Thursday, August 09, 2007

What About the Holy Spirit?

A fellow theologian (everyone who thinks about God is a theologian!) asked me today about where the holy Spirit was in my understanding of miracles (past and present). The question was offered in such a way that I doubted that it was meant as a question to be answered but rather as a challenge to my left-of-center spirituality (I am, afterall, the graduate of a notoriously liberal seminary in New York City).

My initial reaction was to blast back with my academic credentials and years of ministry, blah blah blah. The answer would have sounded arrogant and unkind and that wasn't what I wanted; and as I said, the question was asked to make a point more than receive an answer. So, I accepted my gentle rebuke as an honest difference of opinion about a topic dear to both parties. However...

Even if the person didn't really want to know where the Spirit was in my understanding, I thought it might be useful to articulate it anyway. The Spirit is very present in my understanding of miracles, and in my understanding of reality. Spirit, Principle, Energy...these are synonyms in my view and they mean what other metaphors mean (or at least point toward)...Breath of God, Mighty Wind, Flaming Presence, Still Small Voice, etc.

One author (rather late in the game actually) places these words in Jesus' mouth, "God is spirit..." The quote continues that God is to be worshiped in spirit and in truth, and this is in response to someone who questioned Jesus (in the story) about whether worship should be in the Jerusalem temple on in the rural setting of her tradition. The story is actually written about 3 decades after the Temple in Jerusalem was destroyed and about 7 decades after Jesus had been executed. The point may have been to comfort people who no longer had their Temple to worship in...God is spirit and spirit can't be limited to a location - spirit is everywhere and one can truly worship God wherever he or she may be as the person he or she is.

Two millennia later, the quote still rings true: God is spirit and should be worshiped in spirit and in truth. God is spirit, breath, air, wind, energy...pick your symbol for omnipresence. God is where I am and can only be accessed by me in ways that are true for me. So, with my sexuality, my intellect, my questions, my doubts, my experiences, my hopes, my the person I am, living my truth, I can experience the spirit of Life because it is everywhere. When I am authentically me, I am in communion with the spirit of God.

So, if for me a miracle is a change in perception, where is the Spirit? In the grace and wisdom that it takes to change my perception! If stories of miracles in the past aren't literal history for me, where is the Spirit in them? In the creative imagination that gave birth to them for me (and all of us)to ponder! The spirit is in my engagement with the stories and in the strength and hope I draw from them.

In a way, I was glad for the question, because it reminded me that the whole spirit (or "holy Spirit") is the divine activity that is everywhere and at all times present. So, in the thinking that leads me to my understanding and experience of faith, the Spirit is very present offering Her wonderful blessings. In my imagination, in my journey, in my living my truth as I know it in this moment, the Spirit is very present as the divine action and energy that brings me joy and peace as I thoughtfully engage (which may include deconstructing and reconstructing) the stories of my tradition and as I courageously change my perception when needed to experience my own miracles in my own life.

One need not be a literalist to enjoy the power and the presence of the holy Spirit, and I am thankful for the question that forced me to remember and reflect on that powerful truth. We're all teachers (and theologians), aren't we?

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