The God We Forget About
The spirit of the Lord God is upon me,
because the Lord has anointed me;
he has sent me to bring good news to the oppressed,
to bind up the brokenhearted,
to proclaim liberty to the captives,
and release to the prisoners;
--Isaiah 61:1 NRSV
Growing up as a Southern Baptist, we talked about the Holy Spirit but usually only when we were comparing ourselves to the Assemblies of God church down the street. We weren't like those Christians who spoke in tongues in their services, promoted faith healing and acted in all kinds of unruly ways. Who the Holy Spirit is and what the Holy Spirit does, however, were never fully clear, at least not to me. Besides, we were often using the
King James Version of the Bible which called the Holy Spirit by the name "Holy Ghost" which sounded like something Scooby Doo and his friends would unmask to discover it really was the mean old man who ran the creepy amusement park. The Holy Ghost remained problematic for me.
Then I entered the world of more open-minded mainline denominations like the Disciples of Christ. I encountered discussion of the Holy Spirit that described it as a "she" and therefore a feminine person of God, descriptions of the Holy Spirit that seemed to find common ground with eastern religions and some people who were strict rationalists and didn't believe in the Holy Spirit at all. Some of the ideas about the Holy Spirit enlarged my understanding of God in exciting ways (e.g. calling the Holy Spirit "she"), while others seem no less problematic as what I grew up with.
In churches like ours that follow the liturgical calendar with its seasons like Advent, Epiphany, Lent and Easter, we celebrate Pentecost Sunday every May. It's a time to remember the coming of the Holy Spirit upon the early church. Beyond that, however, I don't hear much talk about the Holy Spirit. I usually hear a lot of language describing God the Father/Mother/Creator and Jesus the Son/Christ but not much about the Spirit. I suspect this is mainly due to a lack of education about the Holy Spirit and the way scripture describes her, but there may be some suspicion mixed in because of the excesses of televangelists and faith healers on Christian cable TV channels. This is a shame, because the Holy Spirit has everything to do with how we experience God in our daily lives.
I recommend to you a web site called enterthebible.org <http://enterthebible.org> . It's put out by Luther Seminary in Minnesota which is part of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. It shares what top notch scholars have to say about faith and the Bible in ways that are understandable for non-scholars. The internet is filled with scurrilous claims on Christian sites, so this is one of the few I recommend. A recent article and podcast on the site is entitled "Who is the Holy Spirit?" and it offers a concise overview of what the Bible tells us about the subject.
Two things in this article stood out to me as especially helpful for our thinking about the Holy Spirit:
It's worthwhile for us to embrace this often-neglected part of our understanding and language about God. We need not leave this essential part of our faith to those who wish to manipulate it for fame, fortune, and personal gain. Instead, we can engage with the Holy Spirit and trust this a meaningful way of understanding how the power of God and the love of Christ remain always with us.
Grace and Peace,
Rev. Chase Peeples
P.S. You can read the article from enterthebible.org <http://enterthebible.org> I mention above at:
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