in need of assistance. Reasons for acting are often difficult to express. Christians believe that this motivation is the result of the working of the Holy Spirit. Unfortunately, the motivation to act often fades away and communities return to their previous routines, perhaps neglecting to think of those they aided at all. It is through the presence of the Holy Spirit that Christian communities remain vigilant with regard to human need. Small accountability groups ensure that Christians respond to the cry of the needy and to God’s call for faithful stewardship. The presence of the Holy Spirit reminds us that God’s love cannot be contained within a single vessel. Because of humankind’s sinful nature, faithfulness and responsible living cannot be achieved or maintained by individual effort. It is through the power of the Holy Spirit that a faithful response to God’s commandment to love in such a way that we empty ourselves is made possible.